The Payments bias
Ronald te Velde and Eppo Heemstra
Connective Payments, December 2021
The Payments bias
How VPC helps to uncover the client’s real needs
Wicked strategic choices
At Connective Payments we often work with clients for whom “Payments” is primarily a cork on which other products and services float. In turn for their customers, the payment products simply have to work, like electricity from the socket and water from the tap. But in order to comply with legislation and regulations and to keep up with the many technological and innovative developments in the payments industry, a lot of money and attention is needed. These clients often face difficult strategic choices. To give an example: should we continue as before and ensure that our portfolio of payment solutions remains compliant in any case? Or should we accelerate and ensure that we can surprise our customers with innovative payment solutions? Such choices are complex, because every choice entails new choices and uncertainties.
The Payments Bias
A common misconception is to think that only Payments expertise is enough to make such choices. To be clear, at Connective Payments we have an abundance of Payments expertise. And ultimately it is nice for the client if a consultant really understands Payments and knows what an interchange fee, a switch, a PAN or “tokenisation” is. And also which trusted partners are best in class to realise such solutions. So that his strategic advice does not get stuck in a vacuum, but can be implemented technically and operationally. Indeed it is very handy, a professional who has a solution ready quickly and efficiently.
But with complex strategic challenges, our client’s focus on Payments can sometimes obstruct the view of reality. We like to call this the “Payments bias”. For our client’s customers, his payment problem is often secondary. They often experience a broader problem in their business operations. It is up to us to bring this to the surface together with the client and to find out for which problem a solution is actually required.
To explore this, we have a lot of experience with a proven methodology called “Value Proposition Canvas” (VPC). VPC is closely associated with “Design Thinking”, about which we previously published. What makes VPC such a suitable method for making strategic choices?
Design Thinking and VPC
First back to Design Thinking. This is a method for finding solutions to a problem in a structured way, by alternately zooming in and out. This is done in four steps (1):
In this phase we investigate the playing field as broadly as possible. By talking to and observing (current and former) customers, prospects, users and other stakeholders, we map out the problem together with the client. The “discover” phase answers questions such as: how do the various customer journeys proceed, what values, vision and needs do the various stakeholders have, what problems do they experience and how would they actually like it. Many companies assume that their employees already have that knowledge… only to find out that they don’t.
In this phase, the insights from the first phase are collected and subsumed into themes and promising areas. We often see that on the basis of the interviews in the first phase, the central problem is defined surprisingly differently than originally thought.
This is the stage where alternative answers to the problem are formulated, initial ideas are refined and developed into prototypes. An “open mind” is crucial in this phase: it often helps to get inspiration from elsewhere.
In the final phase, we build and test prototypes on a small scale. Solutions that do not work are rejected and solutions that do work are improved to a final design. We determine the conditions for implementation and make a plan for the launch.
The Value Proposition Canvas
In the first “Discover” phase, all senses are open, so to speak. In this phase, VPC is extremely suitable for mapping out the playing field and the problems that require solutions without prejudice. Based on interviews with customers and other stakeholders, we draw up a “Customer Profile Map”. In short, it consists of three parts:
- The “Customer Jobs”, ie the activities and tasks performed related to the problem area, the problems to solve and the needs to satisfy.
- The “Gains” are the things that make the customer happy and with which he can be surprised. Think of functional improvements, positive emotions and cost savings.
- The “Pains” are the things that the customer experiences as a problem, for which he would like to see solutions, like undesired costs and risks.
When drawing up the Customer Profile Map, we “forget” that we are Payments Consultants, to prevent us from experiencing the “Payments bias”. We have often experienced that our client is surprised by the pains and gains experienced by his stakeholders. Incidentally, these do not have to be directly related to the products and services that the client provides. But in the second and third phase, when insights and ideas come to the table to solve the problems that customers experience, it often turns out that these are the ideas that create or increase gains and relieve their pains.
Do not underestimate the discover phase
Our experience shows that a relatively large amount of time and attention is needed to the discover phase. If you underestimate this phase and fail to listen carefully to stakeholders, asking further questions if necessary, there is a good chance that you will develop a proposition that does not meet the real needs of the customer.
The challenge is not to stop at what the client wants. In practice, he usually doesn’t know that. By thoroughly researching the customer journeys, expectations, values and problems, and then drawing up the detailed Customer Profile Map together, the real problem comes to the fore. The problem for which solutions will be devised in the next steps.
We’re here to help
If this triggers you, and you want to find out the real needs of your customers, talk to Ronald te Velde or Eppo Heemstra about how we can help you!
(1) This “Double Diamant” design model is based on the convergence-divergence model proposed in 1997 by the Hungarian-American linguist Béla H. Bánáthy.