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Designing innovative products and services to meet the financial needs of the poor

The urban poor face extreme challenges trying to make ends meet in the face of volatile incomes, steady expenditures, and frequent shocks due to disease or unemployment. They require financial services to help them manage cash flow needs and invest in income-generating assets like education or business improvements. Microfinance institutions (MFIs) and other financial service providers are designing innovative products and services to meet the financial needs of the poor. However, many of these providers find it challenging to develop and implement service experiences that reflect the needs and preferences of their customers.

Our client, one of India’s largest MFIs, aims to help the urban poor maximize their value and lead lives with dignity. Dalberg was commissioned to study the customer experience of their customers, work with a cross-functional organizational team to develop and pilot service improvements, and create a playbook that would help the organization scale these improvements across the country.


Dalberg used a mix of strategic analysis, human-centered research and prototyping, and cross-functional co-design workshops to help the client reach its goals. In particular, we identified key value gaps in the customer service experience through immersive human-centered design research. We worked closely with the client to prioritize these value gaps based on a series of immersive workshops. Through internal brainstorming sessions and co-design workshops with the client, we developed ideas for customer experience services to address the prioritized value gaps, and helped the organization prototype and test these ideas with their customers.

To help the organization assess the impact of these prototypes, we developed a measurement and evaluation framework. Finally, we documented learnings in the form of a customer experience playbook for the client to implement changes in its locations across India.


The MFI identified seven key customer experience improvement opportunities that are currently being prototyped successfully with plans to scale across the country. The engagement also resulted in a new monthly forum where the client team reviews customer experience projects. The MFI plans to create a new customer experience function with senior management leadership, and the playbook will help the client scale up the identified improvements in more than 200 branches across India. The learnings from this project will be disseminated across a broader range of financial service providers serving low income communities.

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