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Warm Customer Engagement for Digital Financial Services

Archive: October 2014

The Cost of Counting the Cost

October 31, 2014

Posted by Dante Cassanego

This is a guest post written by Kent Blake who interned with our engineering team during the summer of 2014.

Congressman Pat Schroeder once said “You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.” A 2013 study published in the journal Science indicates that poverty leads to handwringing rather than sleeve rolling.  In the study, participants were divided by household income and asked to consider a hypothetical scenario about how to pay for car repairs while completing various tests of fluid intelligence.

While the rich and poor participants scored almost identically on the intelligence tests when the hypothetical repairs were relatively inexpensive ($150), the poor participants performed significantly worse than their rich counterparts when the repairs required a larger financial sacrifice ($1500).  Simply requiring poor participants to contemplate a difficult hypothetical financial situation caused a drop in their cognitive function equal in magnitude to the effect of being deprived of a full night’s sleep or being a chronic alcoholic.

The takeaway?  The more people worry about their finances, the less cognitive resources they are left with to manage them effectively.

At Juntos, we seek to create tools to reduce handwringing.  By providing the right information in measured doses at the right time, we empower people to spend less time worrying and more time taking action.  From assistance with basic tasks like depositing and withdrawing funds to savings reminders and budgeting tips, our resources enable to people stop wringing their hands and start rolling up their sleeves and working to achieve their financial goals.

User-centric Design for Behavior Change

October 17, 2014

Posted by Dante Cassanego

Juntos provides our partners with a customer engagement platform that, unlike traditional forms of customer support, proactively transforms client behavior and drives engagement at massive scale. We blogged recently about the difficulty of changing behavior, especially financial habits.

Critical to the success of our products in changing financial behavior is our user-centric design process that allows us to understand how our users feel about their money.

Understanding emotions is crucial to changing habits. As Charles Duhigg writes in The Power of Habit, MIT researchers discovered a neurological loop at the core of every habit. This loop is made up of a cue, a routine and a reward. Attempts to change habits will fail if we try to change the routine without understanding the cue for that routine and the reward it produces.

Understanding cues and rewards is especially difficult when they are emotional in nature. To empower our partner’s clients to change their financial habits, we need to understand the emotions that accompany spending and saving money. The “deep-dive” interviews we conduct with potential users as part of our user research process allow us to capture the emotional aspects of users’ financial experiences.

In an interview with a taxi driver in his 30s in Mexico City, we learned that when he was in his taxi he kept his money out of sight until the end of the day. He was afraid that if he counted his money, he would be tempted to spend it on snacks or to go home early. When he was at home, however, he counted the all of his cash savings every day. Feeling his money in his hands motivated him to save more.

The deep-dive method allowed us to understand that the context where he counted his money mattered. In his taxi, he was surrounded by temptations to spend; at home with his family, he was surrounded by reasons to save. Understanding how the same cue can lead to completely different routines and rewards depending on the time of day is critical in reinforcing good habits and quitting bad ones.

We are able to transform the financial behavior of our users without interacting with their money because we understand their emotional cues and rewards. By providing our users with the right information at the right time, we nudge them to deepen their engagement with their accounts and empower them to realize their financial goals.

4 Insights from Behavior Change Books

October 3, 2014

Posted by Dante Cassanego

The core of what we do is focused on helping financial service providers who are facing low adoption and usage among new clients of their digital channels. We do so by designing mobile personal financial management tools that drive financial habit creation among these new users.

Changing habits is hard, especially when it comes to money. We make it easier for our users by applying insights from research on behavior change. As a data-driven company, we appreciate rigorous research. As a company that communicates with people on a large scale, we also admire popular science books. View the slideshow or read below to learn insights from four of our favorite books on behavior change


  1. Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

    Key Insight: By framing choices in a way that takes into account human biases, people can be “nudged” to better decisions.

    Application: Juntos never interacts directly with our users’ money. Instead, we nudge our users to reach their savings goals through personalized text messages written with behavior change principles in mind.

  2. Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

    Key Insight: The human brain is divided like an elephant and a rider. The elephant responds to emotion while the rider responds to reason. When they disagree, the elephant wins. Changing behavior requires directing the rider and motivating the elephant so that they move in the same direction.

    Application: Juntos directs the rider by asking our users to pick a specific savings goal and motivates the elephant,by encouraging users to keep within sight a photo that reminds them of their goal.

  3. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

    Key Insight: There is a simple loop at the core of every habit consisting of three parts: cue, routine, and reward.

    Application: Empowering our users to form savings habits begins with cues in the form of text messages. These messages arrive regularly, helping to establish a routine. The most powerful reward that users receive is not the money saved itself but rather the sense of confidence and control that they feel in their financial journeys.

  4. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

    Key Insight: Not only do human beings make certain decisions that are irrational, we consistently and predictably do so. Even when we know we need to spend less and save more, we repeatedly don’t stick to self-imposed budgets.

    Application: Our products help users stick to their plans not only by providing an external source of accountability but also by providing an external source of validation. Because our technology enables two-way conversations, we help our users feel that they are not alone in their financial journey.

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