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Introducing the COVID-19 Client Interview Tool

What are you hearing from clients these days? Many financial service providers (FSPs) are maintaining robust communication with their clients right now, despite the dramatic drop in financial transactions. For example, FINCA recently wrote about using SMS, WhatsApp, Viber and social media - including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Odnoklassniki (a Russian social network) - to reach clients. Friendship Bridge Guatemala has quickly repurposed field staff to work in the organization’s now-expanded call center and French MFI ADIE calls thousands of clients a week, checking on their health and financial situation.

With hundreds - maybe thousands - of FSPs already surveying clients during the pandemic, SPTF, 60 Decibels, FINCA/ValiData, and ADA have developed a tool to standardize these client interviews - The COVID–19 Client Interview Tool. Simple, standardized questions are designed to capture information on how clients are affected by the pandemic. FSPs can use this data to inform their crisis response and recovery plans.

The interview tool is currently available on the SPTF website and a secure, cloud-based version will be available within a matter of days. When available, this platform will allow FSPs to collect, store, and access their survey data at any time.

Not all clients will feel the wrath of COVID-19 in the same way, making client segmentation more important than ever. The COVID-19 Client Interview Tool is designed to help FSPs uncover:

  • Which clients are struggling and require the most attention.

  • Which clients still have sufficient income to survive (e.g., receiving remittances) but may require access to financial services such as payments and savings.

  • Which clients have a continuing livelihood that will require on-going access to credit.

  • Which policy or regulation changes FSPs could promote, in order to benefit clients.

  • Which additional forms of support clients need, such as providing information about where they may be able to obtain permits to continue trading, or supporting clients to access social assistance.

The survey can be used directly by providers to gather information about their own clients, nurturing client relationships in the process. On the other hand, some providers may not have the capacity to gather reliable data themselves and may choose to contract an external research company to implement the survey. In other cases, it may make sense for external firms to implement the survey at a market level, ensuring individual providers can access analysis about their own clients.

In future months, many people operating in the informal economy will seek to quickly re-start businesses when allowed to do so, requiring capital as well as access to other services. This survey will also assist FSPs to identify how clients’ needs have evolved and what can be done to speed the recovery of their livelihoods.

Let us know what you think about the survey instrument, and how you are using it at your own institution. Contact Anton Simanowitz at for more information.


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