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What Digital Needs in Emerging Markets?

In the male dominated, gadget centric world of the banking board room, it often helps to take a step back a think, ‘How is this piece of technology going to really help our customers and grow our business?’.

As those of you who read my blog will know, I travel to markets far and wide, with vastly different cultural norms. On a weekly basis, I am faced with the challenges facing banks in their quest to move towards the digital age, confront and win in the face of nimble Fintec’s and deliver meaningful and relevant customer experiences that do not over promise or create more problems than they solve.

Last week I was in North Africa, where I met a banker who told me he believed ATM’s were a waste of money, that nobody used them and that, in a cash based society like the one he was working in, people would never change - he wouldn’t invest a single dollar in buying more ATM’s... yet in the next breath he was telling me that he wanted his bank to ‘go digital’.

No, this banker was not crazy however, this apparent schizophrenia is not uncommon. To understand the ‘logic’ behind this statement, one really needs to unpack the reason ‘why’.

Only by really understanding cultural behaviours, studying (if one exists) the organisations customer journey and proposition, can one really get to the bottom of ‘why’. In this instance, as in so many others that I come across in the developing world. Banks do offer a ‘Digital’ solution in the form of an ATM, an APP, or online banking, but they offer them in total isolation to the customer journey. In the example above, after examining the positioning of the banks ATM machines, I understood by the technology was not being used. I was surprised to find that not only were the ATM’s poorly lit, with poor signage, they were sometimes hidden behind foliage or a barrier. There was no evidence that any member of bank staff was helping educate customers about the use of technology to the extent that some customers didn’t even have an ATM card. Customers, should they wish to use the ATM - and if they had a card, could do so without even entering the branch.

Let’s face it, we are all creatures of habit, and to change a habit, there has to be a compelling reason - for something new, to save time, to be more secure, to get a better return, to be more relevant etc.

It is my opinion that organisations, should first concentrate on getting the basics right, think about their proposition, the customer journey and then give customers the tools they need to be digital (an ATM card for example). They should educate customers and staff about how to use these tools - BEFORE they rush into developing complex high tech solutions that will stand alone and fail too.

Here are my tips for considering the placement of technology in a physical branch or kiosk:

  • If you are making a stand alone kiosk with technology in it - and no people - you have to give customers a compelling reason to enter, an unambiguous understanding of what the offer is and have the technology to deliver to that promise

  • If you are building a new branch, or refurbishing an existing one, think about the journey you want your customers to take and how technology fits into that journey.

  • Keep things simple. If customers are not using technology, understand why - there is always a reason - and design solutions that solve the problem. This does not require the re-inventing of the wheel, just put yourself in the mind of the customer and teach yourself to think like they do

  • Get the basics right. Focus on small improvements. Look at best practice and be very critical of your current experience. Plan gradual improvements.

  • Rapid incremental innovation. Do not try to achieve everything at once if you do not have the infrastructure to do so.

  • Do not be seduced by the sparkly lights of the latest digital fad

  • Never over promise

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