What do clients want? Getting creative in how you listen

Oct 16, 2019

This is a sponsored post from Joust, the first financial services company animated by and focused on the unique needs of freelancers. What if your bank admired your passion and respected your work? And what if it could guarantee you got paid? PayArmour, a revolutionary new solution from Joust, takes the hassle out of invoicing clients and protects you against client nonpayment.

Freelancers and entrepreneurs are the kind of people who can rise to the occasion or roll with it. As  sole proprietors, we’re nimble. We can readily adapt to the needs of our clients or customers.

How do you know what those needs are? You have to listen.

There are some basic, check-the-box type things to do, such as sending out surveys, asking for feedback, and staying quiet while others are speaking. These just scratch the surface. To listen deeply, you have to get creative and stay curious.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year listening to our customers. In January 2019 my company, Joust, released its beta of our banking platform for the self-employed. We had done the research and identified a broad-brushstroke need: solving the problem of clients that fail to pay invoices on time or at all.

Given the size of the problem, we’ve had robust adoption. PayArmour, our flagship product that protects freelancers from late- and non-payment, had been sorely needed.

We seized this opportunity to hear from freelancers about how our banking platform has been working for them. As a mission-driven company, we were grateful for the validation that we were fulfilling that need. Because we conceived Joust as the alternative to banks that have continually let freelancers fall through the cracks, we always want to stay vigilant about closing up any little cracks that remain.

There’s a term in startup world called MVP, “minimum viable product.” In order to grow, you’ve got to get out there, test your business model, and then see how well you perform in real-world conditions.

Our users told us we needed to improve our UX (user experience) and our invoicing tool. We’ve been laser-focused on getting these two aspects of Joust just right, and for the official launch later this year, we’ll not only have

  1. A clear, comprehensive dashboard and easier navigation
  2. Expanded invoicing features

but also significant new additions, making Joust a more seamless part of our users' daily lives.

Figuring out what we needed to do was a significant step in the process. As a former U.S. Marine, I went into stealth mode to gather information. I looked and listened for patterns and recurring themes:

  • How were the early adopters using their Joust accounts?
  • What requests kept coming up in customer service chats?

We also had a few clients we call “Super Jousters.” Spoken, real-time conversations with these users often led to much more complete, candid, and nuanced information, so…I called these folks up and asked them about their experiences using Joust.

Those discussions were incredibly valuable in understanding how to fulfill our mission. Thank you for those insights, Super Jousters!

Here’s how I’d translate my learnings from our customers, to how you might listen to yours:

  • Watch what happens to your deliverables when they reach their final form. How close to the mark were you?
  • Sleuth around. For instance, if your client is active on LinkedIn, what sort of comments are they making? What are they telegraphing about what’s important to them?
  • Ask them broader questions about their business beyond the nuts and bolts of your assignment.
  • Meet them for coffee or go to their office for an in-person meeting. If they’re not local, consider a trip to their location (any family or old friends in the same city?). Those fully-present conversations are invaluable.

You may have listened well. You may have nailed it. And yet it might change again. So we invite all of you to check out the new Joust and let us know what you think (we’re always ready to give you a listen).

Lamine Zarrad

Lamine Zarrad is the founder & CEO of Joust, leading the mission of financial inclusion and eroding systemic barriers to fair banking and payments.