Unlocking the Potential of Two-Way Messaging

Feb 18, 2016
Tags :
  • Customer Research,
  • Personalized two-way digital conversations can be used to migrate mobile money customers from OTC to mobile wallets and keep them active once migrated. In two-way conversations, customers can both initiate the conversation (ask questions and steer the topic of discussion) or be led in conversation (be told information and be asked questions). Juntos Global builds these two-way conversations with customers on behalf of financial service providers. The conversations occur on the medium most accessible to and comfortable for the customer. For most customers this is SMS but for populations with higher smartphone penetration this could be a familiar chat application like Facebook Messenger.

    Every Juntos message is personalized to the specific receiver in terms of both subject and language.  Each message is based on the customer’s financial behavior (deposits, transfers, etc.) and information he or she has communicated previously in the conversation with Juntos. For example, someone who sends PKR 2000 weekly and has asked about security of transactions will receive a different message than someone who has deposited PKR 500 and alludes to the importance of education for his or her children. All messages from Juntos also reflect the language the customer uses. Thus, someone who sends SMS’s in formal Urdu will receive communication back in formal Urdu. Someone who sends SMS’s in Pashto relying on abbreviations and/or “text speak” will receive communication back in a similar style.

    In order to build conversations that can change customer behavior, the Juntos behavioral design team first conducts comprehensive research on the culture and linguistics of the customer base, and deep-dive interviews with both current and potential product users. These interviews attempt to go beyond discussions around financial behavior and experiences, and instead explore the customer’s hopes, dreams, and fears in order to identify potential behavioral triggers. Conversational strategies are designed directly from the research findings and a/b tested simultaneously on small samples of customers. The Juntos data science team analyzes transaction data to identify the strategies that successfully change customer behavior at statistically significant levels. Elements of the most successful strategies are then combined in different ways and further tested and analyzed. This cycle of testing and analysis is continuously repeated for the duration of a deployment. As conversational strategies that result in behavior change which meets or exceeds the objectives of the financial service provider are identified, they are scaled to the customer base.

    Using this methodology, Juntos most recently helped a financial services provider drive adoption and usage of a mobile wallet with the following results:

    • The average increase in mobile wallet activation rates across Juntos monthly cohorts (cohorts are the group of customers that begin to receive Juntos in a given month) was 33% greater than control groups of comparable customers that did not receive any communication from Juntos over the same period of time.
    • The average gain in mobile wallet transaction volume for Juntos monthly cohorts across the same period was 23% greater than control groups of comparable customers.


    In the course of building these behavior changing conversations with mobile money and bank customers in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, Juntos has identified several effective strategies for driving both mobile wallet adoption and continued usage. Three of these strategies are:

    1. Make switching easy: “Switching costs” are the costs incurred by a customer for switching between similar products. In the case of moving from OTC to wallet, switching costs include the cost of learning and familiarizing oneself with how to use a mobile wallet (having previously just handed cash to an agent). Thus, if customer familiarity with operating a mobile wallet is increased, the switching cost is decreased and mobile wallet adoption is more likely. Engaging financial service customers in personalized two-way conversations can acquaint them with sending commands via mobile and gradually train them to use mobile wallet features independently, thereby decreasing switching costs.
    2. Make it about more than a promo: Promotions like free airtime are great ways to motivate customers to register for, and try out, digital wallets. However, as many mobile money companies have experienced, once the promotion ends wallet usage often drops. This post-promotion activity decline occurs because promotions are by definition extrinsic motivations (incentives derived from external sources). In contrast, intrinsic motivations (derived from enjoyment or fulfillment of an action itself), while limited in their ability to spark new behavior, are self-sustaining and thus useful for building lasting behavior change. Thus when promotions are used to drive wallet adoption, providers should simultaneously help customers develop intrinsic motivations by helping customers identify life goals (for example sending children to secondary school) and then providing encouragement and congratulations upon progress within the financial components of those goals (for example saving a certain amount).
    3. Give customers a friend: Individuals prefer having joint ownership of, or “partnership” in, difficult or risky actions. Having someone to talk to before and after a transaction, and most importantly having someone to talk to in case something goes wrong, makes customers comfortable enough to attempt a transaction in the first place. Mobile wallets are an inherently solitary experience and thus do not provide this feeling of partnership. This preference for shared responsibility can be leveraged to increase product usage by building friendly, responsive and empathetic conversations with customers. If customers know they can communicate with the Juntos service at any time while attempting a transaction, and have a partner through the transaction process, they are more likely to conduct transactions.

    These are just three of the many strategies that can be used to change customer behavior when engaging customers in two-way conversations. In summary, the use of engaged personalized conversations developed from careful cultural and linguistic research, behavioral design, and continuous a/b testing, should be considered by any financial services provider evaluating tools for driving mobile wallet adoption and continued usage.



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