Ten years after the advent of M-PESA, Kenya is arguably inclusive digital finance’s most mature market and one of its ongoing innovation epicenters. However, many financial service providers (FSPs) in the country are crowded at the disruptive low-touch or traditional high-touch ends of the spectrum. Initial inquiries have suggested that FSPs are increasingly motivated by the limitations at both ends of the spectrum to explore various middle paths, and FSPs want to find ways to protect their strategic advantages while leveraging the promises of technology and the power of human touch.
Over the course of one year, CFI Fellow Alexis Beggs Olsen investigated Kenya’s digital financial services (DFS) landscape, the reasons why customers still desire human touch, and the innovative ways in which FSPs integrate human interfaces into their digital product offerings to better serve customers. In Uniting Tech and Touch: Why Centaur Products Are Better for Consumers and Providers, Evidence from Kenya, Alexis takes us along the customer journeys of Kenyan DFS users to illuminate the circumstances where they prefer human touch, the variations in customer preferences across demographic characteristics, and the particular pain points of low-touch digital loans, savings and insurance products.
While there was widespread acceptance of digital transactions among respondents, Alexis finds that Kenyans primarily want human touch to verify the legitimacy of the FSP, to fully understand the product, and to resolve problems or complaints. To address these needs, Alexis recommends “centaur” solutions—ones that combine human and digital interfaces—to provide valuable human interaction to customers where it is needed most, while improving customer acquisition and retention in the process. FSPs, their customers, and the financial inclusion community can benefit from leveraging centaur solutions that combine the best of tech and touch to convert customers who are currently uncomfortable with these digital interfaces into regular digital financial services users.