Want to build better customer solutions? Ask better questions

 Ewan Silver photo
Ewan Silver CTO
3min read

Asking the wrong questions will only ever lead to the wrong solutions. That’s why we lean into Jobs to be Done at 11:FS. It’s based on the notion that there’s no use in asking what the customer wants, because they don’t actually know.

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You need to figure out what their Jobs to be Done are - their desired state. From there you can craft unique solutions to help them achieve that state. The secret to getting there is knowing what questions to ask.

Not knowing the right questions to ask is a key contributor to banks being in the trouble they’re in. We bang this drum loud and often, so I won’t waste time repeating what you already know. But these institutions are too old-fashioned. Their processes are archaic and their infrastructure is rigid. In an effort to compete with a surge of fintech rivals, they keep adding more and more products and services. Meanwhile, the customer is getting fed up. People don’t want what the banks are selling - they want what they can provide, without all the bells and whistles. The new kids on the block - neobanks and, increasingly, non-FS companies - know this.

People don’t want what the banks are selling - they want what they can provide, without all the bells and whistles.

The Sapir-Worfe hypothesis

Anthropologists Edward Sapir and his pupil Benjamin Lee Whorf, created the hypothesis that language influences thought rather than the other way around. It suggests that the structure of a language impacts the speaker’s worldview, and therefore your perceptions are a product of (or at least influenced by) your spoken language.

Bare with me on this one - what if the language you speak is dominated by regulation and core banking architecture? And what if the language you speak is structured around solving customer problems, and purpose-built tech? In other words, what if you can offer bespoke solutions to individual problems?

I see this play out time and time again…

The makeup of nonbanks and neobanks - be they engineers, product teams, tech strategists, experience designers, web-born founders, or digital-first thinkers - approach the problem from a different angle. They ask different questions. What they lack in bank level regulation knowledge, they make up for in their individuality and common aim: to build businesses, solve customer problems, and do it quickly.

language influences thought rather than the other way around

They know compliance and regulation is important, but regulators are not their priority. Their business is. Their customers are. They draw on their respective experiences to create something meaningful. If they see a solution they like, they don’t ask whether their compliance team can get a demo. And the product team. And the digital innovation team. They ask what the price is and how quickly they can get it. They look for software that serves a purpose and piece it together. They have multiple ways of saying something.

The background of the people you put in charge of problem solving really matters. The UK put a VC in charge of its vaccination roll-out, the EU put politicians in charge. The success of their roll-outs reflected the angle and background of those groups. But moving swiftly away from politics, we’ve seen an explosion of agile, scalable fintech companies built on APIs and decentralised tools over the last 10 years.

My unfiltered opinion

Everywhere you look, rival players are chipping away at the fabric of banking. These upstarts have no respect for the rules, nor even the game. Their ledgers aren’t bound in leather, but sit above us in the Cloud. Where the monoliths of yesteryear are hung up on their own importance, the new mavericks are focused squarely on the customer. They’re asking different questions, getting different answers and - yep, you guessed it - building different solutions.

 Ewan Silver
About the author

Ewan Silver

Ewan leads 11:FS Foundry engineering and delivery teams. He led and worked with the teams that built Mettle, Nutmeg, Starling, Monzo and Betfair.