Over the past several years, we at PayPal have focused on putting customers at the center of our product innovation efforts, by seeking to truly understand the behaviors and aspirations of current and potential PayPal customers across the economic spectrum. For example, we have designed and implemented Financial Exclusion Immersion Workshops for our own employees, so that products and services can be designed with a deeper and more personal understanding of the challenges and needs of the financially underserved. Empathy is the centerpiece of a human-centered design process, and it’s the north star of these new initiatives.
Financial Exclusion Immersion Workshops are self-guided exercises for teams of employees to experience the realities of the financially underserved, in the communities where we live and work. So far more than 350 employees across eight locations in five countries have participated in these workshops.
To begin, they’re assigned a certain persona and are sent out to complete a list of tasks, which include cashing a check without a bank account, paying rent using a money order or cashier’s check, and sending remittance using funds left on the prepaid card or cash. Workshop participants are restricted to the resources of their assigned persona, so they can truly step into the shoes of the financially underserved. They’re then asked to journal and take notes about the product options, requirements, fees, and, most importantly, their feelings and ideas that come up during the exercise. The goal of these workshops is to build understanding and empathy for the amount of time, money and bandwidth that is required to live on the edges of the traditional financial system. The first-hand experience enables teams to connect to our mission and imagine new ways they can advance the financial health of the people we serve.