16th March 2020

The Push & Pull of Self-Service

<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >The Push & Pull of Self-Service</span>

The flying of yesteryear? Looking into this is Simon Witkiss, Head of Product and Marketing, and how self-serve and the development of the internet has affected other industries such as finance firms who find that a 'one-size-fits-all' approach is no longer a viable option, with the needs of customers served how and when they want.

Indulge me in a walk down memory lane... back to 80s and 90s when flying was reaching the masses but was still an adventure and where people still got dressed up to go on a plane.* 

Back then you would pay for a flight, receive a paper-based ticket and turn up at the airport for your flight. The desk agent would check you in, take your luggage and then point you in the direction of the departure gates, with a minimal x-ray of bags the only hold-up. After a short wait, you would head to the gate, your boarding pass would be checked and you’d then board the plane and have the pilot whisk you to your destination. 

out of plane window croppedSo let’s now fast forward to present day and how travel has changed, in particular how the internet has changed it. Nowadays, I have to check in myself and print my own boarding pass. Indeed, some airlines will charge for the privilege of printing a boarding pass for me. I head to the airport and have to tag my luggage myself (after scrolling through through all the security questions) and drop it off on the conveyor belt, wracked with anxiety as to whether I’ve done it correctly and whether my luggage will join me at my destination. Following the security checks, I then get to board through bio-metric boarding gates that mean a machine makes the decision as to whether I can board the plane. And finally I can take my seat... where I can look at the Buy on Board menu reminiscing for the free G&Ts of yesteryear. 

The whole dynamic has changed. Where once my heavy lifting was paying for a ticket and then jumping on-board, airlines have used the internet to pass off many of those interactions back to the customer, such that literally all they need to do is fly me to the destination. Why? Airlines know precisely how many dollars it costs them to print you out a boarding pass and passing these interaction reduces cost to serve. 

But what is interesting is that somewhere along the line not only have consumers grown accustomed to having to use these imposed ‘self-service’ models, but there is now a growing preference for them as a result of the convenience and control that comes with it, all enabled by technology. Human natures has changed the dynamic from airlines PUSHING it to consumers PULLING it. As modern consumers we will now switch our business from airlines which do not provide the experience at all or a poor experience which does not deliver to expectations of convenience and control.  

So what’s this go to do with the wealth and asset management sector?  

This is precisely the challenge these industries are facing now. Businesses are realising that digital self-serve can no longer be ignored or seen merely as a cost saving mechanism... it is now a baseline requirement. For me there are some specific reflections: 

Firstly, high quality digital experiences are expected and are now becoming ‘hygiene factors’ i.e. providing them likely won’t increase client satisfaction but not providing them may drive dissatisfaction.  

Secondly, digitally-enabled ‘self-service’ is becoming a preferred experience, either as part of an ‘on and offline’ customer journey or as the full end to end experience. A ‘one size fits all’ approach to service is no longer viable and ensuring you can serve customers, directly or indirectly, when and how they wish to be served is an important component in retaining the client and differentiating.  

Thirdly, with the world going through a major inter-generational transfer of wealth to a generation of ‘digital natives’ who prize convenience, transparency and control sometimes at the level of or even over price, wealth management firms need to be ready to cater for this strengthening ‘pull’. From a technology standpoint this will likely mean user-friendly interfaces, interactive portfolio performance dashboards, document uploads and digital on-boarding, instantaneous electronic communication (in particular via social media), streamlined identify verification, payments and authorisations and much more.

Providers who fall behind the curve when it comes to ‘self-serve’ may find themselves at a considerable disadvantage when it comes to differentiating and appealing to not only these new audiences but an increasingly digitally-savvy and demanding client base in general. We’ve all seen the massive development and take up of mobile trading platforms as an example. As technologists and market participants we ought to be ‘pushing’ ourselves to ensure we remain in lock step with our end customers' needs.  

* Disclosure: I’m currently in my comfiest shorts and casual shirt writing this blog 40,000 feet above the Indian subcontinent.