by Shikhar Aggarwal
Visa processing can be a tedious procedure for tourists and business travellers prior to their journey. For decades, it has been performed manually by departmental staff using basic support technology to garner and assess an array of information. This information was usually ascertained from paper-based visa applications. It is only recently that, with the advent of high-speed internet, application processes have become simplified, and one can fill the forms online.
Automated processes to help combat fraud
Technological innovations such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and robot processing automation and analytics now help deliver personalised visa services to tourists backed by data security. These automated solutions will help assess an applicant’s eligibility in terms of a wide range of threshold questions, especially where straightforward approval cannot be granted, and further assessment is required. This will help analyse the authenticity of an applicant’s intention to leave his/her country, whether s/he has sufficient funds, or the genuineness of a claimed spouse relationship. The decision, however, will always need human intervention until these disruptive technologies mature completely.
Supporting digital payments
Fraud has been a great concern for decades. As we adopt new technologies, fraudsters, too, come up with smarter techniques to subvert the processes. Currently, they are shifting to the CNP (Card Not Present) channel, where fraud is conducted on transactions performed over the phone or online. As we shift to more digital payment platforms, physical cards get obsolete and the boundaries between the account holders being present or remote to conduct payments, are blurred. It is, therefore, urgent for visa providers to design an ecosystem powered by AI and machine learning to ensure payments are secure, reliable and convenient.
AI can help verify an individual’s identity real-time
There is more to AI and machine learning. Chip technology in the face-to-face environment and 3-Domain Secure (3-DS) tools, which help enable consumers to authenticate their identity in real-time offering a balance of greater data exchange between merchants and financial institutions, especially at the time of shopping, can be a game-changer in the visa industry. Security must be given the topmost priority and it should move at the speed of innovation. We must understand that it’s not only “innovation” but “responsible innovation” that should be practiced and followed all around the world. The new technologies we adapt to must be secure, especially when it comes to driving security across the payments ecosystem.
Workforce requires to effectively adopt new technology
Another challenge is re-skilling and up-skilling the existing workforce. These people must be given proper training to become experts in using advanced tools. Some questions arise though, like how to train them, and would it generate more jobs or kill the existing ones? It is, thus, crucial to address such challenges and help visa providers deliver better.
Chatbots improve and assist customer service
These days, operational windows of contact centre play a pivotal role in addressing visa queries in no time, and as a front line of all visa queries, AI establishes a smoother link between business and visa applicants. Be it selecting your preferred language or anticipating the queue time, AI voice agents and chatbots can capture granular data from each interaction optimizing the workflow of the contact centre. In need of automatic identification of an existing customer’s contact number or fetching any relevant data basis an applicant’s reference number, an expedite customer service can be rendered as a delightful experience simply by practicing the AI algorithm.
A snapshot of AI’s transformation of business processes
There’s no denying that adoption of AI is picking up the pace in various sectors, including visa and consular services. According to industry experts, nearly 80% of businesses these days are investing in AI, and by 2020, more than 50% of the operations and enterprise data will be managed autonomously. Many software professionals and experts are also of the opinion that practicing AI across several industries will give AI software potential revenues a phenomenal ascent to $90 billion by 2025.
Over the past few years, cloud computing, machine learning, and internet penetration using AI algorithms have revolutionised the visa and travel sectors. Besides, many visa providers and application centres already have AI-powered instant chat and voice assistance with the capabilities of scheduling appointment slots for prospective visa applicants quite conveniently. Not only this, with every single access to the websites, AI would adopt the lead generation for the service provider and probability models, which is done by smart algorithms predicting consumer behaviour in real-time. So, garnering a travel permit is no longer a daunting thought.
Integrating various tech services in the long run is key
For a secured ecosystem in the visa industry, we, therefore, need to build a mechanism that brings together all these advanced technologies and enables us to work with a long-term approach. We might have to go beyond the defined lines to build innovation and use blockchain technology to its fullest, but without breaking the law. Many organizations worldwide, are already working in this direction, crafting and introducing newer approaches backed by blockchain, that promote both ease and security across systems. India, too, is gradually picking the pace, but a lot more needs to be achieved.
Blockchain alone, as of now, may not be an immediate solution to India’s security challenges, but it can truly beef up the existing visa infrastructure of the country if utilized well. Rather than seeking out for more talent, we should be focused on bringing the right talent at the right place. This way, we can rectify issues that have caused distress to every sector for decades and veer towards what’s right and effective. The more we embrace innovation, the better would be our implementation. After all, as a corporate citizen, the onus is on us to innovate and drive progress, thus, pushing India towards a better and secured tomorrow.
Shikhar Aggarwal is the Joint Managing Director at BLS International Services Limited, which provides visa processing services.
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