Managing a Mobile Money Agent Network with Digital Tools
Mobile Money services offer a successful value proposition for customers because of the widespread presence of their agents, offering liquidity services to end customers through cash in/deposits and cash out/withdrawals. That implies to have the operational capacity to recruit, train and ensure the quality of thousands of small agents across the country. While there has already been some literature on how to properly achieve this (see links at the bottom), we want to emphasize in this article what the adoption of a digital tool such as FieldPro can provide.
Looking at the structure
To refer to our distribution structure schema, managing a mobile agent network will fall under these two set ups:
Set up 1: Field supervisors looking after the agents, they can be called Agent Trade Executive, Trade Developer Representatives, Agent Quality Officer, Territory Coordinators, etc.
They will be typically employed by the service provider, mobile operator or bank, directly, as their roles are critical and involve:
identifying new agents
training agents on how to deliver the service. In practice while the agents are the same on the system, the actual person manning it, the teller, changes often and requires to be trained to deliver quality information to the customer and process the transaction with confidence, which is essential for financial services.
branding the agents with the right tools of trade material, agent sign, log book, etc and any other equipment made mandatory by the regulation
regularly visiting the agents to ensure they are satisfied
coordinating some client acquisition activities
The field supervisors are typically part of a hierarchy structure, with different hierarchy levels. Each supervisor being solely in charge of a zone and a portfolio of agents. For example for a mobile operator with 30,000 agents, there will be 3 layers:
In practice they are either directly employed by the service provider or outsourced to a dedicated agency. They have a formal contract which clearly states their scope of work and pay mechanics.
Their performance are measured based on their visit KPIs: agent coverage (% of agents visited in their portfolio), number of visits, etc, and potentially some KPIs on their agent portfolio performance, commissions, etc.
They are not supposed to sell directly to the agents, but in practice if they observe an agent being low on stock (mobile money float), he will call the distributor in charge and prompt him to supply the agents.
Finally, a key decision to make for mobile operator is whether these field teams should also look after the traditional telecom business, such as selling airtime or SIMs, or should be focused only on mobile money. There are pros and cons on each option.
Set up 4: Sales representatives from the distributors in charge of supplying the agents with mobile money, called runner boys or Distributor Sales Representative or Associates. Distributors can also be called aggregators or super agents.
Distributors are supposed to focus on the selling and moving float accross the agents. As float can be sold directly from the mobile phone, their field force will be moving on motorbike or on foot. Or once they are at the agent, they will call the distributor back office who owns the line and will send the float to the agent as they guarantee they have the cash. They take cash from the agent, bring it back to the distributor in exchange of selling float.
They are typically not employeed by a proper contract, paid on pure commission basis, based on what they manage to sell, as distributors typically have no tool to monitor their performance apart from the mobile money report on their sales, and a limited approached to structure their distribution, with proper routes and visit KPIs. Fraud cases where field users run away with cash, and turn over because of poor pay, are quite frequent, which can contribute to distributors not managing to serve their territories well. Our recommendation is therefore that the service providers equip them with a proper monitoring tool as well such as FieldPro.
1. Properly identify and geo-map the agents
The first step is to compile an accurate database of all the agents serving your products. Each agent needs to be identified with the right information, such as:
Outside / Inside picture
Type of shop. Use the classification that makes sense to you with specific options
GPS localization. Make sure the accuracy is below 10 meters.
Shop owner contact details: email address, phone, name
Shop assistant contact details: email address, phone, name
Unique identifier. It can be an agent code, or a number specific to your business to be used as a primary key
Address description. Plain text indication of where to find the shop as the street address might not be accurate
District / City
Branding / Shelves / Hanger picture
Among all these dimensions, the GPS capture (also referred to as geo-mapping) is critical to understand well your coverage.
2. Ensure unicity of the agents in the database
There must be no duplicate in the agent database with field supervisors creating several times the same agent on the field. This becomes an issue when you want to reconcile the database against system data to pay commissions, or to run the analysis.
This unicity check can be achieved in FieldPro by defining an attribute as unique to ensure the field user cannot create an agent that already exists with this attribute, or on the web application by identifying all the duplicates on a specific attribute.
3. Create a territory hierarchy
Splitting the entire countries into several regions, then sub-regions, etc can help to build accountability for each level of supervision. Therefore you can have a regional manager exclusively in charge of his geographical area. In FieldPro, defining such a structure enables to filter the view each web user can have when accessing the web application so that he only sees the supervisors, agents, and activities in his area.
4. Assign agents portfolio to a unique supervisor to measure coverage
Each agent must be covered by a unique supervisor, that will be in charge of visiting him regularly. This can be achieved in FieldPro by defining the scope of the agent list to a single mobile user. By doing that, you will be able to measure an important KPI: the coverage, which shows the % of agents in the portfolio of the supervisor that has been visited over a certain period of time.
Considering the following rough assumptions:
An agent visit lasting 15 minutes
A supervisor working 8 hours a day
A transport time of 15 minutes
22 working days/month
And leveraging our experience, we believe the right number of agents should be between 300 and 500 per supervisor. With that portfolio size, the supervisor should be able to visit at least once during the month all the agents.
