This paper explores how the broad financial decision-making practices commonly employed by poor people (as depicted in the companion paper, Money Resolutions, a Sketchbook) could be supported through a digital financial service platform. We focus on two particular practices: money animation and liquidity farming. We frame these solutions in the context of a broader discussion of what it means to be customer-centric in a digital service context.
The digital financial service environment presents unique opportunities to empower customers, mainly through its potential for (i) engaging with customers in two-way communication more frequently and possibly more meaningfully; (ii) offering higher levels of service targeting and personalization and faster product development; and (iii) conveying a greater sense of service availability and convenience. This paper explores how digital financial services can create greater engagement of customers with service providers along their customer journey.
The paper focuses particularly on service creation, rather than on customer management. Most digital financial services offered today on mobile or branchless banking channels are in fact legacies of the nondigital age; they treat the digital platform fundamentally as a channel. But digital delivery can fundamentally alter the nature of the services that are offered on them, especially as regards to how customers perceive and use them. Digital services need to be designed in a way that takes advantage of the inherent characteristics of the new channels. There is also a flip side in terms of the risk of exclusion of populations without adequate access to digital technologies, as well as unique customer protection issues raised by digital services that are well documented elsewhere.
This is not necessarily a call to make financial services more sophisticated. On the contrary, digital services are able to replicate what people already do informally, in everyday life, much more closely than standard bank products delivered over brick-and-mortar channels can ever achieve. In so doing, digital services can be empowering in the additional sense of supporting what people do, rather than feeling like a foreign imposition on them.