Riding the cashless wave not simply a snap of a finger

08 Aug 2017 by Joy Fang 

DBS Smart Nation ambassador Ho Yi Shu speaks to a stall owner about DBS PayLah!. The bank is recruiting ambassadors to encourage cash-based merchants to adopt DBS PayLah!’s QR code payment solution. Photo: DBS

From meeting generous hawkers to coping with rejection, DBS Smart Nation ambassadors share the ups and downs of their job

Under the scorching sun and sultry heat, scores of young people in their trademark red t-shirts have been traversing across the island over the past few months.

Their mission: to convince thousands of merchants in Singapore to join DBS cashless initiative – a QR code payment solution using the DBS PayLah! mobile application.

These tireless individuals are part of DBS’ new Smart Nation Ambassador Programme (SNAP) launched in May, where ambassadors will be recruited to encourage small cash-based merchants to adopt the QR code payment option.

Watch A day in the life of a DBS Smart Nation Ambassador 01:45

Dogged persistence

Recounting their experiences, DBS Smart Nation ambassadors Lim Xian Da, 22, and Ho Yi Shu, 21, say the job is challenging but well worth the effort.

Each ambassador is assigned locations to cover – for Xian Da and Yi Shu, the areas include Pasir Ris, Yishun and Geylang. They spend hours daily introducing PayLah! to business owners and helping interested owners get started on the payment solution.

Ambassadors must have a really “thick skin” and not be embarrassed by rejection, says Xian Da, with a laugh. “There was an uncle who did not even say anything to me. He just waved me off before I could finish talking.”

Read more: Bringing traditional food and technology together the DBS PayLah! way.

Lim Xian Da (right) with a fellow Smart Nation ambassador at Whampoa Drive Food Centre. Photo: DBS

Indeed, being tenacious and patient is crucial.

At times, ambassadors have to wait for hours before they get to speak to business owners who are busy tending to customers. Sometimes, owners come onboard; other times, the wait comes to naught.

Despite waiting over two hours at a hair salon, Yi Shu admits wryly that he still has not managed to get the owner onboard. “Some people are quite hesitant at the start, so I’ll need to take a few days to talk to them so they can warm up to me. You need to build the trust there first,” says Xian Da.

He does this by quietly waiting and not intruding on business, or by making small talk with stall owners.

New insights, generous gestures

The job has improved his people skills, says Xian Da.

Coming into this job, you get to experience something you don’t see every day. You get an insight into the daily lives of hawkers and shop owners.

— Lim Xian Da, 22, DBS Smart Nation Ambassador

“I’ve learnt to listen more to people’s problems and learnt ways to communicate better with them. Initially I asked the wrong questions and said the wrong things. But as you build your confidence you get better at it,” he says.

Photo: DBS

It’s really a people-oriented job. … Sometimes the stall owners just want someone to talk to. The experiences I’ve had with all these merchants have been so diverse – it’s been very enriching.

— Ho Yi Shu, 21, DBS Smart Nation Ambassador

The pair have also experienced how generous some business owners can be.

A wonton noodle hawker once offered an ice kacang dessert to Xian Da. When Xian Da returned a second time, the hawker whipped up a bowl of noodles for him.

When Yi Shu first started out at Block 123 Yishun Street 11, one shop owner was so sold on DBS PayLah! he brought Yi Shu around the entire block and encouraged fellow business owners to sign up for the initiative.

“It’s really heartwarming. It’s not an easy job and sometimes it’s nice when these owners see your pains and try to help you out,” says Yi Shu.

Both ambassadors will be starting university later this year – Yi Shu at the University College London and Xian Da at the University of Manchester. Currently, Yi Shu, a national player for rugby, is also training for the upcoming Southeast Asian Games.

The job has improved his people skills, says Xian Da. Photo: DBS

The cashless direction

DBS PayLah! – which has some 600,000 users currently – and its QR code payment function is part of DBS’ efforts in pushing for a cashless society amid the drive for Singapore to become a Smart Nation.

DBS ambassadors have reached out to some 8,000 cash-based merchants to in mature estates including Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh, Clementi and Bedok, of which more than 900 have been onboarded.

Some 8,000 QR code transactions have been processed via DBS PayLah! since its launch in April this year.

Both ambassadors are confident that the move to cashless payments will soon be entrenched, although there’s still some way to go. “The older generation still has a mindset that cash is king, so we still need to break that,” says Xian Da.

Adds Yi Shu, “While I personally feel that cash will always be around, once merchants understand the benefits of cashless payment, they will inevitably accept it as the norm sometime in the near future and move towards that.”