Learn from Customers

Learn how to understand your customers better – their behaviors, needs, and wants – and generate the insights you need to start designing.

What do insights say about the financial lives of low-income customers?

Digging deep into financial behaviors of customers around the world uncovers similarities among many segments. CGAP’s research found that overall, both low-income and more affluent segments express the same needs for education, nutrition, stable income, housing, and well-being. But the low-income context also introduces a higher level of uncertainty.

We found that different segments can also share drivers: They want to choose the right financial products and services. They expect to be treated with respect by employees and agents. They want to voice opinions and grievances. They seek products and services that offer financial control. However, life circumstances of low-income people often lead to a sense of exclusion from formal financial services.

Low-income individuals seek financial predictability, reliable income, and a safety net, but may face challenges and risks that prevent them from achieving these goals. They may not have a stable source of employment – which leads to fluctuating income. They may accept lower paying jobs to smooth out income flows. They’re often concerned with the timing of funds, easy access to liquidity, and income gaps. They may need more withdrawals, lower deposit limits, and access to smaller amounts of credit. The timing of an insurance claim payout can be more critical to a low-income individual than to a more affluent one.

Key Resources

Carpenter saws wood in Kumasi, Ghana. Low-income individuals like this man seek financial predictability and reliable income but may face challenges and risks that prevent them from achieving these goals

What are the costs and value of financial services for customers?

Fees and charges are just a small portion of the costs customers pay to use your products and services. They also face nonfinancial costs like transportation, time, and stress. Low perceived value and intangibles like trust and uncertainty can translate to limited or no use. On the other hand, perceived benefits can help you set pricing, and strong insights can improve value propositions.

Costs customers pay:

  1. Actual price of products and services  
  2. Economic cost of regulatory requirements
  3. Psychological cost of using unknown/untrusted products and services

Value customers gain:

  1. Social value of increased status, aspiration to begin using products and services
  2. Functional value of products and services themselves
  3. Emotional value of products and services that fit their needs

Key Resources

Kenyan woman smiles as she cuts crops. Low-income individuals like field workers often face unstable income flows and difficulty in using formal financial services.

How do insights translate into design principles? 

Customer insights are only as good as the actions they inspire. A huge benefit of the design process is that it takes critical customer insights and boils them down into clear, instructive guardrails known as design principles.

Examples of design principles:

  • Give customers options
  • Treat all customers with respect
  • Involve customers in service design
  • Give customers tools to control their financial lives 

Design principles can help you formalize and consistently apply knowledge across branches and departments. Although less exciting than brand-new product concepts, design principles can transform how a financial service provider operates. For example, a design principle may directly lead a large bank to build trust through more transparent pricing offers or shift how a bank communicates and creates more human messaging.

Key Resources

Woman in Pakistan holds a paper as she tests a financial services prototype designed to bring more user-friendly products and services to low-income customers.