Using Customer Journeys to Develop Better Financial Products Engaging with Financial Service Providers in Cambodia to Understand Customer Journeys

While significant research has been conducted on financial access through surveys such as FinScope, Findex, and InterMedia, market-level insights on actual financial service usage are still limited. When financial products and services are used effectively by the underserved population, they have the potential to strongly impact people’s lives.

The United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations (SHIFT) in ASEAN programme recognized the need to shift the focus from examining access to understanding actual usage of financial products and consider what actions must be taken to improve usage. Furthermore, with a small gender gap of two percent in financial inclusion in favor of women in Cambodia, UNCDF, along with stakeholders in Cambodia and Pulse Lab Jakarta, felt a deeper analysis into the gendered aspects of financial service usage was needed to understand whether men and women have similar usage patterns of financial services.

Insights from UNCDF's research has helped financial service providers in Cambodia pilot new customer-centric financial products, encouraging greater usage to advance women’s financial inclusion and build a better future for Cambodians.

Introduction of Customer Journey Research

While demand-side surveys can provide valuable insights into the current status of financial inclusion, supply-side data analysis can complement and provide a deeper understanding of the customer journeys of Cambodia’s financially included population.

The analysis of customer journeys can identify opportunities for increased financial inclusion. According to 2017 Findex data, 50 percent of savings accounts in Cambodia lie dormant (i.e. accounts without a withdrawal within the last 12 months), compared to 28 percent in the Philippines and 23 percent in Viet Nam. Customer journey analysis can provide insights on the reasons why and recommend strategies to increase active savings based on differences between sub-segments of customer groups on variables such as geographical region, household size, gender and age groups.

For example, the graph below highlights a higher occurrence of dormant savings accounts in specific regions in Cambodia. Gender gaps can be further identified by analyzing customer journeys through a gender lens, for example, as visualized in the graphs below using a 2010-2015 data set of four financial service providers in Cambodia. By identifying specific customer journeys based on these sub-segments, financial service providers can understand their market and customer needs, improve customer retention, assess the effectiveness of current strategies, increase service uptake and increase cost-effectiveness. Retaining a customer is more cost-effective than acquiring a new one.

SHIFT ASEAN’s Customer Journey Action Research in Cambodia: Key Insights

In 2018, UNCDF analyzed the transactions of 2.3 million customers from a data set of four financial service providers (i.e. AMK, Amret, Sathapana Bank and WB Finance) in Cambodia over the period of 2010 to 2015. The study found that 70 percent of depositors in Cambodia have low-value passive savings accounts below five US$ and 78 percent of borrowers exit financial service providers within the first three years of opening an account.

UNCDF estimated that under three different scenarios, between US$ 52-172 million could be added in deposits to the financial service providers by reducing passive savings accounts from 70 percent to 40 percent. At the same time, US$ 304 million could be added to the loan portfolio of the four financial service providers in the study by reducing the borrower exit rate from 39 percent to 29 percent.

Customer Journey Action Research Trainings

As part of the above Customer Journey Action Research, SHIFT ASEAN engaged with the four financial service providers to build capability and organizational culture to actively utilize transaction data in product development. Financial service providers capture large amounts of customer data through regular banking and financial operations. However, they often struggle to make optimal use of it for decision-making on product development, credit operations, and market expansion.

UNCDF therefore identified an increasing need to utilize customer data to drive product innovation. From 2016 to 2017, SHIFT ASEAN conducted a training with each of the four Cambodian financial service providers, reaching approximately 80 middle and senior management participants in total.

The purpose of the trainings was to provide technical and analytical support in tracking and managing financial inclusion trajectories for financial service providers, develop data dashboards to illustrate customer journeys to inform this and to develop action plans on product development based on this information. The expected result was to use Big Data analytics, by mining up to 4.6 million customer records from selected financial service providers, to improve women’s financial service usage that would reduce customer exit and passive savings accounts for financial service providers.

Outcomes of Customer Journey Action Research Trainings

From the trainings a few lessons from the participating financial service providers were presented. A high rate of passive savings accounts were found in all the four participating financial service customer data sets with an average rate of 70 percent savings account dormancy. Two of the reasons identified for this result were the inconvenience (e.g. majority of the financial service providers lacked a savings and loan integrated mobile banking option) and a lack of information provided by financial service providers on the usefulness of a savings account.

A majority of the financial service providers had previously not conducted analysis on different customer segments on savings mobilization and account dormancy that could inform customer-centric savings accounts. There were also follow-up actions and changes in strategies made in the participating financial service providers after the training. For example, AMK used the data insights gleaned to amend their credit policy while Amret adjusted their sales strategy.