That is if you consider, all agents to be treated the same way. If you introduce some segmentation and want key agents to be visited more regularly, then the portfolio number needs to be decreased accordingly.
5. Define visit checklist
During a visit, the supervisor should check the following parameters:
Float availability — own service and competitors’ to measure the share of pocket
Branding presence of items such as tarriff guide, agent code, sticker with information on the help line, street sign, light box, etc. The quality of the branding is essential to be visible to customers who want to transact and give them a sense of trust that they can operate a financial transaction as if they were in a bank.
Compliance with Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti Money Laundering (AML) standards. As they are at the frontline of delivering services to the end customers, the agents must be knowledgable about these standards, such as asking ID of customers when transacting, filling log books properly, etc
Sensitisation on frauds and wrong behaviors such as direct deposit, fake registrations, split transactions, etc
Tools of trade presence, such as agent code, logbook, any other material that he is supposed to have
Training levels/awareness on the recent service updates/features. If the agent is unaware of, he needs to train him to close the communication gap. This is the most important to define to ensure the knowledge is passed on to the agent to motivate him or so that he informs the end customer in return and recommend your service. It is very difficult for a service provider to ensure there is a consistent and structured traning delivered to a large network of say 30,000 agents. Tha requires to define a standard training book and make sure the key points are adressed at each visit through the app.
Capturing some qualitative feedback from the end customers. Agents are the ears of the service providers on the street, as such they can collect valuable insights on the strengths and weaknesses of the service and how it can be improved.
6. Provide documentation to help them
The field supervisor is overwhelmed with information flowing through different channels, such as WhatsApp groups, emails, calls, SMS, etc. You need to ensure they can always find at the same place the right documents, that is up to date. Documents will be typically prepared by the marketing /product team to inform about the product features, the current pricing and commission scheme, etc.
In FieldPro, we have designed a specific section “Documents” where you can upload any kind of documents, such as video, text, images, excel, etc so that the field user can find them easily on his mobile app.
7. Define targets and measure Supervisors productivity
It is essential that part of the salary of the supervisor is paid in variable, as per some targets achievements, based on the KPIs that matter to you. Below is a list of the main KPIs:
Number of unique visits
Number of unique agent visited
Number of unique agent created and geo mapped
Agent Portfolio coverage — in %
Time spent per agent
The targets need to be adapted depending on the specifics of the area of the supervisor. For example, the number of agents visited per day should not be the same in a densely populated city area and a rural area.
As a manager, you should review these KPIs through a web dashboard to keep track of the performance and the active supervisor. All these KPIs can be crossed to look at ratios and understand more in detail the dynamics on the field. It is also important to look at these indicators by hierarchical levels, such as region, district, supervisor, etc.
8. Understand visit content
It is also useful to have an analytical view of what has been reported by the supervisors from the field.
Float and cash availability. How do the levels compare with the minimum requirements? How are you doing against the competition?
Training performed. What are the areas which need reinforcement, or where the communication is lacking
Satisfaction and qualitative feedback. What are the areas where you can improve to strengthen the engagement with the agents?
What does a mobile money distributor do
The roles of a distributor / aggregator in a mobile money set up is the following:
To recruit, register, train, supervise and manage the agents and their teller / attendants
To properly identify agents when registering them by capturing all information, either through a form or through a mobile app such as FieldPro
To purchase float from the service provider and distribute it to the agents
To provide all necessary human and other resources required to efficiently sell, supply and/or distribute the float…
To reach a certain set of performance KPIs, quantitative and qualitative, such as minimum float level per agent, frequency of visits, etc
To comply with the operational standards defined, in KYC, AML, etc
Common challenges observed on the field are:
Strong focus on supplying liquidity only, even through credit, at the expense of other roles that are neglected
Low % of agent portfolio in their areas being supplied by the distributor, that can be measured in the system by running a report on the number of supply transaction between the distributor and the agents, to look at the % of agents serviced and the frequency. If agents are not serviced, they will typicall try to get float through other means, by going to banks, other agents or waiting for customers to withdraw.
Serving only the top 20% of agents. Distributors might be only visiting the big agents who they know will purchase float, or wait for them to call, instead of proactively visiting all agents and trying to develop the territory they are in charge of.
Large portfolio of agent to service, some far from the main office making it impossible to serve them effectively: the relationship with the majority of Agents is not intimate enough. This is the responsibility of the service provider in designing the territories.
Does not have full documentation for all agents: Agents have indicated that they don’t have contracts/T&Cs or if they do, they don’t know the content.
Insufficient number of field staff (runner boys / sales rep) for the number of agents to service. A sales rep can effectively visit a max of 20–30 outlets / day (if playing their full roles)
Limited investment in the business in terms of field staff, vehicles, back office, working capital, etc.
The distributor typically relies on two roles.
provides the investment capital
defines the overall business performance strategy
manages the day to day business, the field staff, etc
handles the cash reconciliations
operates the distribution IT system