South Korea has embraced the cryptocurrency wave like few other countries have. Bithumb, one of the world’s largest digital currency exchanges (with a trading volume of over $620m), operates a physical service centre at the heart of Seoul. Operating 24/7 and catering to over 200 walk-in guests per day, the centre marks a stark deviation from an aspect most commonly associated with cryptocurrencies – the absence of human interaction.
Over 200 staff, largely young and cheery, are on hand to take in around 10,000 calls per day. These include inquiries on trading and service usage, in addition to face-to-face consultations.
The majority of those wishing to invest in cryptocurrencies within the country are the elderly, who are more willing on ‘high risk, high returns’ forms of investment. This development by Bithumb is significant, more so than just reinforcing South Korea’s adherence to high customer service standards.
Lack of Trust
The same, however, cannot be said in southeast Asia, more specifically the developing half (Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar).
Of the range of challenges cryptocurrency investment faces in taking off in these countries, the most significant (price volatility and government regulation) both relate to a lack of trust. Exacerbating this is the lack of a proper internet infrastructure within these countries-South Korea’s internet speed is the fastest, at 27.1 Mbit/s (4 times the global average of 7.0 Mbit/s), compared to Laos’, at 5.93 Mbit/s.
Potential investors from these countries tend to be sceptical due to the currencies’ volatile nature, which in turn will affect their prices. Additionally, in potential markets such as Myanmar, there is a significant lack of awareness and information on cryptocurrencies thus far -the Ponzi scheme ‘OneCoin’ underwent a mini-revival in Myanmar before it was banned by the Bank of Thailand as an illegal currency.
Having a knowledgeable and committed customer service arm will thus be critical towards establishing and, more importantly, deepening, trust required in the growth of digital currencies in developing markets.
In a sector dependent upon the scale and depth of its network, a loyal and dedicated customer service platform can go a long way towards ensuring sustainability and even stability.
Traditional Banking vs Cryptocurrencies
In traditional banking, customer service is seen as one of the most important aspects of day-to-day operations. Pranab Mukerjee, former Indian President and Minister of Finance, goes so far as to label customer service as the, ‘sole differentiating factor,’ needed to stay relevant within the sector. The level of trust effective service is able to establish is crucial towards retaining customers.
Thus, time-efficient and risk-mitigating services aimed at simplifying banking processes for customers need to be realized.
In terms of cryptocurrencies, the playing field differs substantially. Unlike traditional banking and investments, there is, as mentioned, usually very little human interaction in cryptocurrency exchanges.
To add to that, owing to the lack of a formal brick and mortar presence and regulation, staffing is not a prerequisite. Yet, as Bithumb has illustrated, having a physical staff present can facilitate expansion in a more human level. This human connection serves not only to simplify, but to reassure and expand.
In the cryptocurrency world, innovations are being made towards simplifying usage.
Companies such as Humaniq and Circle are examples of such – Humaniq, a mobile bank, helps communities excluded from the financial system integrate into the crypto-economy using blockchain and biometric information systems. Circle aims to create a revolutionary blockchain-based system allowing users to make even international transfers hassle free, just like sending a text message.
Ingraining effective customer service might seem premature, considering the fragile state of the technological and internet infrastructure within said countries, not to mention the fact that customer service is sub-standard. However, a customer support mechanism must be introduced in tandem or at the very least in the near future should cryptocurrencies wish to make their mark in said countries.
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