Prioritizing Customers: 3 Lessons from Eko, India

When it comes to digital financial services, customer care is not just a job for a few people in a call center. At Eko, we do have a few lines dedicated for this purpose, but it’s foolish to assume that it was the only thing we need to do for customer support. In fact, these call lines are just a small part of the big picture: enabling all employees to prioritize customers’ need in their work is what customers empowerment should be about. Taking this one step further, we want to empower customers to even provide some level of self-service by providing them with all the tools they need.

Photo Credit: Barun Rajgaria, 2015 CGAP Photo Contest

Considering the customer as more than a mere beneficiary

At Eko, the most important transaction that we process is what is known as ‘sending money home’, and we understand this to be an empowering moment for our customers. It is an important act of commitment to set aside a good portion of one’s earnings for the well-being of friends and family. But what happens when something goes wrong? here are many instances where due to some fault in the underlying inter-bank money transfer pipes, transactions don’t reach their intended recipient or go into an otherwise ambiguous state. Eko’s platform SimpliBank has implemented a health check task that picks up transactions with ambiguous states and fires status check APIs for these. The health check can also flag specific financial institutions that may have connectivity or transaction response issues and proactively re-route delayed transactions. We realize how important it is for customers to know that their money is safe and accounted for. So how can we resolve problems that arise? At Eko, we have learned three critical lessons.

  1. The Agent is our first line customer service executive: We realized pretty early on that agents play a huge role in customer service. In fact, customers usually used our services because of the trust and mediation offered by a particular agent, who was typically a retail shop owner in the vicinity of the customer. Through our technology platform, Eko equipped agents with the same information our customer services representatives back at headquarters had. Over time, this allowed most complaints to be resolved on the front lines by agents. Only exceptions are escalated further. This move enables us to have a super compact back-end team for customer support, reducing cost and turnaround time for consumers when presenting an issue or concern.
  2. Empowering our team: The other realization was that the people who directly managed the distribution network were the most accessible people for our agents. On one level, we began to treat our agents also as our customers. Providing our distribution team access to additional information helped them become more aware of the realities facing their agents on a daily basis. This enabled meaningful intervention in helping agents do their business better.
  3. Technology, direct to consumer: Finally, a third lesson we have learned is that we can leverage technology to help improve our customers’ experience. For example, Eko was the first company to launch missed call-based balance check and transaction inquiries (in-fact we hold a patent for it). A customer makes a missed call (the caller waits for a few rings and then the call gets automatically disconnected). So the server knows that the customer with a certain mobile number needs a specific service, such as to check their wallet balance, and so Eko returns a text message accordingly. Today, this technology has been adopted by almost all banks. We continue in our endeavour to provide relevant access to customers. The advent of smartphones and the mass adoption of social media and communications apps have paved the way for designing more intuitive interfaces for customers to avail our services. We are in the process of designing some of these experiences. The idea is to facilitate self-service by putting as much information as possible in the hands of the customers. This could range from capturing feedback on a transaction experience or checking up on the status of a past transaction.

It is time to move beyond talking about the importance of customer service in implementing digital financial services. In this era of financial services, customer empowerment and customer centricity is the ultimate goal.

Read the CGAP Brief: Recourse in Digital Financial Services: Opportunities for Innovation

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