Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Humanizing Large-scale Services

As initiatives to broaden financial services scale-up, they often have to sacrifice low-touch and personalized interactions with clients. Larger programs benefit from more solid financial footing and lower marginal costs relative to smaller scale initiatives, yet these are often the ones that focus specifically on poor clients. In attaining a sufficient scale, however, financial service providers are increasingly using mobile and digital delivery channels in place of face-to-face interactions and brick-and-mortar locations. Especially for low-income individuals unfamiliar both with new technologies and with financial services, however, these low-touch interfaces can act as a barrier to clients’ awareness and utilization of financial services.

To bridge this disempowering gap between financial service providers and their client, we often propose designing communication channels that preserve personalization. An example of this approach is work we did with Aseguradora Rural as it piloted a health microinsurance product. To build customers’ trust and sense of connection, we created a fictional character to stand in as a personification of the care provided by the policy. The character, Doctora Segura, was used in marketing materials and represented the helpline that customers could call for information on the policy. She offered health tips to build awareness about prevention and usage of outpatient health services. As a result of customers’ association of Doctora Segura with the product and their access to healthcare, the of 2,226 people polled, 80% said they had heard of the product from Doctora Segura, compared to the next highest 21% who referenced printed materials. Additionally, the majority, 76%, reported her to be the main reason for their decision to buy coverage. This finding highlights need to balance low-touch customer services with a humanized connections between the pro-poor financial services and the people they are designed to benefit.