Few activities in the digital economy are as filled with friction, and as frustrating and risky for merchants, banks and other businesses, than the customer onboarding process. Every step presents a chance for the consumer to drop out before completing a transaction or task, and every loophole gives opportunity to online criminals. Besides that, there is nothing that approaches technological or operational consistency when it comes to onboarding, that creates what can kindly be called a messy situation.
But in a new PYMNTS interview, Karen Webster talked with Sunil Madhu, founder and CEO at Instnt Inc. and Mimi Salcedo, the company’s co-founder and vice president of product, about how to change that situation and make onboarding safer and more efficient for everyone involved. The idea is to use a line of code — a line backed by artificial intelligence (AI) and other tools — so that consumers essentially have to create only one onboarding form, which in turn can be used at multiple web sites and on multiple mobile apps.
“It’s traditionally been a very big challenge to get customer onboarding right,” Madhu told Webster during the PYMNTS podcast. “While conceptually, the market might think signing up a customer is easy-peasy, in reality it is rife with friction. The market is not really good at this.”
Indeed, a recent estimate from Visa would seem to confirm that. The payment card network found that “there are 23 information fields to fill out on average when paying for things online, from name and date of birth to shipping address, communication preferences and payment information today.” Doing so introduces friction into the retail process, causing consumers to lose patience or rethink a transaction, and abandon their online shopping carts without purchasing the items there.
Not only that, but a less-than-robust customer onboarding system might flag too many legitimate customers as potential risks — false positives — in pursuit of actual fraudster. That can lead to customers abandoning a business. So, too, can wasting too much time filling out all those information fields and online forms to gain entry to a business and spend money there.
That holds especially true for younger customers. “Millennials and Generation Z are mobile first and very impatient,” Madhu said. “This kind of change is exacerbating the problems in the industry.”
So what’s at play here?
Instead of a business using a mix and match of various vendor onboarding technology, the Instnt line of code is designed to be installed on a web site and mobile app to take over that work. “That one line of code becomes the entry point,” Madhu said, “but behind is a bunch of complex and different types of AI technology making real-time decisions.” The code isn’t meant to serve as a single digital ID that a consumer can use across the Internet but as that consumer’s single onboarding form.
“If you can solve the problem of not having to fill out forms every single time, that opens up some opportunities for brands,” said Salcedo, whose prior work on simplifying mobile banking for younger consumers with Simple Finance informs her work at Instnt.
According to them both, the proof that this line of code — this way of customer onboarding — can work is that the company assumes liability for any onboarding mistakes caused by its product. According to Madhu, the situation is like the liability assumed by the payment card networks when merchants sign up to use them. “We know what the risk is,” he said. “No vendor out there has managed to create (an onboarding experience) with such a guarantee.”
So what’s next for Instnt?
“Over the next few months, we are looking for small- and medium-sized business to sign up,” Salcedo told Webster. The company also is targeting such segments as eCommerce, healthcare and even public utilities, where too many forms and information fields are a recurring problem and source of friction.