About 3 years ago, I renewed my driving license online within two minutes. It was unbelievable. All my expectations were exceeded. Incidentally, I had zero expectations, after all, it was a public service (which off course I was paying for) and no one had shared his or her painless experience. A few weeks ago, I imagined that applying for a postal office box would also be painless. To my surprise, it took a lot of time and effort. The process included several emails, phone calls, social media interactions and a visit to a post office even after making initial request online. The world has been going digital pretty fast. That makes me wonder if I really need that post office box. The question that has been lingering in my mind is “are our businesses becoming digital fast enough?”
We are living in the age of self-service. Many customers are happy to get most of their issues sorted without any assistance. The telecommunications and banking sectors in Kenya have taken the lead in digital transformation especially as it relates to self-service and mobile banking. Mobile banking has evidently overtaken the need for its predecessor “internet” banking especially for individual customers. However, there are still transactions that customers hope they can make at home. Not many banks for example have online cheque banking or online requests for new chequebooks or for bankers’ cheque.
Other sectors are lagging far behind in digital transformation. I still wonder why in most stores I need to ask the attendant to find a missing price. Why does Nakumatt for example not have self-service scanners or the hand held scanners for staff? The first time I saw those scanners was almost two decades ago. Many stores still require customers to remove heavy items from the basket because the cashier has no hand held scanner. In the meantime, other stores have introduced scan and shop using a mobile app. The future in retail is less time and painless shopping with most items delivered at the doorstep.
Besides banks and stores, think of the restaurants. How soon will the menus go digital so we can order directly and get our orders right? I have noticed of late that some waiters have tablets on which they click the orders. Globally, many restaurants are becoming automated making it easy for customers to order and pay without any assistance. We are however far from the automated Sushi restaurant in Tokyo Japan. A few days ago, I was speaking to a hotel staff who informed me that it was cheaper to book via email or on phone than book online. When I asked why, the staff had no explanation and I believe there is no rationale for the hotel to charge higher rates for those booking online.
There is much more that I still wonder why it cannot be done online yet. Why can I not renew my medical insurance or car insurance online? What of book a doctor’s appointment or a car service at Total? Calling for a cab, fundraising, transmission of high school grades directly to the parents phone and many other interactions have all gone digital. As the digital transformation gets into its third decade, may we not be left behind.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy