Why you shouldn’t ask your customers what they want?!



It has been assumed that most companies, when crafting product portfolios, seek to understand customers’ needs first and then fine-tune product’ parameters so they’re best suited to answer these needs.
At INCAT, we believe that to be successful in today’s finance world, you need to take this approach two steps further…

Going two steps further…

1) Step one is focusing on customers’ stories rather than just their needs.
2) Step two is to jump into the story at the very moment it starts unfolding.

But what exactly do we mean by customers’ stories and how focusing on them can help you achieve business success?

Let’s start with an example.

Imagine a well-off individual who’s in the market for an expensive piece of electronics – say, a pricey TV.  He or she may have a sufficient amount on a current account or credit card, but deducting the full price straight away would mean that the account would be swept clean for the rest of the month.

This, of course, calls for some sort of short-term financing: a loan, buy-now-pay-later or a similar product. If you have a solid grasp of customers’ needs and preferences, you’ll be able to tell which product would be best suited to their needs, and which of its optimal parameters and benefits to highlight.

Let’s take another case: a foreign vacation. All the excitement of holiday making – traveling, sightseeing, visiting tourist attractions, dining out, partying – inevitably tend to be followed (or sometimes preceded, e.g. booking a hotel) by a rather mundane string of transactions. These often include currency exchange, which can lead to a sobering realization of how costly it can be to just use your ordinary Visa or Mastercard.

Again, when you know your customers’ preferences, you should be able to present a product your customer perceives as optimal: quick currency exchange, a multi-currency payment card or a currency account.

There are two challenges, though.

First, although such a needs-based approach – or a customer-centric approach – tends to be more and more effective as your understanding of customers’ needs grows, it still has its limits. It doesn’t facilitate innovation, as it tends to keep you within the realm of products that customers already know.

This is a major drawback in a world that is being reshaped, and sometimes even revolutionized, by new products emerging on virtually a daily basis. Just think about how all the online currency exchange services have been made basically redundant with the emergence of Revolut.

Therefore, we believe that the customer-centric approach needs to be reimagined as a customer story-centric approach.


Introducing BOS’ customer story-centric approach

It’s tempting to think that customers need specific financial products in certain situations. It seems to be a very convincing point of view, since even customers themselves tend to adopt a product-oriented perspective. Buying a house? I need a mortgage. Buying a car? I need leasing and insurance – or maybe a deposit and insurance, if I choose to save up and finance the purchase myself. Going abroad on a regular basis? I need a multi-currency card. Getting a new TV? I need an installment loan.

But the truth is, customers don’t really need these financial products – they just use them to realize their true needs.

These stories can be simple or quite elaborate. Buying a TV is the former: it’s just making the purchase and paying for it in a way that doesn’t distress the monthly budget. Going abroad for a vacation? While a vacation might be an amazing adventure and make a great story that takes hours to tell, its financial aspect boils down to spending money and exchanging currency in the process, preferably quickly, hassle-free, and inexpensively.

Did you notice how we’re not talking about specific products here? This is deliberate. A product-free perspective lets you see more clearly what the core of the story is.

On the other hand, buying a car or house is usually a complex endeavor, with its stages interdependent on each other and more than one potential path from start to finish. In such cases, it can be virtually impossible to avoid bringing up specific products, because they are sometimes rigidly tied to a given process. Nevertheless, you should still be trying to sketch out the core story.

Once you’ve got it done, you can begin picking specific products – your own and third parties’ – to match it. The less they affect the underlying customer story and the more seamlessly they fit into it, the better.

Remember, your customers don’t really want to use your products. They only need them to have a great time on holidays, get a huge screen for their home cinema or drive a new, safe, eco-friendly car. The less time is needed to spend with your products, the less effort these products require and cost, and the more transparent they are – the better.

And the more likely it gets they’ll… grow to love using your products.

Your customers don’t really want to use your products. They only need them to have a great time on holidays, get a huge screen for their home cinema or drive a new, safe, eco-friendly car.


Real-time marketing turns into real-time banking

Of course, you might say that this is an approach that the financial sector is already starting to embrace. Even some of the biggest banks are aiming to make their products as “light” as possible, i.e. effortless to use and readily available via mobile apps with just a few taps.

They’re also getting better and better at targeting their customers and presenting them with products they likely need. If banks notice their customers are making frequent card transactions abroad, they offer them a multi-currency card or a currency account. Once the total amount on the monthly credit card statement reaches a certain level, they suggest paying it back in installments.

And this brings us to the second challenge we mentioned earlier.

By its very nature, customer profiling takes time. Also, it’s usually processed in separate systems, such as CRMs or dedicated analytical software. As a result, banks are usually weeks or at least days behind their customers.

This, however, is not the case with BOS. With BOS, you can jump into the customer’s story at the exact moment it is starting to unfold.

This is possible thanks to BOS’ event-driven architecture, which means that:

  • every action taken by the customer is an event
  • events are processed in real-time
  • every event may trigger a system action, such as generating a transaction or sending a message to the customer (or other recipient).

With BOS, you can jump into the customer’s story at the exact moment it is starting to unfold.

In other words, every card transaction, every bank transfer (initiated or received by the customer), and every loan application submitted is an event – and so on. Also, every system-originated activity, such as charging a fee or generating a monthly statement, is an event.

And that’s not all, as events reach beyond financials: every time a mobile app is open also constitutes an event. So does logging in to your online banking system.

-> Your customer has just paid over $2000 in a consumer electronic store with your card? Ask them straight away if they want to split it into installments, or automatically “re-route” the amount to your buy-now-pay-later product.

-> It’s your customer’s third day abroad and their currency account is running low? Send a display notification suggesting currency exchange – or even process one automatically if the customer has chosen such an option earlier.

A specialized BOS module – the Event Orchestrator – lets your system administrators set up triggers and relations between events and create scenarios – such as the ones mentioned above or more – complex ones. Their number and level of sophistication depends solely on you. You can rely on the event definition supplied with the system, or create your own. Event Orchestrator is intuitive to use and ergonomically designed, so setting up scenarios is fast and requires only basic training.

The only limitation is the innovative spirit of your company, as well as its ability to spot emerging opportunities and its understanding of customer needs.

Or should we say: stories.


Have thought about this subject? Contact the author: zdzislaw.grochowicz@incat.com.pl



Zdzisław Grochowicz is the Head of Business Development at INCAT. Zdzisław has been involved in the banking and financial sector for almost 30 years. Previously, he worked for Comparex Ltd. For many years he was also associated with the Sygnity Group – where he played numerous roles.
Zdzisław Grochowicz graduated in Electrical Engineering at the Szczecin University of Technology.

Email: zdzislaw.grochowicz@incat.com.pl

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