Creative Solutions to Digital Mainstreaming

New CFI report illustrates novel approaches to an increasingly digital customer journey.

Picture this scene: hundreds of people cram into a financial service provider’s storefront, arriving seemingly out of nowhere, mobile phones in hand. They act excited, as if they are about to attend a dance party. Curious passersby stop to see what the buzz is about.

This technique, which organizers call a flash mob, is one innovative approach for generating sign-ups and interest in a new product aimed at underserved clients. The flash mob attracts people otherwise hard to reach to FINCA Pakistan’s mobile service, Sim Sim.

Creative approaches, powered digitally, are transforming the customer experience – hopefully for the better. Digital processes can dramatically increase convenience, speed and variety of the services available to the previously unserved. But digital products and processes succeed only with good design – and with the strategic use of human touch.

In our recent report, Charting the Customer Journey in the Digital Age , Amin Khairy of the Institute of International Finance and I explain how mainstream financial institutions create effective digital customer journeys for underserved clients. With support from MetLife Foundation and CFI’s founding partner, Credit Suisse, this report explores how the three main phases of the customer journey evolve through digital transformation and provides examples of how innovative financial institutions are creatively addressing challenges for emerging customers. It’s the penultimate report from our two-year partnership, Mainstreaming Financial Inclusion: Best Practices.

[1] Discovery [2] Onboarding [3] Continuing Use

Three Stages in the Customer Journey

FINCA Microfinance Bank of Pakistan employed the flash mob described above as part of the first, or “discovery,” stage of the customer journey, when an underserved client finds out about a digital product and becomes convinced that the product is actually for her.

Broadly, the discovery stage incorporates three steps by the customer: developing an awareness of potential options, evaluating those options, and selecting the most appropriate product. While digital apps can bring many more products to a customer’s fingertips, it is not so easy for companies to bring their products to the attention of prospective customers. Companies compete for customers’ attention in this stage in an attempt to build brand awareness and communicate value. Our report delves into ways the human touch combines with tech to attract customers to digital financial service offerings. This is where FINCA Pakistan’s flash mobbing experience came in, but a variety of techniques have been employed.

In addition to the discovery stage, the covers the onboarding, and continuing use stages. This simple taxonomy helps clarify the often co-mingling and iterative parts of the customer journey, giving clearer picture.

Onboarding involves providing detailed information about product terms and conditions, determining customer eligibility, signing contracts and setting up accounts. For credit, it also includes underwriting decisions. Once known as “paperwork,” it used to involve a lot more dead trees and multiple trips back and forth to a brick-and-mortar branch. The case studies we discuss in this section include novel examples of digitization from Poland, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia in which providers use digital tools and programs such as optical characters, an e-government customer portal and the national ID system to streamline the onboarding process.

The goal of stage three, continuing use, is to get customers to remain active users, a continuous concern for providers of services to new and previously underserved customers. Not only do new accounts often go dormant, but customers often only use one of multiple digital products and services offered by a single FSP.

In the continuing use chapter, the reader also finds out that, as nifty and time saving as digital tools can be, human touch is still critical for driving continued usage, particularly in areas such as complaint resolution, as people feel a strong need to interact with a person if something goes wrong. Without well-timed human touch, users might just give up or switch to another product.

What We’ve Learned Along the Way

As we conducted the investigation for this report, we learned that FSPs must prioritize innovation – they must look for opportunities to be creative – in order to implement products that can help them serve the underserved effectively. We also saw that digitizing customer journeys can improve the sustainability of reaching underserved segments and encourage potential customers to be actively engaged.

A few other stand-out findings from this new report:

  • Tech touch balance is especially important during the discovery phase, to assist newly banked customers get familiar with complex financial services and products.
  • We were also struck by how important the role of regulators is in enabling financial institutions to simplify onboarding procedures. Electronic onboarding is either prevented or enabled depending on the regulatory environment, national ID programs, and the like.
  • We saw that to keep customers actively engaged institutions need to focus on product design and tailoring offerings based on customer behaviors.
  • To create a seamless digital customer journey, financial institutions need to digitize the entire operational chain. Having a mobile application or a functioning internet banking page is not enough to attract/retain customers in this technological era. The focus should be on creating an entire experience that caters to customers’ needs in a highly efficient manner. Partnering with fintechs through open banking and utilizing data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence are just some initial ideas for doing so.

If I’ve piqued your interest, have a read of Charting the Customer Journey in the Digital Age to find out more.

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