If you had to guess how a sophisticated financial services company like Capital One developed its products, you very well might picture a genius product team behind locked doors wrestling with complicated algorithms. But the reality of how Capital One comes up with products like Spark Pay — a card reader and app that allows small businesses to accept mobile payments, track sales, and offer special deals to loyal customers — is far more personal and collaborative.
“Product strategy is always at the core of the sales and marketing plans” – Wuhrer
Indeed, Capital One’s product teams are engaged in a continual conversation with the company’s customers to ensure that new products solve real problems.
“The best research is to visit the merchants,” says Chris Wuhrer, senior director of digital product management at Capital One. “Customer-driven product development is the singular most effective approach to understanding real business needs. True product developers have to be client-centric or they will inevitably fail.” Nor is it the duty of the product teams alone to gauge customer needs. The Capital One sales associates who interact on a daily basis with customers also play an important role in both identifying new opportunities and also evaluating existing products. Such information can lead to new products such as the Capital One Wallet app, which allows cardholders to monitor purchases and rewards straight from their phones.
“These direct interactions with our sales and service groups fulfill multiple purposes from concept ideation and prioritization to constant monitoring of the existing services portfolio,” says Wuhrer. “Much like the eyes and ears of the product organization.”
After launching products like Capital One Wallet or Spark Pay, Capital One also uses a Net Promoter Score, which measures the likelihood that a client would recommend the product to a friend or colleague. This is done both to analyze how well customer needs are being met and to inspire innovation. “The Net Promoter Score is configured to make achieving a positive score more difficult, and constantly motivates the product team to deliver an intuitive and innovative solution.”
It’s instructive that Capital One’s product strategy precedes the formulation of marketing and sales strategy — ensuring customer needs remain central to all that the company does. Because the needs of customers change so often, Capital One reviews its product strategy every six to eight weeks. Importantly, Wuhrer notes that this review is always a collaborative effort, involving marketing, sales, and research and development. And part of the discussion is how they can align their collective work in order to further the overall corporate vision. This means involving business analysts and individual product owners who can provide insight and data about the economics of a new product — a process that is continued after a new product is launched.
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