Design Principles

My Oral Village believes in the following principles for designing financial transactions in the oral user segment.

1.     Usability
A financial product should be as usable as possible. Trust flows, first and foremost, from usability.

A highly usable product is one that consistently generates high quality transactions. Financial product quality can be measured by observing the extent to which clients are aware of exactly their position at each moment during a transaction. Awareness of the progress of transactions, the size of current balances, the rights and responsibilities linked to accounts etc., are critical to a client’s sense that she is in control of her financial position, and that the relationship with the institution is accomplishing goals she values.

The principle of usability primarily serves the goal of financial inclusion. More usable financial services will also advance the goal of consumer protection, and reduce the perception of risk experienced by consumers in their transactions.

2.     Build Bridges to Financial Numeracy and Financial Literacy
Many of the oral poor suffer from a lack of confidence about text because of an experience in childhood in which they spent a very brief time in school and acquired some skills, only to lose them later. This sense of failure can be reinforced by the attitudes of relatives, friends and others in the oral society surrounding them: a sense that they don’t need to know writing and arithmetic in order to carry out the daily tasks of their lives, and such pursuits are impractical at best, and slightly subversive at worst. Women face a particular burden from such limiting attitudes.

Financial institutions are particularly well placed to offer positive incentives for the acquisition of basic numeracy and literacy skills – especially the former – to clients who are motivated to acquire them. For example, by integrating images and mnemonic priming cues into operational documents, financial institutions can enable a process of learning through frequent, repetitive transacting that can create a powerful and self-reinforcing feedback loop of personal action learning.

3.     Client-Guided Process
The acid test for OIM tools is that they are greeted with rapid, intuitive understanding by oral users of financial services. The tools presented in the paper Oral Information Management Tools: Lighting the Path to Financial Inclusion offer indications of what is possible. Of course, they cannot take the place of field testing with customers in diverse cultural settings, and with widely varying levels of numeracy, literacy and general education. A financial institution’s product mix and marketing strategy can have a significant impact on retail presentation of oral tools.

For interested institutions the first principle of market-led operations is to consult its customers on what tools work for them and what ones don’t. There are numerous tools for accomplishing this goal, including:

  • context of use research (ideally using video recordings),
  • focus group discussions (attribute rankings, prototype review etc.), and
  • structured interviews.

It is wise to test OIM tools with fully literate clients as well, to ensure that they do not cause alienation, but are viewed in broadly positive terms among all segments that will be exposed to them.

4.     Strengthen Supplier Control Systems
The purpose of OIM tools is to make financial products more usable, and customers more aware of their position at each moment during a transaction. This increases user confidence in pointing out errors to staff, and if necessary, raising concerns to higher levels.

If OIM tools are successful, they will attract more illiterate users, which will temporarily raise control risks until those customers have adapted to product use. This counsels that financial suppliers maintain a measured acquisition strategy, in which control systems are consistently strengthened, net of new customer acquisitions.

5.     Seamless Interface
Clients who are fully literate should not be made to feel that an interface designed to accommodate oral customers is signaling to them that they are less important. When Braille was introduced to ATMs in banks, sighted users barely noticed. Certainly, the presence of this new communications medium at the retail interface of their institution caused them neither inconvenience nor embarrassment. For some, especially those with family or friends who found the new features valuable, pride and loyalty in their institution may have increased.

Such seamlessness is entirely possible, and is consistent with our best understanding of how oral individuals learn. Much of the focus is on triggering personal memories as discretely and yet clearly as possible. Combined with discrete mnemonic or iconic images and, for more ambitious financial institutions some training (much of which can take place between clients in savings groups), these interventions are expected to be effective without compromising the relationship of the institution with more literate customers.

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