Walking in the shoes of digital financial service customers

Walking in the shoes of digital financial service customers

October 26 , 2016
Kampala, UGANDA - 

On Day 3 of the #DFS4Women event, important insights started emerging about how to leverage the digitization of high volume payments to build a digital ecosystem in which people feel at ease using mobile money and second generation financial products. Significant emphasis was placed on behavioural changes and on what drives individuals to reassess their saving and spending practices and adopt new ones.

In one session, ‘DFS and High Volume Payments,' Innate Motion and PHB Development led a discussion focusing on the emotional and structural factors that help induce this change in the session ‘DFS and High Volume Payments.' The first category of factors includes the identification of people’s needs; the creation of a value proposition, keeping in mind that each stakeholder (whether mobile network operator, client, agent or aggregator) needs a specific business case; and especially the cultivation of confidence in the reliability of the system through recourse mechanisms that allow customers to address concerns, doubts and questions. The second category includes phone penetration, network coverage and telecommunication infrastructure, agent networks, cash float distribution, and availability of rebalancing options and favourable regulation/interoperability. The combination of these factors provides the background against which potential customers would ask themselves, do I really want to shift to digital means of payment? And, if so, can I do it?

The two questions are interwoven. As Innate Motion and PHB Development suggested, the role of digital financial service (DFS) providers and local financial institutions is to set the stage for this behavioural change to happen through a roadmap that includes these steps:

  • Building an ECOSYSTEM involving all players;
  • Creating an EDUCATION path for clients;
  • Creating TRUST through ambassadors chosen from local leaders;
  • Providing MULTIPLE CHOICES, eschewing binary contraposition between cash and mobile and, instead, granting the user the possibility to choose on a case-by-case basis;
  • Creating STAGED introduction of digitization;
  • Making technology that is as inclusive as possible for people with low-literacy skills and particularly that involves the vernacular;
  • Relying on specialists; and
  • Aligning commercial and public interests due to the involvement of donors, state institutions and private partners.

The core message laid out by Innate Motion and PHB Development was, ‘If you want change to happen, focus on driving behaviours—not on the next hi-tech gadget.’ To this end, they started by identifying the main streams of bulk payments: government to person, or G2P (civil servant payments, social protection payments); government to business, or G2B (loans to businesses, subsidies to farmer organizations/cooperatives); person to government, or P2G (tax and fine payments, utility bill payments); and development organization to person, or D2P (cash transfers, cash for work [C4W], emergency transfers).

Then, they invited participants to play a game: different small groups, divided by country, had to craft a fictitious identity of a prospective female DFS user. Participants were asked to bring to life a character, to imagine her life trajectory needs, dreams and aspirations. In creating the profiles, group members had to ask themselves these questions:

  • Who are they?
  • What really matters to them?
  • What drives them in everyday life?
  • What are their aspirations and goals?
  • What are the obstacles they face?
  • What are their fears?
  • What would be their motto?

Different scenarios were played out, such as a widowed pensioner from rural Senegal who made a living through small commerce and sometimes received money from her son who had migrated abroad, and a single mother of three who made ends meet by combining income from street hawking with small contributions from the state. Discussion of financial services was left in the background while participants fleshed out the biographies of their characters, and yet dreams and fears appeared clearly entangled with financial practices as key instruments to achieve the former and rein in the latter.

In another session specifically focused on clients, 17 Triggers took a different tack on the same challenge—through an exercise of rapid ideation. In the process of rapid ideation, they used NAPS 100+, a technique based on non-judgment of ideas and piggybacking or iterating of each other. The room of a few participants was able to generate 100+ ideas for ways to empathize with customers in just a few minutes.

With rapid ideation and the elaboration of distinct customer personas, the work of developing these services becomes much more intimate. However, in a 90-minute session, it is compressed if not contrived and that had been and has to be acknowledged.

  • Research is fundamental: Developing a persona based on character attributes that are assumed from past experience rather than from direct research associated with a specific product may well lead to a product that is as much of a fiction as the persona.
  • All ideas are not equal: In the process of rapid ideation, it is essential to not judge (in particular to not judge one’s own ideas or to self-censor), but while all ideas are good, that does not mean there are no bad ideas. The goal is to then identify and develop those ideas that are best suited to the local context.

The introduction of these techniques and methodologies is nonetheless valuable and it is hopeful that the participants will be able to devote the time needed to integrate these lessons into their own product designs.

The bottom line of all of these exercises was this: only by walking in DFS users’ shoes—to have a glimpse of their lives and to put at the centre not the technology but real human beings with their complex mix of feelings and logic—can DFS providers make a value case for different types of customers and drive the change that may have a real impact on people’s livelihoods.


October 2016. Copyright © UN Capital Development Fund. All rights reserved.             

The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNCDF, the United Nations or any of its affiliated organizations or its Member States.

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