Are you selling a blue or orange product? Sociocentric activities for branchless banking

This post is written by Debbie Watkins, SBI Resident Adviser for the bKash project in Bangladesh. This is part of her ongoing series on “The Goal.”

The American philosopher Ken Wilber describes the three general stages of human development  as egocentric, sociocentric and worldcentric; or “me”, “us” “and all of us”. Starting at around the age of 7, a profound shift in consciousness occurs – a child is able to take the role of another and has the ability to step out of his own skin and inhabit someone else’s for a while – the move from egocentric to sociocentric. Here’s an example of what I mean (try it at home!):

Say you have a book whose front cover is blue and back cover is orange. Show the book, front and back to a five-year-old

Photo credit: Flickr, cp.writer

child. Then hold the book between you and the child. You are looking at the orange cover and the child is looking at blue. Ask the child what colour you are seeing – he will say blue.

A seven-year-old will say orange.

The reason I’m writing about this is that is relevant to branchless banking (yes, really).  All of the various players involved need to be able to inhabit someone else’s skin, at least for a little while.

If you’re the provider of the service you need to “be” the client and the agent on a regular basis, to see the service offering the way they do. This goes back to the pain point analysis I was talking about before – it’s easy to convince yourself the pricing is right/the marketing is relevant, but you’re not the one that needs to be convinced. Put your client hat on – understand their life, their challenges and their perspective – and ask “what’s in it for me?” Then do the same for the agent.  Be honest to yourself.

The agent also needs to “be” the client. With branchless banking implementations, the agent IS the service provider – they’re the one who may convince clients to sign up, will encourage people to use the service and effectively be your champion on the street. In order to be effective, they need to understand the customer’s perspective too, and to be able to empathise with them.

Think about how to incorporate sociocentric activities in the various stages of your business development. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • When you’re developing agent training, make sure to train the agent on what the client sees, not just what they themselves will see.  They need to understand both sides of the process. Encourage trainees to take it in turns playing their own clients and help them to articulate what they feel when they aren’t treated the way they expect or given the information they need.
  • Instill a deep understanding of your customer base at all levels of your business. One of the team development exercises I proposed for a client before was that every new recruit to their business (from the CEO downwards) should go and live for a week with someone who fitted their client persona – a slum dweller, a rural farmer, a building laborer and his family – as part of their induction process.
  • Make ongoing, honest, monitoring and evaluation an inbuilt part of your marketing activities. Listen to what your target market actually understands from your campaigns, and whether they feel what you are offering fills a need they have. You may think you’re selling a blue product – but they might actually see it as orange…

2 thoughts on “Are you selling a blue or orange product? Sociocentric activities for branchless banking

  1. No doubt about this Debbie, the client’s perception of the product is the most important one. Although what the Banks intend to sell through ADC’s are things like ease and convenience but importantly, they need to wrap it with “peace of mind” for the customers.

    Just imagine visiting our Bank for a cash withdrawal and being told to go to some other other branch or come another time. The maintenance of agents services standards will be an uphill task to be undertaken besides understanding the perception of the customers.

    The most common feature that the branchless banking customers,as we have already understood from our banking experiences, (and) for which there might not be any further reasons to again revert back to the target market segment/s for their feedback is what shall be their color of choice for the wrapper.

    All the products must be wrapped (in black and white risk management frameworks) for the security and safety of the public moneys involved.

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