Engagement through Earnings.

We consistently heard in interviews that agents believed they earned less on Airtel compared to other mobile money providers, which makes them less committed to serving Airtel customers. Commission transparency is key for MNOs to shake off myths surrounding earnings as an agent. We think that this transparency and predictability around their earnings will make agents feel like they’re earning more.

  • “Agents in our area don’t think they earn anything with Airtel, so they send customers our way instead.”
—Paul & Faustine

  • “Commissions are like the lottery—you don’t know what you’re going to get!”

Foster customer confidence over time.

Initial research on transaction data reveals that average transaction size increases with subsequent visits to the same mobile money agent. This demonstrates the value of loyalty for the customer, agent, and MNO. Larger transactions become less risky with a familiar agent, but are also more valuable to those agents in terms of commission.

Capitalize on Agent Experience

We co-designed training material with agents, asking them about their specific methods for helping customers with certain transaction types. Agents know more than their customers about the opportunities and challenges of transactions, as part of their day-to-day activities. Agents were able to speak in detail about easy errors and the potential for fraud with different transaction types. They know about other products and services provided on different mobile money platforms, but don’t feel like it’s worth their time conveying these uncommissioned services to customers.

  • “I was using phone vouchers as a workaround for sending money to rural villages before mobile money!” —Nasri

  • “We know how to use TIMIZA, but we don’t earn anything by selling it.” —Rajab

Not all agents are created equal.

Intercepts with nearly 30 agents revealed just how varied their businesses can be. Some agents are motivated entrepreneurs and work to grow their business or build a franchise. Others operate other businesses and need to negotiate how much time is spent between different activities. They may have employees that attend their shops on their behalf, or they may do it themselves every day. To-date, agent training and support has been packaged as “one-size-fits-all.” Understanding the variance in structure and aspiration will help MNOs optimize their network.

  • “Being a wakala has given me diversity! But I still have to run my IT side business to bring in enough income.” —Christian

  • “My employees are trained on customer service for three months before they’re allowed to operate one of my shops.” —Rehima

Agent of Today

How might we inspire agents to better support customers in the use of mobile money?

Agents are the human face of today’s digital financial ecosystem. But we’re not using Agents to their full potential. For example, mobile-money providers in Tanzania face a drastic drop-off between registration and active use. Agents are aligned with MNOs in wanting customers to use mobile money more—it would mean more business for them—but incentives for Agents are not aligned to truly address this challenge.

IDEO.org has partnered with Airtel Tanzania to solve this problem. We’re using qualitative insights and data science to understand more about Agent behaviors, how their businesses work, and where to target investments to optimize the network. All this has informed a range of prototypes we’re running to improved Agent experience that will increase Agent engagement, quality of service, customer loyalty, and ultimately deepen active use.


Imagine if better understanding their earnings gave agents more confidence in the future of their businesses.

On-demand reports on commissions and transaction activity

We want to learn how additional information about customers, transaction types, and activity frequency provides a basis for agents to analyze how they operate their business. We believe that if agents can access reports on their businesses through the agent USSD menu they’ll be better able to to gauge business growth, reduce fraud, and identify errors, and establish a deeper trust in the MNOs they work for.

Customer Analysis

By knowing which of your customers are new as opposed to returning, agents will have a better sense of whether their business is growing.

Traffic Prediction

Highlighting peak traffic hours will help agents more effectively allocate staff, determine when to focus on other business activities, and find patterns for request more float.

Error Detection

Accessible updates on the riskiest transactions can highlight for agents if any simple mistakes have been made, saving them precious time in the event of an error.

Market Comparison

Agents will earn more and can adjust typical float requests when they can compare their activity to what’s happening more broadly in their communities.


Imagine if agent-customer loyalty incentivized stellar service and increased use.

Reward loyalty between customers and agents

We are leveraging the relationship between agents and customers to establish a loyalty program that makes transactions cheaper for customers and more valuable for agents. In this experiment, we want to learn which factors customers and agents use to establish loyalty with one another. These choices will also allow Airtel to differentiate between strong and weak service providers in their network.

Increased Commission with Your Loyal Customers

Agents earn a higher amount on their limited set of loyal customers, spurring them to improve service with those customers to keep them coming back.

Decreased Fees with Your Trusted Agent

Customers pay a reduced fee on transactions with thier chosen agent. Agents, in turn, will want to provide good service in order to be selected by customers.


Imagine if agents were incentivized to help customers use mobile money on their own.

Reward agents for supporting P2P

In this experiment, agents earn a commission on P2P transactions involving their selected loyal customers. We hope to learn if this provides an incentivize for agents to go beyond OTC transactions by teaching customers how to use mobile money and advising them on how to resolve account issues.

Bonus Commission with Your Loyal Customers

Agents earn a bonus commission on the peer-to-peer transactions of their chosen loyal customers. This presents an incentive to both support fluid transaction experiences for their customers, as well as unblock issues that prevent them from transacting.


Imagine if we could tailor training and incentives to the unique needs of each agent business.

Survey Your Agents

In order to increase the value of Airtel’s agent network, we plan to use data to highlight variations in performance between different agent businesses. This information can help Airtel increase engagement with the platform, lower the cost of customer service, and create a solid channel for future growth of the agent network.

Optimizing Distribution

We will highlight which portions of your network need further investment in agent support and training.

Reconfigure Incentives

Agents in rural locations may need drastically different incentive models than their urban counterparts.

Provide the Right Training to the Right People

Clearly communicating best practices to the individuals who actually perform transactions will lead to consistently higher quality service.

Improve Liquidity

Understanding when and where float demand is in real time can smooth the challenge of available liquidity to meet customer demand.

Road Map

Here’s what’s ahead for this stream of work.

Establishing Agent Confidence

Commission Transparency

Growth Metrics

Market Positioning

Error Detection

Building Alternative Incentives Models

Shift the game around agent-customer relationships and the resulting service & education provided.

Rewarding Loyal Relationships

Rewarding P2P Support

Designing for Agent Businesses

Better inform how to target training and incentives at the right people in the system.

Business Archetypes

Geographic Distribution

Keep Exploring.