Beyond Buzzwords: Making Innovation Work For Customers

We have entered a period of unprecedented industry disruption as digital transformation sweeps across just about every sector, changing the rules on how businesses engage with their customers and on what services they deliver.

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Steve Jobs was fond of reminding people that Henry Ford's reputed response to what customers were looking for was simple: "faster horses." Jobs was making the point that the focus group-led approach to designing products isn't always the best way to achieve true innovation; sometimes people just don't know what they want until they see it.


It's hard to argue with Jobs' track record on delivering products that customers ended up wanting –very much– but his views on customer feedback have arguably been a little over-egged. While few products have the cultural impact of the iPhone, the fact is we don't lack innovation in the world today– but we do lack understanding of customers' needs.

We have entered a period of unprecedented industry disruption as digital transformation sweeps across just about every sector, changing the rules on how businesses engage with their customers and on what services they deliver. Nowhere is that more true than in financial services, where a range of companies are seeking to disrupt the market through the application of new technologies– fintech.

Companies in the fintech space are looking to take market share away from established financial services players by offering services and solutions that enhance the customer experience. Whether this means making services faster, more convenient, more economical, available outside traditional banking channels, or personalized in some way, the key criteria that should define a successful fintech offering is its impact on the customer– if it doesn't benefit customers in some way, why would they use it?

Unfortunately, too many companies in the fintech space are too busy jumping on the latest industry bandwagon to pay attention to that last part. Many fintech companies are keen to talk about how they are leveraging technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning –or whatever the latest buzzword is– without presenting a compelling case for why customers should care. While older financial services companies are perceived as being unable to adapt new technologies quickly enough, or of being resistant to change, in fact the sector has a proven history of technology adoption. From ATM machines and PIN numbers, through to online bill payment and mobile banking, the banking sector has deployed technology to enhance the consumer experience, streamline operations, and reduce costs.

Of course, many customers –be they consumers, commercial customers, or financial services companies looking for new solutions themselves– will struggle to understand what benefits they can derive from AI, or blockchain, or the internet of things.

But then, did many of Ford's customers know a lot about how internal combustion engines worked? Equally, it's unlikely that many people in the 1960s said they wanted to be able to go to a machine on a wall and take money out via a secure card, but plenty would have wanted to be able to access their savings outside banking hours and near where they happened to be. With Gartner estimating that 89% of all companies expect to compete primarily on customer experience, then fintechs can't simply rely on superior technology– they have to make their advantages count. Fintechs are also competing with traditional financial institutions that have built up positions of trust through decades in the market; providing superior customer experience is a way of differentiating a company in the market and making it more attractive to new customers.

For Trriple, we have focused on listening to customer needs, keeping abreast of key trends in the market, and identifying areas where we can make a positive impact and differentiate ourselves. In the UAE market, we saw that while around three-quarter of the population were active mobile internet users, less than a third used mobile banking services, meaning there was room for more services.

Further, we saw that vast segments of the population are still reliant on cash as a primary payment method, with hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers here unable to access traditional banking solutions, or needing to spend significant periods of time to complete transactions. Seeing this need in the market, we decided to deliver an application that can answer the needs of unbanked or underbanked customers, and we launched our innovative mWallet.

Today, we are adding different services and options to the mWallet, as we listen to continuous user feedback, and look at how we can address it. We are working to add partners, and provide offerings such as bill payment for utilities and other services. Our goal is to be the most holistic solution possible, and to meet every single user need. We may not be able to provide our customers with faster horses– but if somebody else ever comes up with them, we aim to help our customers buy them with the mWallet.

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