Abhijit Chaudhary is Chief Product Officer at Green Dot Corporation, a financial technology and registered bank holding company whose technology platform enables it to build products and features that transform the way consumers and businesses manage and move money, making financial empowerment more accessible for all.
We sat down with Abhijit to get his thoughts on how a company can provide value to unique sets of customers. Abhijit discussed balancing business and customer needs and the importance of keeping the corporate mission front-and-center when weighing product decisions.
That’s an excellent question and I’ll give you an example of how we take a platform approach to serving our stakeholders.
The customers we serve vary considerably – the needs of a small business owner are quite different from those of a low-income earner or a gig worker. But ultimately, tools or features that we develop for one customer set can be useful and valuable for others, and a platform approach allows us to build new features efficiently and scale them for multiple groups.
For example, if we build a rewards feature on our platform for a particular partner, we have an opportunity to then look at our different lines of business and offer that feature across the board to all our stakeholders. As head of product, I have to not only understand the needs of B2B customers, but also their end users, our B2C customers, and more to effectively service everyone on our platform.
Product management has evolved a lot in the more than two decades I’ve been working in financial services. A product manager’s role used to be very laborious, involving hours and hours of research, time spent writing massive product requirements documents, and more.
The introduction of the agile methodology to product development was like a watershed moment in our space, and it freed up a lot of time for engineers and product management folks.
Also, until very recently, product management was still part of marketing or engineering in many organizations. That can make product management goals very specific to that respective domain. Nowadays, product management takes a very, very big seat at the table and drives prioritization and enterprise strategy. At Green Dot, our product team owns product prioritization, long-term strategy, and investment for all lines of business.
Absolutely. I believe agile allows product managers to innovate more effectively and affords us the opportunity to raise more questions and deliver a better product.
Processes and best practices are continually evolving. There was a time when Six Sigma was the standard, and even now I believe that with agile, there are more nuanced versions coming out. By being open to reevaluating our product development process, we are always able to innovate on the fly.
We always look at any problem through three different lenses:
We’ve realized that customer needs closely follow business needs, but sometimes they follow a normal course or cycle, and sometimes they have seasonality.
For example, the first three months of the year is tax season, and our customer needs are very seasonally-driven during this time. Then, in the last three months of the year, customer needs are very holiday season-driven.
During the holiday season, for example, what is the best way customers can utilize our tools to make their lives easier? How can we help ensure they don’t go into debt? How can we help ensure their credit utilization is being managed appropriately? Understanding these cycles, we can predict needs based on seasonality and ensure we’re set up to best serve our customers during these times.
We start preparing for the seasonality six months in advance to ensure that we are ahead of our customer’s needs. Customer experience plays a very big part in everything we do. We have a fantastic set of teams and analytical resources to help us do that. They’re able to measure every single event and optimize interactions with our customers based on those events.
For example, it is so important to our customers to get an IRS payment on time after filing taxes. It is such a sensitive moment for our customers and we want to do everything we can to ensure we’re providing them with timely, useful information and resources.
Because we serve a huge population of financially vulnerable customers, it is even more important that we remind them of major events months in advance, particularly leading up to these seasonal events like tax filings or the holiday season. We are proactive in educating our customers as to how they can make the best use of the different features we offer.
No one customer is the same. In a product management process, we try to create at least six or seven different types of scenarios for different messaging types and do a lot of testing and learning with our customers. We look across our audiences in a very varied way — no one message is delivered to a single type of customer.
We do a tremendous amount of customer service evaluation with our customers on a weekly basis to understand what we can do better. For example, we use analytics to understand their perception of a message and how they are reacting to it, and we use these real-time events to enhance messaging to positively influence our customers. That’s how we can control all the minor factors that go into not only servicing a product, but also ensuring that we are able to continuously create better products and features for our customers.
I’d say it’s a mix of both. Essentially, it comes down to the strategy that drives our roadmap. Is it driven by requests from customers or is it driven by internal innovation? We involve customer input and feedback at all levels when it comes to our product development lifecycle. We use a version of the PDLC lifecycle.
To give all people the power to bank seamlessly, affordably, and with confidence. With anything we do, we ask “Is this holding true to our mission?” We also have a very formal process where we put our ideas through an ideation session, similar to “stress testing.”
We try to put ideas through a maturity cycle to find out if the intention really is to help customers. Is it creating a new revenue opportunity? Does it fit the enterprise vision? Once the idea has been completely vetted, a product manager works with an executive to champion that idea and then puts it through the different stages of the product development cycle prior to launch.
Our flagship digital bank for consumers, GO2bank, is a result of this design process. We’ve added millions of customers on this product since it launched in 2021.
We spent months talking to our customers to understand what was important to them. Their top need was access to cash because the majority of our customers live paycheck-to-paycheck. Building and learning about credit was vital to them too. We looked at all their feedback holistically and considered how we could build a product around their needs. That sparked the idea for GO2bank, and after months of user testing, we launched the product.
For the first time, we were able to create a banking product with debit features as well as credit-building functionality. This allowed customers to build credit and access other financial services in one ecosystem. As mentioned previously, we continue to modify and add to the product based on customer engagement to ensure we are addressing our customer’s changing needs.
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