How cutting costs and empowering financial health go hand in hand

Written by
Michaël Vijfvinkel
Innovation Consultant
May 17, 2022 . 5 mins read
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In the Netherlands, 21% of households are in problematic debt or have problems paying their bills. Additionally, the amount of young people with payment issues has grown an alarming 70% over the past 5 years. Financial problems are known to cause unrest, uncertainty and difficulties for citizens. However, people are generally less aware that it also costs Dutch businesses over €14 billion in invoicing, calls and letters every year. 

At Koos, we know design has great potential to help these people and businesses simultaneously. It is our mission to make the world a better place by design. Developed countries also face poverty situations, so let’s combine forces and improve the world as well as your organisation at the same time! If you want to learn how empowering financial health goes hand in hand with cutting costs, keep reading.

Why is it beneficial to focus on making your customers more financially healthy?


People want to be able to pay their bills; sometimes, they just need a helping hand. Research shows that only 18% of the people not paying their bills are actually not willing to. The biggest challenge for these defaulters is that they are willing to pay but are unable to do so. Research tells us they find themselves in this situation for various reasons: from adaptation to a change in living conditions (think of life events such as divorce, unemployment or an income decrease) to being in survival mode due to too little income or overspending (e.g. as a result of compensation behaviour).

A large group within the population of defaulters are vulnerable people. 64% of people receiving debt counselling deal with illiteracy, mild intellectual disability or mental health problems. These people are not paying their bills mainly due to an overload of requests, with reminders on top of reminders, consisting of unrealistic amounts, by an overwhelming group of debtors. 

Service Design can help people and organisations worldwide make a positive change for defaulters and the organisations. We have seen in our projects that by sitting down and taking time to listen to these defaulters, a large part of the problems can be prevented. In our opinion, this is one of the most obvious win/win we come across.

Increase payments while decreasing costs

In multiple projects, we have noticed that focusing on making customers financially healthier results in a cost decrease and a payment increase. Take our collaboration with KPN, one of the biggest telcos in the Netherlands. In 2017, we completely redesigned the journey of late payments, resulting in​​ a projected 40% reduction of late payments by people with financial problems, as well as an expected annual cost reduction of €4.823.000.

Another example is VGZ, a large healthcare insurer in the Netherlands. In 2019, we helped them create a more empathic approach towards its customers in financial trouble. Our collaboration resulted in clear insights into the experience of defaulters, fifteen innovation ideas as a backlog for the team, a validated concept with a high fidelity prototype and a clear MVP for implementation. Furthermore, a project we did with VGZ in 2020, revolving around 18-year-olds paying their healthcare insurance for the first time, has resulted in educational programmes currently being taught at high schools throughout the country. These programmes aim to prevent young people from getting into debt early on, based on a clear insight from that project.

How do we improve payments through empathy?

As a result of our previous projects, we have defined three types of defaulters. Get to know these three main types we discovered through our empathetic research methods better:

The denying ostrich

  • Doesn’t acknowledge the problem
  • Puts their head in the sand
  • Doesn’t take responsibility
  • Tries to act like nothing’s wrong

The resourceful survivor

  • Takes temporary measures
  • Relies on the social safety net
  • Has tricks up their sleeves
  • Tries to keep up

The tactical adapter

  • Takes protective measures
  • Makes the hard choice
  • Needs help and guidance
  • Tries to create a new routine

These different defaulter profiles were defined by using our Tension Model. The tensions shown in this model resulted from explorative research with people that deal with payment issues and debts.

We want to display the outcomes these projects can have through the following generic examples. These are just to give you an impression of what is possible and what has allowed other organisations to realise the benefits we described before.

Nonetheless, every client and industry is different, so you can reach out to us for a tailored approach to the specific challenge you’re facing.

Why do we value financial health?


My name is Michaël, and my goal in life is to impact society positively. There are several ways to do this. First and foremost, at Koos, we believe design can make the world a better place. One of the ways we work towards this ambition is by collaborating on projects which empower financial health. At first glance, most developed countries might appear to have eradicated poverty. However, if you take a closer look, you will still find people living in poverty and an even bigger group experiencing problems paying their bills.

Let’s combine forces and improve the world and your organisation at the same time!


Intrum Justitia, 2011

Nibud, 2019

NVVK, 2019

GGN, 2020

GGN, 2020

Written by
Michaël Vijfvinkel
Innovation Consultant
May 17, 2022 . 5 mins read
Share this article