In my job, I talk to dozens, nah scratch that – hundreds of people everyday. My day begins in conversation with the people in my lift, the security staff at my apartment, taxi driver, family, friends, staff, boss, customers, potential customers, partners, building maintenance staff. The day ends in dialogue with the taxi driver, family, friends, security at my apartment, and people in my lift. Then……silence! Sweet, sweet silence!
The evenings, or my few hours of shoosh time, allow me to attend to personal affairs i.e. pay bills, book or change flight details, tag myself into friend’s vacation pictures on Facebook – that I do not appear in (I recommend this), tweet a few Mel Gibson jokes, and check my share portfolio – which resembled the budget of a small Pacific nation in 2006, but today is scarcely enough to buy a Domino’s pizza.
As you can see, I love the Internet. Or the “internets” as George W. Bush calls it. I especially love it as an expatriate living in South East Asia. I save money and time on phone calls, and I don’t have to face the humiliating rejection of a disconnected call because the Customer Service Agent believed my attempt at speaking the local dialect to be either a crank call or the sound of a person being choked to death over the phone.
Moreover, I love enterprises that allow me to access my account, pay bills, check order status, problem initiation, transfer money, change billing details 365/24/7, all without requiring me to TALK TO ANYONE! Oh, the serenity will set you free…
So what of the playing field for web self service among global enterprises in South East Asia? Well, according to Genesys, which recently conducted online and phone-based surveys of 236 contact center managers across the Asia Pacific region, including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand:
-82% of organizations surveyed offer some level of web self-service
-47% provides viewing account information
-44% allow online payments
-29% allows making purchases or orders online
-27% offer live help to customers browsing their websites
If the above numbers are truly accurate then the region Asia Pacific should no longer be used as a geographical grouping for business purposes. Why? Well, save for Singapore, all the SE Asian countries listed have internet speeds that remind me of the ‘Gopher’ days when most internet sites were black pages with lots of colored text!
Seriously though, in most of SE Asia, the concept of self service is still in its infancy… sure you have a handful of companies with a web presence, but typically, enterprises with a SE Asian footprint have embraced self service in a slightly different way!
Moreover, it is of great surprise to me that for a society where every person, seemingly, from the age 13+ has a Blackberry or iPhone, there are not more companies embracing the web channel as a means of reducing OPEX or increasing revenues. Yes, yes, yes – you hear the usual excuses, the infrastructure is not as robust, self service is not congruent with SE Asian culture. But mostly, organizations just seem hell bent on NOT learning from the mistakes of more developed nations and refusing to leap frog the technological lifecycle (…hey, VHS is on a decline for a reason, I understand you only recently had electricity connected to your village, but you don’t need to buy the VHS player. Jumping right ahead to the DVD player is unarguably a more astute investment.)
Here are a few considerations that I feel enterprises need to consider:
1. The SE Asian marketplace is very web and tech savvy, and the customers that you really want (i.e. the ones that will spend money on your products) want immediate, round-the-clock access to their account information (these are probably the same group that contribute to Indonesia being the country with the third largest facebook community, so don’t talk about infrastructure.)
2. The cost of paper-based billing is estimated to be $2 per customer per month versus the cost of electronic billing estimated at 40 cents per month. I know an Indonesian utility company that has 100,000,000 customers. How much would this save?
3. The web channel allows enterprises to deliver personalized marketing messages to customers. Based on the content of the electronic bill, for example (geographic location, billing behavior, services purchased.)
4. Kiosks are a great first self service step, but they are only a first step… and actually, most western societies adopted kiosks as an entry to self service because the internet was not as developed as it is today (not saying that kiosks no longer have their uses in modern society, but just that they are no longer the all purpose all powerful ’screens in the wall’ that they used to be 15 years ago)
So, while seemingly futuristic products like Ciboodle Live arm companies with the tools to deliver an effective web self-care strategy, I have to plan a Saturday evening trip to the kiosk downtown, where I can access some sort of self service. Like I said, a first step, but I will gleefully declare this the greatest corner of the globe to reside – when the time comes that all my service providers can perform:
-Electronic billing payments
-Receive on-demand customer care
-Have the ability to self-order
-Have highly personalized/guided selling on the kind of products appeals to me
…All from the comfort of my sofa!
CJ Werley is the CEO of Sword Ciboodle SE Asia