What a Fintech Startup Can Teach Us About Customer Service

ANNA Money launched in September 2018 to bring together business banking, financial admin services and some disruptive brand fun. Here are the lessons so far.

anna money

Virtual assistance will save us all : 

Who has the time to do anything anymore? No wonder the virtual assistant sector is booming. Quick decisions and tasks sorted for you remotely in the background, saving time and stress – who doesn’t want that? At ANNA Money we use a combination of humans and AI to deliver our app-based admin assistant service. Sometimes this works brilliantly, sometimes things break. We’re new to the market and investing a lot of man and woman power to work out product bumps. No matter.

The important discovery is that people love a bit of this ‘automagic’ – where the customer stays in control but is relieved of boring tasks. You can provide this quality of service for a solo client or 50 customers if you can nail the timing and context driving a specific, recurring need. If you’re freelance, it could be worth teaming with others to group a unique set of specialities and service. Either way, think about: balancing an automatic level of service that’s unseen, with your client’s desire-to-know ‘how’ things are being done, and if they’re being done ‘well enough’. How many updates do they need? When do they need them? What can you deliver that they had no idea they wanted? Even better – what can only come from you?

Fintech, retail, childcare, coffee shop – trust and likeability trumps everything : 

It’s not about product. Or timing. In the new age of transparency, that in the fintech industry has been championed by banks like Monzo, and in the retail space by Leon and The Ordinary, trust and likeability is your only currency. This means keeping it real and staying visible when things get tricky. Don’t be afraid to say sorry if you need to, for one thing. Mistakes are a normal part of growth and customers will forgive you if you follow through on service promises. As with any relationship: say what you’re going to do, when you’re going to do it, and stick to it. This simple strategy does not fail.

Likeability is harder to define. It’s charisma, chutzpah, and in our case, it’s a miaowing debit card. Ridiculous, yes. Liked? Over 2,000 grown ups are going about the daily business making cat noises while they bank. We wanted to make the emotionality of the ANNA brand explicit, and give customers ‘permission’ to have fun. This makes its way inside the traditional model of customer service, or customer experience (CX), as we call it now. Not overtly. But if the right conversation happens, and a hungry customer is mid-chat with ANNA and wants to find a restaurant, our CX team can and have found suggestions of where to go. We’re friendly. We listen.

ANNA miaow debit card

Our top tip for small companies or freelancers is to be yourself. Fancy branding isn’t a requirement – a design identity will emerge as you find your feet. Just figure out what you stand for. And how your company will ‘feel’ when it lands inside the customer’s world. Will it uplift? Galvanise a desire? Decide what the most appealing side of your business is and make that heard.  

Philosophy, handmade tech, your experiment lab :

We have a philosophy around ‘brilliant basics’. It goes something like: our customer service and product will never be 100% perfect, but our effort to get things right is always at full power. What’s your approach? Not sure yet? You’re welcome to borrow ours.  

When you need to experiment with product and service offers, things get hairy. What’s a brilliant basic one day can be outdated in a week’s time. At least in fintech, but increasingly in other sectors too. We used a Google Sheet and a piece of A4 instructions stuck to the wall of our CX office to prototype our invoicing service (we create and manage invoices for customers). Crude, but it worked. We’re now opening up another world of admin and experimenting with how we deliver tax and VAT calculations. There’s a crop of people in the company who’ve become baby accountants care of the ANNA development lab. We fail a lot before we succeed, but our effort doesn’t flag.

This custard-pie-in-the-face mentality gets results. You look messy for a moment, but it passes, and business has sprung to the next stage. Forget that 100-page plan, who are actually engaging with your business right now? Find a need at the heart of this audience and create an offer for them – make it by hand if necessary, limited by time or supply to make it doable. Get out there. See what bites.  

ANNA money

Social media can fast-track fantastic customer service :

You don’t need deep pockets to create a standout customer experience. Just be super-responsive on social media and show your colours. Our own mission is to support startups, small businesses and freelancers, but the core message to give any client is: we’re on your side!

We launched 24/7 in-app customer service because that’s the right fit for the product – all very nice if you can afford it. Though we’ve learned that customers love getting service through Facebook just as much. So don’t prop yourself up on coffee all night. Be reliably and regularly available instead. Answer questions. Show how you’re solving individual problems – transparency, transparency, transparency. And have a positive point of view to contribute to conversations.   

Our Facebook group, Early Birds, is effectively now part of the ANNA experiment lab too. We field ideas without wasting money on developing things people don’t want. We receive rich feedback that includes all sorts of ways to upgrade our business. Why not start your first customer workshop, panel or survey on Facebook?

Interested in the ANNA Money business account and admin services? Go to the ANNA money website to get free access for 3 months

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