At the center of it all: the Zoona Agent

A few weeks ago Kirsty explained a bit behind Zoona’s business model, and highlighted the fact that emerging entrepreneurs sit right at the core of the ecosystem. Zoona provides working capital financing, business management tools, and entrepreneurial support focused on helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses and in the process, increase financial inclusion in Africa.

All that sounds awesome on paper, but what about the agents’ day to day? How do the provided tools really impact how the agents run their businesses?

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Zoona green for lyfe!

Last week I had an opportunity to get out into the field and sit down with a few agents to work through a couple of the processes they use to make sure their accounts balance out at the end of the day. As in any cash-heavy business, there are always times when the dollars and cents don’t add up. To help mitigate this, Zoona built an account reconciliation tool that allows agents to better manage the money that’s coming and going.

Much to Zoona’s chagrin, however, the tool wasn’t being used as wildly as they’d expected. Moreover, agents were still requesting ways to manage their cash and electronic funds.

What gives?

Turns out Zoona needed to take another look at the tool to understand more about how agents were using it (for the ones who were using it), and why agents who didn’t use it, weren’t. Enter Kirsty and Nile.

Over the last several months, Zoona has taken great strides to move to a human-centered design (HCD) approach for all their product development. This effort was a perfect example of how to bring HCD to life.

After a couple of internal rapid prototyping sessions (including one with Zahir!), we were ready to get out and speak with agents about what worked and what didn’t work with the tool. We purposefully started with a few rough paper prototypes that we created in order to not make it seem so refined that the agents would think they couldn’t affect the final outcome.

Here are a few of the paper mock ups that we shared with our agents.

Here are a few of the paper mock ups that we shared with our agents.

We learned, generally, that the concepts we created were a pretty solid step in the right direction. We also discovered that there were several entirely different processes that each agent developed to make sure their books balanced at the end of the day. These were all managed offline, at times extremely time consuming, and plainly, not the best use of our agents’ time. That said, we were able to learn a little from each of their processes to better inform the next iteration of the tool.

One of our agents, Mutalasha, is taking me through his daily process to balance out the accounts for several of his teller accounts.

One of our agents, Mutalasha, is taking me through his daily process to balance out the accounts for several of his teller accounts.

Up next we’re going to take this back to HQ and work with our development team to slot in these updates. Our agents are eager to use the new tool, and I’m eager to do a follow up to see how it’s helped make their day to day easier.

One of our larger locations. Decked out and room for 4 tellers inside!

One of our larger locations. Decked out and room for 4 tellers inside!

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Nile Nahar-Brown is working out of Lusaka, Zambia, with fintech entrepreneur Zoona on product development and marketing strategy.

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