Just ask! Your customers know what you need to do

Feedback

I called a long standing customer of our of our software products the other day and the first thing he said was “Hi Rob, I’m amazed you called.  I haven’t ever heard from anyone in your business before.”

And it’s true, he hadn’t actually ever spoken to anyone in the organisation before.  He signed up to access our service via his bank, his access information was sent to him via email, and since then he’s been signing in to the service and using it himself in order to get the value he needs.  At no point in the 5 years+ that he has been a customer has he spoken to any person within our business.

We had a great conversation for an hour, where he told me all the good things about the service we offer, the areas that he hoped it would get better, and importantly he told me about the challenges he faces as being the Finance Director of a small to medium sized business.

All of this information is absolute gold for me in helping figure out how we can get better at making businesses get control of their money.

At one point in the conversation he said ‘would you mind if I email you when i have something I think you should know?’, to which I said ‘of course not’ and I proceeded to tell him how every customer who signs up toCreditHQ will get an email from me where I ask for them to give me some feedback.  

I give every customer the chance to email me with the answer to a specific question such as ‘tell me your biggest business challenge today’ or to complete a questionnaire that takes about 2 minutes to do. 

It’s amazing what you find out.  And it’s amazing how you can use this to make decisions in your business about what you can do next.  Sometimes it’s a little thing (we don’t care about feature X) but sometimes it’s a bigger thing (you should charge more than you do).

And all through just asking.

Many businesses are scared to ask their customers what they think because they worry that they think bad things about them.  But they’re your customers so you already do something they like or they wouldn’t have got that far.  Why not listen to them and get them to give you more of their custom, or get them to spread the word about how great you are because you listen. A colleague of mine who was recently at SXSW (where we were showcasing CreditHQ as part of the UKTI’s Tech Ambassador programme), was told by an Über driver that he much preferred driving for the competitor taxi firm over there, Lyft, purely because they get in touch with their drivers asking for feedback and how they can improve conditions for them. 

We can’t do everything we get told would help, but we might find out some things we can stop doing that frees us up to do more of the good stuff.

You never know! Just ask!

What UK FinTech can learn from SXSW 2016

I’ve recently been at this year’s South by South West (SXSW), or ‘south by’ as it is referred to by the locals.

Although popularly known as one of the world’s largest music and film festivals, it also brings together technologists, entrepreneurs, creatives and marketers at SXSW Interactive.

My company, FinTech startup Ormsby Street, was selected to attend SXSW by UKTI as one of its Tech Ambassadors.

London’s rise to its current position as one of the main global FinTech hubs over the past years or so, has been well-documented, yet for all the undoubted successes, there is still much to learn. The bigger FinTech startups still in the main originate from the US, so what is done differently in the US to the UK and what can UK FinTech startups learn from their US counterparts on show at SXSW?

FinTech at SXSW

This was the second year we have been at SXSW, and I noticed a small but dedicated focus on FinTech compared to 2015. FinTech was everywhere this year. I attended the ‘Payment and Fintech’ section of the SXSW Startup Accelerator, which saw Chroma, a ‘new stock market for the small business economy’ win and also a similar event focused on ‘Banking and Fintech’.

A lot of FinTech solutions are focussing on moving money around – be that through novel payment systems using mobiles or the web, or international transfers. This is prime territory for innovation and an area where banks lag behind what technology can achieve because they’re using older systems.

The other area where banking is out of whack with society, is in that of trust – this was a major theme across SXSW. Trust is the real currency of banking, but the standards and the processes that banks use are very different from those that we use in the rest of our lives. For most purposes, your phone number or your social media account are enough to identify you, but for good reason this isn’t the case in banking and so innovators are trying to find a middle way on this debate between security and convenience.

Security vs Convenience

This debate was happening all across SXSW and was one of the one themes in Barack Obama’s keynote speech. I was lucky enough to get my name pulled out of the hat to attend this, and while the President didn’t comment on the current FBI and Apple case directly, he did put forward the argument that authorities need access to data on electronic devices because the ‘dangers are real’.

He outlined his commitment to strong encryption but also discussed how smartphones and other electronic devices are designed as such that data on them is permanently locked away. What are the implications if authorities are looking to catch child pornographers or disrupt terrorist plots? Weighty issues, but the challenge of balancing encryption, security and convenience is one that almost every FinTech startup must address at some stage in their development, and it’s no doubt out of concern for its own recent startup: “Apple Pay” that Apple is making a big deal of this issue.

Products, not companies

FinTech remains a really hot topic because the experience we all have with personal banking and with business finance – paper forms, signatures and face to face conversations – is all rooted in the age of paper and therefore ripe for innovation.

Yet much of the innovation at SXSW has been around product, not the companies behind them. Most of the big business here (and there is a lot) is looking for a product that will address a gap in their own offering, rather than looking to acquire a company which would remain in any way self contained.

What this means for the FinTech startups involved, is that they must make something that truly disrupts and they must be open to collaboration and partnerships with multiple big businesses at an early stage. If a new FinTech product is only of moderate convenience, then its days will be numbered before it’s snapped up by one bank or another, and while a acquisition may be the end goal for many FinTech startups, only those who can forge partnerships with multiple major banks are likely to find the route to longer term independent growth.

Finally, something that became clear from a number of sources across SXSW, is that FinTech startups face a tougher regulatory battle than those in other sectors. Every startup should plan to scale from the moment they launch, but anyone doing so in such a highly regulated market such as FinTech needs to be certain of what they doing – get it wrong and the entire business can stall.

Ormsby Street to showcase CreditHQ at SXSW

We’re very excited to announce that we’ve been chosen as one of the  UKTI’s 33 Tech Ambassadors  (https://www.events.ukti.gov.uk/sxsw-2016-12/) to go to South by South West in Austin this week to showcase CreditHQ at SXSW Interactive (http://www.sxsw.com/interactive).

SXSW

As we move closer to a US launch, this offers us a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about CreditHQ to a huge audience! Thanks again to the UKTI for this opportunity. 

We’ll be at the Great Britain House demoing CreditHQ on Saturday 12 March from 12pm onwards – come say hi! 

Location: Great Britain House @ Wanderlust Yoga Studio – 206 East 4th Street, Austin, TX 78701 

CreditHQ at SXSW!

We’re thrilled to announce that CreditHQ have been chosen to be one of the 46 companies picked by the UKTI as part of their UK EXPO at the South by Southwest festival which kicks off tomorrow in Austin, Texas.

sxsw

If you’re in Austin this week, and want to learn more about how CreditHQ can help your small business, pop along to the Austin Convention Centre and find us at the UK Expo on Sunday morning from 10am-2pm (CDT).

We look forward to seeing you there!