The AltFi view on customer service: Stay humble fintech

By AltFi on Monday 12 April 2021

Digital Banking

Losing sight of its humble beginnings could be fintech's biggest downfall.

The AltFi view on customer service: Stay humble fintech
Image source: AltFi.

Weekly Leading Article

People often joke about not forgetting the little people, are fintechs starting to? 

A successful consumer-facing fintech needs a great product and an enraptured audience to succeed in the most crucial stage: scaling. 

For years the industry has experienced exponential growth, and that doesn’t look to be slowing any time soon, but, what balancing growth and good customer service is a tricky business.

It’s easy to forget that many of fintech’s founding principles were born out of the 2007 financial crisis, as an entrenched and archaic financial system truly lost touch with the ‘little people’ and anger against banks in particular grew. 

In response, fintech was a way to disrupt the ‘old way’ of doing things, champion the consumer, offer excellent customer service and build trust.

Take Monzo, back in 2015 when it pioneered one-to-one customer support through a chat window in its app and made card freezing possible—both features that nearly all banks have since adopted (copied).

Over a decade later, fintechs today are synonymous with some of the biggest and most well-known firms in the financial sector.

NatWest may have around 7.5m personal account holders on its books, but Revolut just surpassed 15m customers. Admittedly, most users don’t tend to hold as much money in their Revolut accounts, but still, it isn’t bad for a startup nearly six decades younger than its incumbent competitor.

But as fintechs have grown and scaled, the high-touch customer service which the sector was once known for, is starting to slip. Not universally, or beyond rival incumbents but nonetheless, below expectations.

Ignored complaints on social media, accusations of customer accounts being locked, and standoff-ish responses to various posts are all too easy to see.

Some of these are par for the course when scaling and dealing with far larger customer numbers, in turn attracting the attention of fraudsters and regulators.

But, there are still shining examples.

In an impressively transparent move, Jamie Campbell, CEO and co-founder of proptech Fronted, wrote a post about his fintech’s first negative review.

The heartfelt and earnest blog post described the negative review as “the thing that all founders dread.” 

Campbell laid out what he and his team took for granted and also what they learnt from the experience.

At a time when it can seem like some of the giants of our industry have lost sight of the tremendous customer service that got them to the top, it’s a crucial slice of humble pie and a reminder of why customers (and journalists) love this industry.

The AltFi Leader is a new weekly view for 2021 from our editorial team. We’d love to hear your ideas, thoughts, feedback and constructive criticism: editorial@altfi.com.

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