Mobile Wallet Registration: One Customer’s Experience
In order to achieve the 50% financial inclusion goal that has been set by the State Bank of Pakistan, Karandaaz Pakistan believes that leveraging the ubiquity of mobile phones to increase mobile wallet uptake is critical. There are 124 million registered mobile SIMS in Pakistan but only 10.8 million registered mobile wallets of which barely 4 million, or 34%, are actually active. Tellingly, only two-thirds of Pakistani adults have any knowledge of what a mobile wallet is, with even fewer understanding the full spectrum of mobile wallets’ functionality. To investigate this low level of awareness, market visits were conducted in Islamabad a la mystery shopper. The aim was to uncover firsthand the experience of mobile wallet registration and what gaps exist in that process that could explain the low levels of awareness.
The team’s first instinct was to approach a mobile money agent who is readily accessible to the general public and interacts directly with mobile money customers. The first agent was focused solely on conducting over the counter (OTC) transactions for multiple customers; he had four dedicated mobile phone sets for different providers. He seemed quite knowledgeable about all the providers and most of the mobile money use cases. However, while he was able to explain branchless banking functionality in clear and simple language, he was unable to register customers for a mobile wallet account and pointed the team in the right direction: a customer sales and service center of a mobile money provider.
The team visited three customer service centers. These centers tended to be busy throughout the day, and at all of them a greeter was stationed at the entrance to hand out customized customer tokens. However, a customer could potentially experience a wait time of over thirty minutes before talking to a customer service representative. Attempting to manage customer traffic, the greeters tried to resolve customer problems themselves in order to expedite a customer’s visit.
Visiting these customer service centers allowed for a meaningful comparison between a customer’s interaction with an agent on the street and with a customer representative at the provider’s service centers.
- Locating an agent outlet is relatively difficult
Locating the customer service center was not difficult as all providers have webpages with this information. On the other hand, locating an agent involved walking around a main market and inquiring about their exact location. While providers do list agents on their websites, the addresses can be confusing and requires customers to already be familiar with the area. This sort of knowledge gap – and attendant workaround – is not limited to the mobile money sector.
- Speed of service is relatively faster at an agent outlet
At a sales and service center, customers come with a diverse range of needs from payment of utility bills to biometric verification of their mobile SIMs. However, mobile money agents do not face this problem and can focus all their attention on handling OTC transactions only. This level of repetition means highly efficient agents who effectively reduce the time a user spends in carrying out transactions like money transfers or cash-in cash-out.
- Overall customer service is relatively better at the customer service center
Despite the swiftness of service at an agent outlet, customers can often get more comprehensive answers at a customer service center, where representatives can give them their undivided attention. Agents on the other hand, in the absence of any queue system in place, try to address more than one person at the same time, and may end up paying more attention to a customer who is generating revenue over others who might be gathering information about how to open a mobile wallet.
- Customer service representatives don’t understand the difference between OTC and mobile wallets unlike agents
The distinction between OTC and mobile wallets was blurred at the customer service centers. Unable to draw a clear line between the two, the customer representatives confused OTC services with mobile wallet services. In addition representatives at the service centers were not enthusiastic about the mobile wallets themselves, and positioned OTC as the more reliable and prevalent way of carrying out transactions. Their limited knowledge and obvious bias could confuse potential mobile money customers. The agent, surprisingly, placed less emphasis on OTC services and happily explained mobile wallet functionality.
It is important to note that this was a limited experiment and that the team’s experiences in Islamabad may vary widely from experiences in other areas. However, analyzing the behavior of agents and customer service representatives offer useful insights into how awareness hurdles can be overcome. Some basic solutions can be implemented such as providing better training to customer service representatives about mobile wallets. Other, more comprehensive solutions, would require a deeper analysis of how customers access information; ideally knowledge dissemination about mobile wallet registration and usage should be simplified and made more efficient. Some mobile money providers have already taken the initiative to improve their customer service. Their solutions include dedicating separate sales and service centers for mobile financial services and digitizing customer services by introducing automated touch points. We will continue to monitor how far these efforts will go towards tackling the hurdle of low customer awareness. We at Karandaaz Pakistan strongly believe that increasing awareness and simplifying registration for mobile wallets are the building blocks for creating a financially inclusive economy.