For all the progress and convenience of the digital era, many visa application processes remain paper-based and reliant on face-to-face interactions, largely explained as a security imperative. But that is changing as governments see the benefits of streamlining their processes and customers rightly expect a more intuitive and personalised experience. Covid-19 has reinforced this trend and at TLScontact we are proud of our continuing work with government clients to accelerate their digital transformation. We are passionately ‘Digital First’, always seeking to harness technology to facilitate government decision-making and improve customer experience.
Improved information discovery
For most customers preparing to apply for a visa, the first point of reference will be the TLScontact website, or the government website of the country they are planning to visit. Our aim is to make sure that often complicated information is easily accessible, clearly presented in a user-friendly format, and related to the right stage of the customer journey. Our websites are optimised for all types of mobile device, respect the latest UX (user-experience) principles and take our customers through their application process step-by-step. We are continuously looking to adjust and improve, taking into account ongoing customer feedback through channels such as our Enterprise Feedback Management programme. As a recent example, this has led us to develop an online self-help platform, where customers can obtain the information that they require when they need it, by typing questions into an interactive knowledge base.
Read our article Using a data-driven approach to improve customer information.
Online appointment booking and payment
So many of us are now well used to booking and paying for services online and on the go, from entertainment to banking, health and more. Visa services must continue working to offer the same, especially because they are so closely related to digitally mature international travel and tourism services. TLScontact visa customers can book to attend one of our many centres around the world in a few clicks from their computer or mobile device. Behind the apparent simplicity of a user-friendly appointment booking interface, we manage the many constraints and complexities inherent in the visa application process, with its many different destinations, different visa types, government Service Level Agreements, the sheer volume of demand, and the fascinating variety of customer needs. At TLScontact, we have developed our own appointment and resource planning software, and are proud of the balance it strikes between convenience and the security required to safeguard a process that is attractive to fraudulent operators.
Payment through a secure online platform can also streamline the process and limit fraud risks. Again, behind the apparent simplicity of online payment lie many layers of complexity. This is particularly the case when managing visa appointments across multiple locations, with different tax and legal jurisdictions and varying customer access to online or credit card payment solutions. At TLScontact, we have developed TLSpay, a unified, global online and point-of-sale payment system to meet these different challenges, allowing us to manage payments for government visa fees and additional services in compliance with local and international regulations, tax and settlement rules.
Digitisation of supporting documents
Supporting evidence is required for most visa types in most countries’ application processes and in some cases can run to hundreds of pages. That amount of paper weighs down customers, requires costly printing, shipping and storage, and most of all has a significant environmental impact. Keen to improve customer experience and driven by our Corporate Social Responsibility values, TLScontact digitises over 1 million visa applications per year, through our TLSdocuments system. This user-friendly platform allows all supporting evidence to be scanned and uploaded onto our secure platform, that is then integrated with government systems. Government partners can view files directly online, streamlining the application review and decision-making process. We estimate that we have uploaded well over 200 million pages since the launch of our document digitisation solution, delivering an estimated saving of around 850,000 tons of CO2.
As we developed our secure document digitisation system, TLSdocuments, we knew we wanted to take the convenience one step further and offer visa customers the option to upload their supporting evidence themselves, from the comfort of their home, office or using their mobile device. As well as cutting paper out of the process at source, customers can now submit their evidence much more quickly or, if they prefer, take their time to add evidence over a number of days as they prepare their application. It also means that they spend much less time at our centre on the day of their appointment, when they will simply need to complete their biometric enrolment and submit their passport.
The ‘final frontier’: remote biometric enrolment
The final step in the digitisation of the visa application process will be to allow biometric enrolment outside the formal setting of a visa application centre. TLScontact is fortunate to work with some fantastic technology partners and together we are working towards this ambition, which will entail the use of self-service kiosks in secure locations and eventually biometric capture with a smartphone. The technology exists, but there is important user-experience and data quality work to be done, plus the fascinating challenge of ensuring that biometric enrolment is carried out securely, with no risk of fraud. We are moving into a trial later this month, focused on these very issues, with one of our most important clients.
Visa services are digitising, step by step, and TLScontact will continue to support our clients to improve processes and customer experience. To do this, we combine both ‘High Tech’ and ‘High Touch’ approaches, with innovative platforms, products and software developed and supported by people who are highly capable, committed and customer focused.
Article written by
Simon Peachey, Chief Sales Officer