South Africa’s leading payment solutions provider, Pay@, has recently announced its partnership with FinChatBot, a global technology company specializing in conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions.
Together, they are developing a first-of-its-kind payment solution for the South African market that will launch in the last quarter of 2021, with plans to expand it to other territories in the future.
By combining conversational AI with the ability to process payments via a number of channels (including in-store, mobile payment processing apps, EFT and bank card payments over USSD, and WhatsApp, among other channels), the solution aims to improve customer engagement, reduce friction, and take the hassle out of payments and collections for industries such as insurers, lenders, municipalities and ecommerce operators, in addition to others.
While other payment solutions that also use AI and ChatBots already exist, these focus specifically on the banked population of South Africa.
Pay@ and FinChatBot’s payment solution focus on the unbanked and underbanked population in South Africa. The payment solution caters to South Africans who don’t have access to a bank account, and who typically transact with cash.
Although customers with bank accounts are able to use the platform, the key focus for Pay@ and FinChatBot is to create a platform for customers who prefer making in-store payments with hard cash. The link between the in-store payments of cash and the AI used during the payment aggregation process now includes many more customers who are often overlooked by other payment solutions in South Africa.
“The growth of mobile phone usage and wireless connection has transformed the way financial services are provided. However, it has failed to increase accessibility to formal banking facilities for the underbanked population.
This shows that although South Africans are adopting digital channels, many cannot use ecommerce because of the lack of a formal bank account.
The attached research conducted in 2019 further explains that 66% of low- income earners now have access to formal bank accounts, yet 28% indicated that they did not use them because the financial institutions were too far away, 38% indicated that it was too expensive, 2% lacked the necessary documentation and 27% indicated that they did not have a formal bank account because they did not trust financial institutions.”
FinChatBot Director of UK Market, Richard Marsden, explains that having spotted pain points in both of their markets such as challenges around DebiCheck, consumer engagement, and the operating costs associated with running call centres, the two companies opted to partner and develop a solution that addresses these and other issues.
“By leveraging technology, we can provide customers with an enhanced digital payments and collections solution, all in one place.”
Barry Williams, Sales and Marketing Head at Pay@, adds: “Engagement platforms and payment solutions typically operate separately, but now we’re bringing the two together and providing customers with choice in the type of payments they make.
It also bridges the worlds of digital and in-person payments – something which is crucial given the majority of South Africans’ propensity for cash transactions.
Consumers now have the flexibility to decide whichever entry point they prefer to transact with a service provider.
With our new solution, they can do so via WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, SMS, Instagram and other widely used digital consumer portals using their mobile phones – all from the comfort of their couch.”
In addition to enabling consumers to receive bills and make payments through a multitude of entry points, the technology also onboards customers, walking them through the signup and buying process, while also verifying their ID and running background checks.
It also deploys eKYC (electronic Know Your Customer), a process of verifying the identity of customers electronically to assess and monitor risk to mitigate fraud.
Plans are in place to enhance the solution with a customer service interface within the chat to handle queries, complaints and concerns.
Pay@ and FinChatBot are also exploring how the technology could be used for facilitating the submission of insurance claims and reception of pay-outs and refunds.
“We believe that this solution holds enormous potential for a myriad of businesses to achieve growth while also developing new business models and services that are geared towards unlocking digital transformation in Africa,” adds Marsden.
Now more than ever Pay@ and FinChatBot’s retail partners play an important role in including those who don’t have access to digital channels.
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