What Does It Take to Be User-centric?

“Customer-centricity is a concept that practically everyone agrees with, yet it takes a lot more than good intentions to implement.” – CGAP, “Customer-Centricity for Financial Inclusion”

Customer-centricity, user-centric design, human-centered design–all of these terms refer to the same mindset that places the customer or end-user at the center of an organization’s thinking. User-centric companies seek to provide solutions based on a deep understanding of the needs, preferences and behaviors of their users.

As the quote from CGAP captures, most companies would like to believe that they are user-centric. Many companies, however, will quickly confess that they wish they understood their clients better. For companies that want to become more user-centric, the most common question is, “Where do we start?”

At Juntos, our user-centric iterative design process begins with user research in the form of qualitative “deep-dive” interviews. As interviewers committed to user-centric design, we never use a questionnaire because we don’t presume that we know the right questions to ask. Instead, we develop a conversation that is guided by the user’s interests.

Allowing the potential user to guide the conversation leads to unexpected insights. Before we began designing products for partners in Mexico, we talked to potential users in Mexico City. In talking with one 30-year old man who had moved from a rural Mexican village to Mexico City, he told us that he took a three hour bus ride home to deposit his savings in the bank branch in his home town. He had passed branches of his bank in Mexico City but he doubted that the banks in Mexico City were connected to the bank in his little village.

This insight hints at just one of the many causes of the persistent problem of low take-up of products aimed at low-income individuals. Our user-centric design process, beginning with user research, allows us to capture these types of insights. By applying these insights, we are able to help our partner financial service providers drive engagement and account usage among low-income, newly-banked clients.


Mobile Consumer Protections: Maximizing Opportunity, Minimizing Risk

There is one lie that almost all of us have told multiple times in our lives: “I have read and understand the above terms and conditions.”

Buried somewhere in pages of fine print preceding this statement are explanations of our consumer protections. In an unspoken agreement, the writers of the contract pretend to explain consumer protection in an understandable way and the consumers pretend to understand it.

Pages of fine print create distrust among consumers. Juntos is working with our partner banks on a different approach to consumer protection that builds trust in order to increase account engagement.

As the 2014 Responsible Finance Forum highlighted, digital finance presents both opportunities and risks. We seek to maximize the opportunities for our partners while minimizing the risks for their customers, who are our users. We build trust between our partners and their customers by engaging our users in a warm, personalized conversation using an automated messaging platform. These messages turn any phone in the world into a financial coach that drives financial habit creation to increase usage of accounts.

In contrast to the fine print contract, we help our partners provide information bit by bit, message by message. Our users deepen their understanding about their rights and the costs over time and in context. In addition, although it may seem counter-intuitive, our experience has shown that making costs clear and giving users information about how they can “exit” actually increases adoption of a product.

Ours is a slower approach to consumer protection. It is more difficult. But providing consumer protection information within messages designed to change behavior leads to more informed decisions, greater trust, and increased use of products among consumers.