Customers at the Center

Photo Credit: KM Asad

Access to financial services is central to financial inclusion, but people cannot benefit from financial services if they do not use them.

CGAP works to advance customer centricity—a way of designing products and services that begins with understanding the customer. For poor customers, this starts by recognizing their great diversity and the daily challenges they face. While often defined by a single attribute—their poverty level—they are a diverse group of people and require a range of products and services.

Hands weaving a basket. Photo taken by Carlo Zamora. Photo Credit: Carlo Zamora

Access to financial services is central to financial inclusion, but people cannot benefit from financial services if they do not use them, and providers cannot generate income from their business activities when there is lack of use.


For example, 68 percent of registered mobile money accounts globally had not been used at least once in three months, according to 2014 data.


Inactivity is not only an issue for mobile accounts, overall 26 percent of all accounts are not used at all, or infrequently. These numbers reflect low or no value for customers, and concomitantly low or no value for providers, and society as a whole.

Photo Credit: AM Ahad

Becoming a customer-centric institution is not easy and often involves a complete shift in the way a financial service provider operates. However, analysts of successful business models across industries agree that customer-centric providers tend to fare better in the long run, as they are better at retaining customer loyalty and identifying and meeting evolving demand. But does this work for low-income customers, where margins are thin? We believe that it does and that customer centricity at the base-of-the-pyramid is a critical element for success.

Micro and Small Enterprise Finance Working Group

The Micro and Small Enterprise Finance Working Group (MSE WG), created in 2010, is associated with the Customers at the Center Initiative. The MSE WG is an informal forum for peer learning and knowledge exchange on micro and small enterprise among CGAP members and other interested organizations. It focuses on sharing insights and good practices, with the CGAP Operational Team facilitating a learning agenda with the active participation of WG members. The WG is co-chaired by a CG member and a member of the CGAP Operational Team. The WG meets in person once a year during the CGAP Annual Meeting and two to three times virtually through calls during which MSE finance topics of interest are presented and discussed. In FY2015 the WG covered the topics of women in MSEs and heuristics for MSEs.

How the Poor Manage Their Money

How are poor people able to create some financial predictability, when they face low and unpredictable income as well as unexpected expenses? They seem to rely heavily on rules of thumb, conventional wisdom, and habitual practices. This CGAP video explains four behaviors that commonly underpin people's money management practices, which are drawn from a CGAP working paper, Money Resolutions, a Sketchbook. By understanding how poor people manage their money, financial service providers can create solutions that will be taken up more broadly.

FY2015 Highlights/Outputs

During FY2015, CGAP identified five pillars of a customer-centric framework, started conceptual work to guide financial service providers toward a customer-centric business model, and partnered with financial service providers to influence their strategies on customer centricity and to help them implement customer centricity as a business model.

Developed the five pillars of a customer-centric business model:

  1. Leadership and Culture
    • Blog Post: “Rethinking What it Takes to Lead Customer-Centric Organizations” View Post
  2. Focused Operations:
    Operations focused on the customer—compliance, risk, technology, human resources, finance, marketing, legal, and training
  3. People, Tools, and Insights:
    Collecting information, generating insights, informing strategy, informing customer value propositions, and empowering employees
  4. Customer Experience:
    Based on insights generated, design, conceptualize, test, build, deliver, scale, and renew
  5. Value Creation:
    Creating and measuring value at customer, firm, and societal level

Other work included the following:

  • Video: “Janalakshmi's Journey to Customer Centricity” Watch Video
  • “From Insights to Action” (October 2014), a synthesis of lessons from applied product innovation work. View Publication View Post
  • Conceptualized a customer empowerment framework to enable customers toward choice, use, and voice. View Framework View Post
  • Launched a WorkSpace that serves as a platform for interaction and sharing for the Customers at the Center community of practice and other areas in CGAP.