Fintechs have quickly emerged as major players in the global financial services industry. In 2021, venture capitalists nearly tripled their investment in online-only banks from the year before—to the tune of $133 billion.
But with inflation, rising interest rates, and economic uncertainties facing the world today, even the most well-funded fintechs need to find a clear path to acquiring—and keeping—customers.
And as the market becomes more competitive, it may be tempting for some fintechs to reduce customer service as a cost savings measure. But implementing an exceptional customer experience (CX) strategy is one of the most effective ways for a fintech to differentiate its brand to drive higher customer acquisitions and improve retention rates.
According to the Zendesk CX Trends Report 2022, 70 percent of consumers say they have made purchase decisions based on the quality of customer service, while 76 percent say they would switch to a company’s competitor due to multiple bad customer service experiences.
Clearly, good CX matters. And at the Finovate Fall conference on September 14, Kimberley Meehan, Chief Customer Officer at Stash, and Lauren Quinn Volpe, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Zip, discussed how both of their companies—with very different missions—leverage CX as a key differentiator in a crowded marketplace.
Refining your CX
Founded in 2015, Stash is a mobile banking and investment app that helps more than five million Americans save and invest for the future. Many of Stash’s customers are novice investors, and Meehan focuses on making sure they feel confident about being able to build wealth through the app.
“We’re going to think about, ‘How do we do better at education? How do we do better at engaging customers along the journey?’” Meehan says of standing apart from day trading apps. “There are enough customers in this ecosystem, so we want to just differentiate in our long-term Stash way—and being there to guide our customers.”
“We’re going to think about, ‘How do we do better at education? How do we do better at engaging customers along the journey?'” Kimberley Meehan, Chief Customer Officer at Stash
Zip is a popular BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) app that allows customers to split payments into four installments over six weeks. And with many apps competing for the same customers, Volpe is constantly refining Zip’s CX and listening to feedback from customers, even if it hurts.
“I torture myself at night reading all of these quotes from customers, good and bad,” says Volpe. “I find that the bad ones are actually where you get the most [benefit] because that is your opportunity to improve.”
Standing apart from the crowd
With inflation, rising interest rates, and economic uncertainty across the world, banking customers are anxious about the future. And financial services companies really need to listen to what their customers want in this new environment.
“Customers don’t accept COVID (as an excuse) anymore—they want somebody to pick up their call or answer their chat,” Volpe says of Zip’s young clients. “What we’re doing right now to differentiate ourselves is to ensure that we are fast.”
“Customers don’t accept COVID [as an excuse] anymore—they want somebody to pick up their call or answer their chat. What we’re doing right now to differentiate ourselves is to ensure that we are fast.” Lauren Quinn Volpe, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Zip
Meanwhile, Stash focuses on helping beginning investors navigate what can be an overwhelming new world.
“They want guidance, they want to feel supported,” Meehan explains. “Our customer experience is really about, ‘Let’s be your guide. Let’s be offense—not defense.’”
Making a human connection
Some fintech websites only offer a FAQ page and make it next to impossible for customers to reach an agent. But Ramp, a finance automation platform, has taken a different approach with CX. Tony Rios, Ramp’s Head of Product Operations, encourages his customer service team to go out of their way to interact with customers.
“We wanted to look at the rate at which customers were contacting us—and based on the rate at which they were contacting us, how much were they activating the product,” Rios says. “Once customers started reaching three interactions with our CX team, they started activating the product more, and bringing more spend onto the brand product overall. And by the time they hit five interactions with our CX team, they were at about three or four times what they said they were going to spend on the product.”
“Once customers started reaching three interactions with our CX team, they started activating the product more, and bringing more spend onto the brand product overall.” Tony Rios, Head of Product Operations at Ramp
Rios’ strategy seems to be paying off. Ramp has more than doubled its revenue run rate since the beginning of 2022.
The CX team at Stash also finds that strategically deploying live human agents is a winning approach.
“Our customers are first-time investors, and they’re going to want to speak with us,” Meehan says. “During the last year, we’ve extended our phone hours of operation. We’ve added more days—we’re seven days a week.”
Like Ramp and Stash, Zip’s digital-native customers find comfort in human interaction.
“Millennials prefer phone service when it comes to our banking,” says Volpe. “When it comes to their money, they generally do not trust banks. They don’t really have credit cards, and so when they’re dealing with money, they actually want to speak with a person.”
How to win—and retain—customers
Zip is best known for its checkout, and it has recently created several enticements that keep customers coming back for more. In addition to the signature product, there’s also a Zip app, a Chrome extension, and a newly released physical card.
“We’re definitely trying to meet our customers where they are,” says Volpe. “We really empower our agents to help our customers with empathy and to take their time and listen, because people are very sensitive when it comes to their money, regardless of whether it’s $5 or $5,000—they want to be heard and they want a solution.”
Listening to customers is key to retention. Some calls can take a bit longer, even if it seems like you’re just playing the role of a supportive BFF. But when customers need a bit of reassurance and guidance on how to use a product, it’s an opportunity to deliver exceptional (if time-consuming) CX. And that exceptional CX can be rewarded with a customer for life.
“(When a customer) calls in and says, ‘I joined Stash, and I don’t know how to start. I’m afraid. I don’t know where to put my money—I don’t know how to do that.’ I will take that call, and it’s a really long call,” Meehan explains. “I would take that call all day long because once they’re in, they’re in.”