Connecting With Customers to Innovate as Faster Rates

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Customer Experience
Customer Experience
2013 Customer Champion Matt Flannery, CEO and co-founder of Kiva, is pushing the boundaries of traditional micro-finance by connecting with customers and partners.

Matt Flannery, CEO and co-founder of Kiva, has dedicated his life to serving customers because he knows without them Kiva can't fulfill its mission of connecting people through lending to alleviate poverty.

Flannery started Kiva in 2004 as a side project while working as a computer programmer at TiVo. Today he oversees all aspects of Kiva's operations-the community support team, the lender-facing engineers and product managers, as well as Kiva's partnerships with more than 200 field partners across 68 countries. Given his role, all of the organization's key customers are at the center of everything he does.

In an effort to create a culture of creativity, camaraderie, and action toward furthering the mission of the organization, Flannery has instituted five core values by which the staff operates. They include: Transparency, Respect, Entrepreneurialism, Accountability, and Teamwork.

Part of the way Flannery ensures his employee's actions reflect the organization's mission and values is by frequently sharing feedback received from the lenders with Kiva's community support team. He also shares his stories from the field when he meets with borrowers and field partners. By continuously sharing the feedback he receives from all corners of the world, Kiva's staff in turn feels more connected to their work and ultimately with customers.

Sharing anecdotal feedback and stories is important in motivating employees, but Flannery also wanted to enable his employees to interface directly with the lenders to glean this knowledge firsthand. So Flannery was instrumental in implementing Salesforce.com, which enabled Kiva's community support staff to interface directly with lenders. Now when lenders want to know how something works, or if they have a question about their borrower, they send an email from the website and a bank of solutions allows the customer service team to adequately respond to each lender request. Before, they used a Gmail box and response time was at least 72 hours. Now response time has decreased to 24 hours or less with 4,000 cases handled per month.

Deeper engagement with prospects gives the underserved a helping hand

Flannery also knows that increasing the connection between lenders and borrowers leads to greater connection with Kiva, so he's making a stronger effort to engage future customers with stories from the field.

With that in mind, over the past two years Kiva has worked to expand its roster of field partners who go beyond traditional microfinance institutions. Kiva now works with a wide variety of organizations including a university in Kenya that wanted to provide a student loan product to poor students who can't afford a college education to clean water and sanitation companies providing flush toilets to the slums of Africa. By providing microfinance products to these new types of partners, Kiva is ultimately reaching more clients that would otherwise not be served, who ultimately need a hand up on the ladder out of poverty.

In 2005, Matt hired a small engineering team to develop the tools it needed to complete the complex process of bringing money to the developing world. This included conducting transactions, on-boarding lenders, attracting microfinance partners and volunteers, and managing customer support issues. Flannery then implemented Salesforce.com to quickly track new and potential partners, conduct risk analysis and verification, manage fundraising efforts, field customer service inquiries, and track and manage hundreds of volunteers.

Flannery's dedication to serving entrepreneurs around the world who need help with their business has helped bring more than $440 million in microloans to more than one million borrowers across 68 countries. To have the greatest impact, Matt is giving lenders more selections, letting them take greater risks, and aligning their loans with their beliefs. Lenders can go online and read stories to decide where they would like to send their money. Matt wants to create connectivity between the person lending the money and the person borrowing the money for transparency in the loan process-similar to having more touchpoints and developing new products such as Kiva Zip, which creates a direct link between lenders and borrowers via a pilot platform.

Because Flannery has reached a level of stability in Kiva's infrastructure, he feels Kiva can now innovate at a faster rate and push the boundaries of traditional microfinance. With pilot programs like Kiva Zip, Matt hopes to bring down the cost of microloans to Kiva's borrowers by providing zero percent interest capital directly to Kiva Zip borrowers. This pilot will therefore reach more customers with an efficient, client-centered product that really pushes the current boundaries of the industry.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION