From Data to Customer Insights: 3 Tips for Providers

“The world is now awash in data, and we can see consumers in a lot clearer ways.” – Max Levchin, Co-founder of PayPal

We live in the data age. More data will be created in 2017 than in the previous 5,000 years of humanity, and financial services providers are contributing their fair share.

Providers generate vast amounts of data on customers, including demographic data collected when people enroll for their services, behavioral and transactional data when they use services, and social data when they use Facebook and other social media platforms. The big challenge they face is how to take all these data and weave a tapestry that presents a meaningful portrait of their customers. Around the world, many of CGAP’s partners are struggling with this challenge.

Pinneapple seller on phone
Pinneapple seller on phone. Photo by Aleithia Low, 2016 CGAP Photo Contest.

Wave Money, a FinTech company in Myanmar that we recently worked with to increase customer acquisition and product use, is a great example.

Wave Money has data pouring in every minute from multiple sources: a smartphone app, call center, transaction platform, social media channels and staff. It wants to manage this torrent of data to inform its business strategies, operations and customer outreach plans, and it has a good opportunity to do so — not least of all because of the richness of its social media data. For most people in Myanmar, Facebook has become synonymous with the internet. They use it for many purposes, including as a search engine for web surfing. In the process, they generate Facebook data that can help providers like Wave Money better understand consumer behavior and needs. But this can be achieved only if providers develop the capabilities and processes to continually generate useful customer insights and feed them into decision-making.

CGAP worked with Wave Money to analyze how it generates and applies customer insights in its operations and to find ways to improve this process. The following are three insights from our work that may be relevant to other providers who want to get the most out of their data and learn about their customers.

Collect high-quality registration data

Gather demographic information like location, age, gender, occupation, income, education and language when people register for your service. These factors can be incredibly useful in analyzing customers’ behavior. Wave Money's experience illustrates this point. Providers in Myanmar face a unique challenge in collecting registration data becuase most users do not download apps themselves. Frequently, apps are side-loaded by agents or other friendly helpers who might not always enter the customer's data reliably. Making sure there is no incomplete or inaccurate data is challenging but worth the effort to ensure customers' behavior can be analyzed. For example, the capture of a customer's township can be missed by Wave Money agents during the registration process. This leads to additional time and effort being needed to subsequently obtain customer location data through Google Analytics.

Start thinking in terms of customer journeys

One of the best ways to arrive at useful customer insights is to view your data through a customer journey lens. A customer journey captures an individual’s journey through a specific product or service, such as signing up for a loan or making payments throughout the lifetime of a product.  One benefit of this approach is that it breaks the challenge of improving customer experience into bite-size pieces, helping operational teams to target and personalize their sales, marketing and customer support efforts to specific customer segments. Taking a customer journey view also enables companies to complement quantitative data with qualitative insights from customer interviews and focus groups. In the case of Wave Money, such insights have proven especially valuable for testing assumptions against real-world customer experiences. For example, quantitative data allowed Wave to identify super-users (those with extremely high and low use levels), but it was qualitative interviews that helped them understand what was driving these users’ transaction patterns.   

Create a holistic picture of your customers

A customer will likely interact with your service in more than one way and generate data from multiple sources. To get a fuller picture of a customer's behavior, it is important to link all of his or her available data under a single view in whatever customer relationship management system you use. For Wave Money, this involves associating each customer with his or her in-app behavioral data, activity on Wave’s Facebook page and call center data. Linking these data will enable Wave Money to get a fuller picture of everything from how customers are acquired to behavioral differences between high- and low-frequency customers. With these insights, they will be able to evaluate their product design, assess their approach to customer support and identify the unmet needs of their customers.

Wave Money is just one of many providers striving to better understand its large and diverse consumer base in the data age. Harnessing the vast amount of consumer data at providers’ fingertips is increasingly important, but it is no easy task. It requires a strong understanding of both analytical tools and the business challenges the organization is facing. To help providers, CGAP’s online Customer-Centric Guide provides detailed guidance and a segmentation toolkit. We will be adding a data analytics toolkit soon, so stay tuned.



Financial service providers have a great opportunity to create value by designing and delivering customer experience based on a granular understanding of needs. The CGAP Customer Experience Toolkit equips organizations to create empowering customer experiences.

Financial service providers have traditionally categorized low-income customers into a single market segment. The CGAP Customer Segmentation Toolkit is designed to help FSPs identify subsets of customers that have common needs, interests, and priorities – then design and implement targeted strategies.

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