- Sophy Pum, Head of Product Development, AMK Cambodia

The Customer Journey Action Research training allowed us to expand our data analysis capacity and make data analysis more efficient. The training taught us, for example, to break down data analysis and gain insights into client sub-segments. From this, we learned that not all our clients were aware of the different products that we offer. We therefore adjusted our sales strategy with an integrated customer-centric approach where sales agents can both inform and sell packages of our products at the same time.

- Seak Cheam, Head of Business Operations, Amret

Sector-wide Training with the Cambodia Microfinance Association

After the training with individual financial service providers, SHIFT then offered a sector-wide training with the Cambodia Microfinance Association in November 2018. Focusing on gender smart product development and data analytics, the trainings aimed to:

  • Equip participants with the tools to adopt a data-driven approach to product development;
  • Promote customer journey mapping as a way to develop customer-centric services. This involved mapping customer demographic persona, stages of product use, marketing and communications touchpoints, thoughts, feelings and reactions from customers, pain points and opportunities; and
  • Teach data visualization skills using Excel and Tableau.

This culminated in a product development exercise where participants presented their ideated products in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ business presentation exercise. Interesting product ideas include a mobile wallet to connect term deposits and savings accounts, a commitment savings account where customers can do specific goal-oriented savings, a green home improvement loan and an education savings commitment product.

Outcomes of Sector-wide Training

This training supported 11 Cambodian microfinance institutions to build capacities in sex-disaggregated data analysis and product ideation, as well as the customer journey concept. Several participating microfinance institutions also used the knowledge to adjust or develop new products, including AMK which launched a micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) savings product, and First Finance which after the training started targeting first time homeowners.

AMK used their existing data, such as account balances over time, to better understand their clients’ needs and behavior. This shaped the development of a Lucky+ savings account targeting small and medium businesses and merchants with relatively higher income. In this product account owners who maintain a minimum balance are eligible for higher interest rates.

First Finance found the training useful and have applied their newfound knowledge in their product development activities. Previously, many of the organization’s departments did not communicate actively with each other throughout the product development process. After applying the customer journey mapping approach, they have greater clarity on the whole picture around a specific financial product. They are now able to communicate with the respective departments to better understand customer requirements and tailor products to their needs.

The training has also influenced the way First Finance segment the market while identifying new product opportunities. After the training, they developed a customer journey map of their financial products and this was presented to top management. This led to a commitment to reduce time lags between customer journey phases. After the customer journey mapping training, they further segmented their market and identified that newlyweds had unique limitations when it comes to buying a home. This led to the launch of a new home loan product in March 2019, thus establishing their new position as a partner in housing solutions.

Through the mapping exercise, First Finance recognized the importance of customer feedback data and decided to set up a call center to improve their customer feedback channels. With richer customer data, First Finance adjusted their product services to better fit customer requirements.

After UNCDF SHIFT’s training, we were able to implement an integrated approach to customer journey analysis across our different departments. Furthermore, we segmented the market to tailor new products, such as a new home loan product targeted at newlyweds, and identified areas of improvement within our customer journeys, such as by streamlining the loan approval time to improve customer retention. We also identified the need for better customer feedback channels and established a call center to inform future mapping exercises.

- Vandy Saing, Head of Marketing, First Finance

The research and trainings in customer journeys have contributed to the larger financial inclusion landscape in Cambodia. For financial service providers like Amret, the trainings highlighted the significant presence of dormant accounts amongst its customers. This encouraged them to partner with mobile money company WING to address this challenge, improving uptake of the Family+ account piloted through SHIFT ASEAN's Challenge Fund.

On a national level, the analysis helped the National Bank of Cambodia shape their National Financial Inclusion Strategy (NFIS), specifically setting a target to reduce the proportion of the population that do not save from 57 percent to 45 percent, and transition informal savers to formal ones, with particular attention paid to women.

About the United Nations Capital Development Fund

The UN Capital Development Fund makes public and private finance work for the poor in the world’s 47 least developed countries (LDCs).

UNCDF offers “last mile” finance models that unlock public and private resources, especially at the domestic level, to reduce poverty and support local economic development.

UNCDF’s financing models work through three channels: (1) inclusive digital economies, which connects individuals, households, and small businesses with financial eco-systems that catalyze participation in the local economy, and provide tools to climb out of poverty and manage financial lives; (2) local development finance, which capacitates localities through fiscal decentralization, innovative municipal finance, and structured project finance to drive local economic expansion and sustainable development; and (3) investment finance, which provides catalytic financial structuring, de-risking, and capital deployment to drive SDG impact and domestic resource mobilization.

UNCDF’s Shaping Inclusive Finance Transformations (SHIFT) in ASEAN programme is supported by the Australian Government.


The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of UNCDF, the United Nations or any of its affiliated organizations or its Member States.