By Patrick Joggerst, CMO and EVP of business development, Ribbon Communications
Without secure, real time communications applications, the financial services industry could literally come to a standstill. While transactions are driven by data, the human voice and human messaging continues to make the money world go around, including in the expanding world of global payments.
Millions of dollars can be lost in a millisecond if these applications do down. To prevent that eventuality, the world’s largest banks, exchanges, trading firms, hedge funds and other market participants spend more on connectivity and communications applications than any other industry vertical in the world.
Payments across an increasingly global landscape have, in the past, been expensive, operationally complex, confusing to payors and payees, and subject to changing regulations, cross-border trade agreements, and concerns about security and cyber-threats.
Even as innovation continues to improve the ability of businesses to move currencies digitally, making electronic banking transfers easier and safer to execute, and to make micropayments affordable and reliable, still there are times when human beings need assistance with the process of initiating and completing payments.
The answer in the “old world” has been setting up contact centres, including toll-free numbers that enable the parties to call into a pool of agents to ask questions, to follow up on payments, to troubleshoot and more. While this has worked, the cost of supporting these traditional contact centres has added to the cost of the entire payments ecosystem, adding more and more points driving fees up.
Today, in the “new world,” banks, credit card companies, and other payment service providers are finding a new balance – improving their ability to support customers while also dramatically reducing costs.
Self-service on the web is one mechanism, enabling businesses to set up their own accounts, and initiate payments based on linking services to their existing accounts or credit cards. PayPal and other disrupters drove innovation in the beginning, making it easier and less expensive to send money, causing stalwart companies like Western Union to respond, and driving development and investment by traditional banks to get into the payments business.
Perhaps the single largest disruption has come from mobile service providers, with digital wallets associated with smartphones and even basic flip-phones in the developing world. Texting money has become commonplace for micropayments, but for larger business transactions, and especially for B2B scenarios, payment platforms which can be activated by mobile devices, but which reside in secure data centres connected via the cloud are driving the most value today. And for those larger transactions, ensuring trust and quality is critical to success for providers.
Embedded real time communications – for example the ability to chat with a bot (to start) then escalate to an agent for a text or voice chat – is making it possible to provide excellent customer service associated with payment activities without “breaking the bank.”
A few years ago, a cost to call a contact centre for a bank could run up to several dollars per call, with all expenses layered in (real estate, people, benefits, equipment, private lines, insurance, systems and more).
Not only was this complicated to manage and expensive, customers calling in only to get into a long queue were frustrated and looking for more “instant satisfaction” when they ran into a problem or had a concern.
With embedded real time communications, customers can simply go the website (which data shows is the natural first move for most), search for support, find answers, and then “self-escalate” to reach a real live human by simply clicking on their choice to chat or speak live.
Without having to dial a phone number, customers can be instantly connected to the right person, given expert routing built into the platform; with computer telephony integration, the expert answering the call can see exactly what the customer is interested in, what their journey was like leading up to the point of contact.
Moreover, payments companies can automatically collect data on a multitude of these brief, simple, enabled sessions and continually learn about what issues are surfacing, how they are solved, and how satisfied customers are with the process.
Increasingly, using machine learning and artificial intelligence, embedded real time communications systems can also “self-learn” bring more automation to the quality of service, enabling the live humans to be more productive and happier on the job when they are assisted in helping customers solve their issues faster.
Finally, it’s been proven that the human voice can relay more information than any other mode of communications, and that includes private information which payments companies are responsible to keep secure. With advances in Voice over IP (VoIP) security, including in environments where calls are recorded and analysed, payments companies can rest assured conversations are protected from sophisticated cyber-criminals who are looking for every gap in an expanding “attack surface” – thus eliminating concerns about managing transactions with voice commands and agreements, for example, to release funds.
Digital transformation and advancements to real-time communications technology is allowing companies in financial services to operate more efficiently, offer more competitive products/services and drive innovation 2018 and beyond, with great pay-offs possible for the payments industry.