Views on Customer Empowerment: Findings from India
As part of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor’s (CGAP’s) work on customer empowerment, a series of consultations with financial services customers is being undertaken to try to understand the customer perspective on “customer empowerment.” This will contribute to building the definition of customer empowerment and strengthen the framing of the concept for CGAP’s work on customer-centricity. While looking at financial services in general, there is a specific focus on digital financial services. This report summarizes the findings from the first test of this approach in India.
The underlying hypothesis for this work is that a more dynamic customer-provider relationship that is based on trust and that builds customer confidence will help reduce the problem of inactivity and will result in a win-win for both sides. To advance financial inclusion, there needs to be more uptake and usage of financial services by poor customers. Financial service providers need to improve their interaction with customers to empower them to choose and use financial services.
It is important to recognize that empowerment is not a “state of being”; that is, it is not something that is present or not. Rather, it is about structures that block or enable. It is the result of internal and external factors, and must therefore be understood in relation to the service provider and to the specific context of the customers. While “empowerment” as a concept may be difficult to explain and communicate, people will easily relate to the lived experience of “disempowerment.” The term “empowerment” is multidimensional, and is individual-, context-, and culture-specific. The tested approach was therefore to break empowerment down into a number of dimensions, focusing broadly on “choice”, “use”, and “voice”, which can be explored in order to build a picture of the experience of specific groups of customers.
Focus group discussions and individual interviews were conducted with customers in a small district town, Rajgir, in Bihar state; three villages within 15 kilometers of Rajgir; and in Delhi. We interviewed a total of 48 women and 4 men in focus group discussions, and 5 women and 4 men individually.
The first part of the report presents the findings of the research, and the second part reflects on the methodology used and on lessons learned about how to talk with customers about customer empowerment.