SERVICE | 2019

Championing empathy as a cost reduction strategy 

Championing empathy as a cost reduction strategy 

CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU

CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU

ABOUT

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a government agency that makes sure banks, lenders and other financial companies treat consumers fairly. One of the primary functions of the Bureau is to collect, investigate and respond to consumer complaints, as required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Bureau received approximately 329,800 consumer complaints in 2018 through its website, and by telephone, mail, email and fax.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a government agency that makes sure banks, lenders and other financial companies treat consumers fairly. One of the primary functions of the Bureau is to collect, investigate and respond to consumer complaints, as required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Bureau received approximately 329,800 consumer complaints in 2018 through its website, and by telephone, mail, email and fax.

CHALLENGE

Calls to the Bureau are an incredibly important touchpoint for consumers, but the cost of running a call center is also extremely expensive. In order to reduce costs, previous research indicated that addressing calls over 40 minutes in length would be useful. Our team asked: how might we reduce average call handle time while maintaining high levels of empathy for emotionally fraught consumers?

Calls to the Bureau are an incredibly important touchpoint for consumers, but the cost of running a call center is also extremely expensive. In order to reduce costs, previous research indicated that addressing calls over 40 minutes in length would be useful. Our team asked: how might we reduce average call handle time while maintaining high levels of empathy for emotionally fraught consumers?

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RESEARCH METHODS

RESEARCH METHODS

This project’s foundation is in the team’s existing research on consumer and call center representatives. Our focus was mainly on rapid prototyping and testing, including:

  • Individual interviews, including extreme users
  • Contextual inquiry
  • Participatory design
  • Usability testing

This project’s foundation is in the team’s existing research on consumer and call center representatives. Our focus was mainly on rapid prototyping and testing, including:

  • Individual interviews, including extreme users
  • Contextual inquiry
  • Participatory design
  • Usability testing

ROLE 

I took part in a six-month rotation to the Service Design Team, within the Product Section of the Consumer Response Division. 

For this project, I was the design lead and I worked closely with my colleague Eric Grover.

I took part in a six-month rotation to the Service Design Team, within the Product Section of the Consumer Response Division. 

For this project, I was the design lead and I worked closely with my colleague Eric Grover.

PROTOTYPE

When thinking about reducing call time while maintaining empathy, I thought back to time I had spent volunteering as a crisis counselor. What was most helpful to me while on a call was using a phrase bank, a collection of responses that tended to work well when dealing with difficult situations. 

We decided to create a phrase bank that integrated caller's emotions. We decided to focus on emotions over personas because emotions are universal. When struggling with a financial issue, it's likely a caller is experiencing a strong emotion. By understanding a bit more about a caller by identifying their dominant emotion, a call center rep can understand how open they are to accepting assistance and can use phrases that hit the right tone for the caller's emotional state. 

When thinking about reducing call time while maintaining empathy, I thought back to time I had spent volunteering as a crisis counselor. What was most helpful to me while on a call was using a phrase bank, a collection of responses that tended to work well when dealing with difficult situations. 

We decided to create a phrase bank that integrated caller's emotions. We decided to focus on emotions over personas because emotions are universal. When struggling with a financial issue, it's likely a caller is experiencing a strong emotion. By understanding a bit more about a caller by identifying their dominant emotion, a call center rep can understand how open they are to accepting assistance and can use phrases that hit the right tone for the caller's emotional state. 

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phase-bank-final-01
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IMPACT

I was not able to test this project during my six-month rotation. When the Service Design team tests and implements the prototype, I'll update the results. 

I was not able to test this project during my six-month rotation. When the Service Design team tests and implements the prototype, I'll update the results. 

remanufactured-call-center-cubicles

WORK

WORK

RESEARCH

RESEARCH

RESEARCH

RESEARCH

Applying ethnography to scale social change

Applying ethnography to scale social change

Applying ethnography to scale social change

Bridge International Academies

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UX

UX

UX

UX

Building a non-profit's first digital product

Building a non-profit's first digital product

Building a non-profit's first digital product

Cool Culture

Cool Culture

Cool Culture

UX

Improving usability for millions of job seekers

Improving usability for millions of job seekers

Improving usability for millions of job seekers

Improving usability for millions of job seekers

USAJOBS.gov

USAJOBS.gov

USAJOBS.gov

RESEARCH

RESEARCH

RESEARCH

RESEARCH

Using play to address health & safety issues for adolescent girls

Using play to address health & safety issues for adolescent girls

Using play to address health & safety issues for adolescent girls

ECPAT-USA

ECPAT-USA

ECPAT-USA

SERVICE

SERVICE

SERVICE

SERVICE

Championing empathy as a strategy to reduce costs

Championing empathy as a strategy to reduce costs

Championing empathy as a strategy to reduce costs

CFPB

CFPB

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

UI

UI

UI

UI

Operationalizing design for a new product team

Operationalizing design for a new product team

Operationalizing design for a new product team

Federal Reserve

Federal Reserve

Federal Reserve

Federal Reserve

TEACHING

TEACHING

TEACHING

TEACHING

Helping students solve problems using creative mindsets & methodologies

Helping students solve problems using creative mindsets & methodologies

Helping students solve problems using creative mindsets & methodologies

IDEO U

IDEO U

Medic Mobile