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How Float used ‘customer obsession’ to build the right products

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Rob Khazzam, co-founder and CEO of the Canadian fintech company, enters the BBC’s Executive Lounge to talk about how a laser-focus on customers breeds the innovation clients truly need.

How Float used 'customer obsession' to build the right products
How Float used ‘customer obsession’ to build the right products

The first step in figuring out what customers need? Putting yourself in their shoes. It wasn’t hard for Rob Khazzam – he’d experienced the problem he needed to solve first-hand.

Before founding Float, which offers expense software and corporate spending cards, Khazzam served as Uber’s general manager, first across Central Europe, then in Canada. Even at one of the largest tech companies in the world, he still spent hundreds of thousands of dollars out of his own wallet on corporate purchases, then struggled get reimbursed quickly.

After Uber, Khazzam set out to address that problem directly, focusing on small- and medium-sized firms, who struggle with even fewer resources. Beyond the pain points even executives experience with expenses, Canadian fintech Float set out how build the right product that also considered the unique concerns of small firms: high interest payments on loans, persistent inflation and tight margins.

“We’ve been looking at it and going, ‘what is something we can do that will move the needle for the market, and our customers, in a time of need?'” he tells the BBC. The answer, says Khazzam, was getting “obsessed” with data and customer feedback to build what the market truly needed.

What does it mean to be ‘customer obsessed’?

We always start with the customer perspective and work backwards to create the best possible experience for them. It also means going the extra mile – for example, our average support-response time is less than a minute, and available over chat, phone and email. 

We could have easily set a lower bar if we wanted to be on par with other financial institutions, but that is not a great customer experience. 

Our customer obsession means we all spend a lot of time actually talking to customers, and thinking about what would be not just a better experience, but also a ten-times better experience. At Float, it started with the idea of “push a button, get a card” – the simplest card issuance experience in Canada.

To create our new Float Yield product, we looked at the market and saw Canadian small-and medium enterprises are underserved. You’re seeing more and more businesses strapped for cash, and finding it harder to get credit and loans. We’ve had some new fintechs and companies trying to serve that small and medium-sized market pull out, or stop offering products.

So, we were really, really focused on delivering value to customers. Earning 4% interest on a balance, with no strings attached, is – we think – a really great benefit at a time when every customer is trying to make their dollars go further.

How does the data you have on your customers translate into Float’s offerings?

We pretty rigorously test customer satisfaction. Our support team and product team receive quite a bit of data each month on whether we’re meeting customer satisfaction and response times. 

For our product team, we look at how customers are spending. We see some interesting trends, like a 30% increase in travel spending between March 1 and October 31. That tells us companies are investing more in in-person interactions. We’re seeing a 75% increase in advertising spending over the same timeframe. That data helps inform what we do, from a product perspective.

Our customers, last year, talked a lot about how we could improve receipt collection. They were burning a lot of time collecting receipts from customers or their employees, and they were worried about non-compliance. Finance teams were spending a lot of time chasing their employees. So, we built functionality to help with that.

How Float used 'customer obsession' to build the right products
How Float used ‘customer obsession’ to build the right products

What has been your biggest personal win this year?

I really think that the biggest success we’ve had as a team, and I’ve had as a leader, over the past couple of years has been putting together a team that comes from many different backgrounds.

We have people at Float that come from private equity firms, from Shopify, from Uber and really great business-to-consumer and business-to-business firms in the US. We’re trying to build an experience for Canadian companies that is in line with the experiences of American companies and global businesses that have access to this world-class innovation.

The most important ingredient for building the vision and strategy of the business is having people that build amazing products. Do you have designers that build products that are considered intuitive and delightful and modern? If you look at the financial-services industry today, one of the critiques we hear from customers is that it’s not friendly. For us, that means we bring in great product innovators, designers and engineers.

Plus, if you reach out to our support team, you will get a response from a live person in a minute. Those are the things that I’m proud of – finding those people, and attracting them from really strong businesses.

It doesn’t look like business is going to get much easier for small and medium-sized enterprises in future. How do you ensure your customers stay with you long-term?

Being relentlessly customer obsessed is, ultimately, what will help us get there. We exist solely to serve our customers. There is no business if we don’t serve our customers better than anyone else in the market. 

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