This blog post is the third in a ten part series of articles covering the 10 Lessons Learned about Using Mobile Money to Promote Financial Inclusion.
When providing any financial service, especially one built on a technology platform, trust is essential. Helping to develop this trust requires building on services from respected mobile money operators, ensuring safeguards and excellent customer service are in place. Visa’s recent Mobile Money Study among nearly 2,500 consumers, mobile money agents, and merchants in Bangladesh, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan revealed the importance of trust. Across the countries where the survey took place, respondents cited lack of trust in mobile money providers and agents as being one of the top barriers to the adoption of mobile money. Related to trust was the issue of mobile network reliability that prevented activation and usage of mobile money accounts. The overall image and reputation of the mobile money operator, whether they be a mobile network operator, bank, or third-party provider can be key to developing trust. The same goes for ensuring safeguards and trust in mobile money agent networks.
Mobile Network Operators as Mobile Money Operators
Mobile network operators (MNOs) which offer mobile money services generally have held a unique role and have certain advantages over banks. MNOs normally reach millions, if not tens of millions, of customers and know how to cater to the mass market. They have often become trusted providers of an important service – communication – and are often highly visible. This is one of the advantages that MNOs have over banks and this can often help them in building trust while offering new services such as mobile money.
In Kenya, Safaricom was well known for developing trust among customers. In the article entitled Exploring Trust in Mobile Banking Transactions: The Case of M-PESA in Kenya, the researchers were able to document the significant relationship between trust and the long and established history of Safaricom in Kenya. It was interesting to note that while many M-PESA users did not really trust their agents, they did trust Safaricom and that was one of the principal reasons that they decided to continuously use M-PESA. As pointed out in the article, since customers were turning over cash to be held by the mobile money operator, they had to have faith in the company behind the mobile money service to ensure that their funds were safe and readily available when needed. Banks in Kenya often had a harder time developing this same type of trust among those in the mass market.
Likewise, in the Philippines, Globe Telecom’s GCASH required an equal amount of trust in the company behind GCASH and its services. Developing and maintaining this trust, however, is definitely not a given. I remember when we started offering payroll services via GCASH back in 2008 with one of the first banks in the Philippines to provide this service – PR Savings Bank. We knew that payroll was a very sensitive matter and that the service would have to be reliable and the funds available and that any hiccup along the way would need to be dealt with quickly. I was impressed in the early days with the quick and responsive attitude of Globe’s G-Xchange Inc. which went to great lengths to ensure that the service was always up and running and even appointed special regional point persons to ensure that everything worked smoothly. At one point in time, I do remember when several of the towers in one region went down and the service was unavailable on payroll day. As hundreds of salaried individuals (as well as thousands of other users) were briefly affected, the President of GXI personally kept me and the bank updated hourly as the service was being fixed and got things up and running the same day. That commitment and high level of service helped ensure that other banks and businesses looking at the GCASH service were willing to trust it.
Banks Using Mobile Money
Banks often face different challenges when offering or using mobile money services to provide financial services. Banks are often viewed as not as interested in the mass market and generally do not invest in the type of mass marketing that MNOs do to both market their services and build trust. However, newer banks are now building their images in the mass market and establishing trust in ways that traditional banks have not normally done. This includes some of the innovation we see in new banks and their mobile money services such as Easy Paisa at Tameer Bank in Pakistan, bKash a subsidiary of BRAC Bank in Bangladesh, and BPI Globe BanKO in the Philippines. All of these banks have gone to great lengths to both market services to the masses and build trust.
Other banks have been able to build on the success of existing mobile money platforms to create an atmosphere of trust in their services. In the recent Mobile Money for the Unbanked Blog article entitled Implementing Mobile Money Innovations to Deepen Financial Inclusion Lessons from Successful Innovations in Kenya, the author analyzed how “Safaricom teamed up with Commercial Bank of Africa to offer M-PESA customers a savings and credit facility managed by the bank. With no paperwork, no queuing at a bank, M-Shwari has had an impressive uptake and is considered a very convenient approach to accessing basic banking services. M-Shwari is not bundled with any product, making it flexible for users to save for a goal of their own choice.”
M-Shwari netted over 70,000 registrations in its first day and the service is still growing at a rate of over 40,000 signups per day and has crossed Ksh 1 billion (US$11.4 million) in transaction volume a month. With customer deposits of over KSh 3 billion, M-Shwari, riding on the M-PESA rails, is one of the most successful new financial services products in the African market in recent years.
Again, trust is something that banks will need to work on and this includes completely changing the way they interact with and deal with customers. Having excellent and around-the-clock customer service hotlines that can deal with client concerns is also key. This includes ensuring that hotline operators can provide a tracking number and/or call back customers to ensure that questions and complaints are dealt with promptly.
Developing and ensuring trust in agent networks is another important point to address. Poor customer support and service at the agent network can lead to an erosion in customer trust. As noted in the earlier study on M-PESA, even though many clients did not trust their agents, they did trust Safaricom and that was enough to trust the service. There are, however, certain standards in managing agent networks that must be in place for clients to develop trust and confidence in mobile money services. This includes ensuring agents have sufficient liquidity, ensuring that proper branding and merchandising are in place at the agent location, proper step-by-step instructions are available, as well as ensuring that a number of other important safeguards and measures are in place.
My standard agent checklist includes:
√ Proper signage and branding with the number of the agent clearly displayed;
√ Proper fee structure is posted at each agent location clearly explaining that no other fees should be paid to the agent other than those listed (if any);
√ An official logbook for all transactions (not just a plain notebook);
√ A customer complaint number or hotline listed on the wall in case there are any questions or concerns;
√ Receipts provided for all non-face-to-face transactions, especially for all over-the-counter (OTC) agent transactions sent to third parties or agent facilitated bill payment collections.
For an excellent training manual with more detailed steps on training agents to build trust, check out the GSMA MMU Building, Incentivising and Managing a Network of Mobile Money Agents: A Handbook for Mobile Network Operators and the the Agent section in the IFC’s Mobile Money Toolkit.