Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Championing empathy as a strategy to reduce costs


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.


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?

Research Approach

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 is still in the early stages of testing. More to come!

Date: 2019
Role: The more positive emotional connection between the user and your product, the more forgiving that user is prone to be. - Randy J. Hunt