FINCA is constantly taking the pulse of its customers—to understand our impact and to measure satisfaction with our services. Across 20 countries, our research managers collect and analyze data from customer satisfaction surveys. They also meet face-to-face with customers where they live and work. On a recent trip to Tanzania, I decided to conduct my own informal survey, talking with clients who stopped by a FINCA Express location to make a transaction, and dropping by on one of them as she tended her market stall in Dar es Salaam.
FINCA Express agents are small businesses—pharmacies, gas stations, mobile phone vendors or grocery stores—that handle financial transactions on behalf of FINCA. While FINCA operates 24 brick-and-mortar branches across Tanzania, they are quite spread out. To increase our outreach and to better serve customers’ needs, FINCA Tanzania has also opened 130 Express locations that handle deposits, withdrawals, payments, transfers and loan disbursements.
Meeting with Clients Face-to-Face
When I met Hidaya Mhando at the FINCA Express location in Mwembechai, I immediately felt a strong connection with her. She and I were raised worlds apart: she is Tanzanian and I am Canadian. Yet we are both mothers of four-year-old daughters, who continually remind us that we’re working for them and for their future.
A new FINCA customer, Hidaya has a first loan of 500,000 Tanzanian Shillings (about $285), which she is using to buy thread and fabric in bulk for her embroidery business. She creates her own designs and fulfills orders for embroidered clothing, uniforms and linens for wholesalers.
FINCA Express is located just a short walk from Hidaya’s home and from the location where her Village Banking group meets. When I met her, she was dropping by the agency to deposit the very first loan payments from her group. As a new customer, Hidaya couldn’t speak to the overall FINCA experience. But she did say that she loves the security and convenience of having a FINCA Express location nearby. “It relieves the worry of carrying money across town,” she said, as well as the time, cost and effort of catching a bus with her young daughter to travel to a distant bank branch.
At the same location, I spoke with Anselim Massawe. He has an individual FINCA loan of 2 million Tanzanian Shillings (about $1,100), which he invests in his wholesaling business, selling food and beverages to grocers, restaurants, and market vendors. Anselim has been a FINCA customer for five years and is very happy. “The savings accounts are a big plus for me,” he says. “I can keep my money in a safe place while earning interest.” Anselim also appreciates the convenience of FINCA Express locations. “They are close to my business, and there is no wait,” he says. “At larger branches, I would sometimes have to wait in line.”
Neema Komba grows tomatoes and maize, which she sells at the Kigogo Fresh Market in Pugu, a neighborhood near the Dar es Salaam airport. Upon meeting her, I couldn’t help but be drawn in by her warm smile. She has been a FINCA customer for two years. Neema’s farm—and her hard work—allowed this single mother to raise two daughters and send both to school. Her daughters are now grown, and one attends university.
Like Anselim, Neema appreciates FINCA savings accounts. She also likes having a FINCA Express location right near her market stall, which keeps her from having to carry cash around. “It is safer to deposit my earnings and allow them to accrue some interest,” she says. Neema also noted that FINCA financial services helped her market business to grow; she sells some $30 worth of tomatoes every day—a significant amount in Tanzania, where nearly half of the population lives on less than US$2 per day.
Neema and her FINCA loan officer, Mapambano Mwamunyasi, have a great rapport, which is apparent to anyone who sees them together. That rapport is the basis for a healthy working relationship.
When I asked Neema if there were ways in which FINCA could serve her better, she didn’t hesitate: “I would like FINCA Tanzania to offer home improvement and mortgage loans. I am building my own house—but very slowly,” she said. “A home loan would help me build it faster.”
Neema was clearly happy that I had asked. She likes that FINCA makes an effort to listen to its customers. “I am thankful and proud to be part of the FINCA family,” she said.
Building Lasting Trust with Clients
I’m always amazed and inspired by our customers’ hard work and dedication to their families, their businesses, and to building better lives. My three brief conversations revealed a lot about how FINCA is helping our customers and how we can improve. They also revealed a common thread: how much these individuals appreciate the convenience, security, and efficiency of banking with FINCA.
It’s important to keep careful statistics on customer satisfaction and to measure the impact that financial services are having on people’s lives, whether at the branch level, the country level, or across all 20 countries where FINCA works. You can read more about our rigorous client outcome research methodology here. But face-to-face encounters are equally valuable.
Hidaya, Anselim, and Neema put a human face on the work that we do at FINCA. In just a few minutes, they were able to convey what was important to them as individuals, parents, and business people.
My recent visit to Dar es Salaam reconfirmed that reaching out to clients—and listening closely to what they have to say—is the key to building trust, relationships and to staying vital in a competitive financial market.