Ubiquity: Tell me more about empathy. How do you operationalize something like that?
MG: Empathy is huge for us, and we communicate that from day one. Fortunately, the people we work with at Ubiquity have experience with analogous products and similar demographics. And so early on in our planning, we talked about the importance of empathy in our customer experience. It starts with hiring the right type of people internally and at Ubiquity, and then how they’re trained.
When it comes to one thing you want to prioritize—in our case, empathy—there’s always that converse. What are you giving up a little bit to do that? We’ve been clear that handle time or other typical call center metrics aren’t as important to us. We’re not saying we’re indifferent to them, but empathy comes first, and the quality of your interactions should come first. We want the customers walking away feeling confident with their experience, our product, as well as the people they’re talking to.
One way to operationalize this is identifying things that might get in the way of your agents actually solving customer problems. Sometimes the leadership can introduce things that actually inhibit agents from solving problems quickly and with empathy.
One other thing we’re doing to really underscore our ability to relate to our customers from a CX perspective is to supplement the offshore Ubiquity team with an internal CX team with lived experiences that look like our customers’ experiences. Some of our agents have experience on food stamps or Disability or Social Security benefits, or as parents who receive benefits; they know what our customers are going through.
Ubiquity: What is the biggest challenge in operationalizing empathy?
MG: I listen to a lot of calls, and there’s redundancy in the call type and that can be a challenge for agents because they’ve answered someone’s question about the timing of their deposit a thousand times already. And so the risk really is how do you make the agent feel like this is their first time answering that question for the customer? The challenge is giving the agents a good work experience, which Ubiquity helps us to do. Supporting anything that the agents need, anything that will help their engagement—whether it’s a pizza party or recognition. It’s a very difficult job, and agents need to be happy with their environment.
Ubiquity: You talked about hiring people who have experience with government benefits. Do they share their experiences with the other agents; does their knowledge inform training?
MG: Exactly, yes. So our hope is that this group is gonna be very helpful for the Ubiquity team because they have life experience with the app and life experience similar to our user base. They know some things I don’t even know. Every single one of our calls is recorded, and we use that for training. We focus a lot on call listening. And we think we’re going to get some new types of sample calls coming from this internal team.
Differentiating your fintech business
Ubiquity: Let’s shift gears a little bit to the wider industry. Many tech and fintech companies focus on higher income individuals, but there is a long prepaid tradition focused on serving underserved consumers. How is Propel different?
MG: We’re not in the business of selling a debit product. We’re in the business of solving problems for low-income Americans. We have a diversity of offerings, one of which is a debit product. We have a Benefits Hub, which is an education center for benefits. We have a job board. We have partnerships with mobile phone companies to get discount deals on cell phone plans that are subsidized by the government. And then we help users manage their food stamp benefits. Our plan is to continue expanding our offerings in addition to the debit product. We’re more of a supermarket, if you will, for tech-related and financial-related needs for this population.
Ubiquity: How does technology play into your strategy for delivering great CX?
MG: We’re pretty focused on insights and identifying problems that help us understand what’s happening with our users and what their needs are. So even on CX, we’re over-indexing our investments on tools that help us gain insight. For example, we recently deployed Stella, which is a platform for surveying customers. We’re using it now for our QA process. It’s really helped us gain insights for the product team and understand where we can do better on CX.
We went there as opposed to investing in some strategy to deflect phone calls or enhance self-service. That’s really not a priority for us right now. We want to learn about our customers. Often CX investments are about ‘How do I reduce my manual labor?’ ‘How do I reduce calls or make them more efficient?”
I’m not interested in that. I want customers to call us even though it’s less efficient. We’re here to serve this population and strengthen our relationship with them. And I’m proud of the agents we have; I want these agents to interact with users because those users will have better engagement. We definitely notice a correlation between frequent contacts with the CX team and using our product.
Doing more with data
Ubiquity: You’re dealing with a lot of data. How do you pull out the actionable insights?
MG: There are two components of getting insights from CX. One is the macro; you have to create well-organized reason codes. We’ve overhauled our reason codes a couple of times, so we’re being as precise as possible about understanding the trends for different core reasons customers call us. That’s helpful for understanding frequency and directionality, but I don’t think anything quite replaces listening to actual calls. You get to the deeper reasons of why they’re asking a question. You find out, for example, their card didn’t arrive or there are issues with the mailers, and then that insight allows me to go to the card manufacturer to troubleshoot. Call listening is better at getting to the net root cause for customer issues.
Ubiquity: How much time do you spend listening to calls?
MG: Ubiquity has a QA team, and we have a QA team. In addition to the work those teams do, we probably have about four hours of meetings a week in which we’re doing call listening.
Ubiquity: Can you give some examples of what you’ve learned from those calls?
MG: I’ve learned that our particular user base values support interactions as part of the product and service offering. They value talking to a human and feel reassured that when they call, someone picks up. It’s not just a robot every time; and that’s, in a way, part of the product.
We don’t want to avoid contacts. It can be expensive. But we’re playing the long game, so we’re okay with it. It’s an investment. A lot of tech companies just want to solve everything through tech. And I’m not saying that Propel doesn’t, but we’re a little more user-focused as opposed to just saying, “Hey, no matter what the issue is, we want to come up with an engineering solution for it.” We are a tech company, but we’re not gonna do tech for tech’s sake. We’re going to solve problems for customers in whatever way is best.