B2B ‘Personas’ Help Identify Payments Frictions and Solutions 

Business-to-business (B2B) organizations striving for simplicity and a better customer experience have no shortage of cues for the way things could be improved.

Alisa Ellis, VP, Operations Modernization at Discover® Global Network, told Karen Webster that her own network offers up some hints as to what commercial clients want, informed by their own day-to-day financial lives.

“When an individual customer wants to interact with Discover Global Network,” she said, “they go to one place, whether they have a credit card account, a checking account, debit card or student loan. We designed it that way, to combine all the channels and hide the complexity from that customer to give them a good interaction.”

The opportunity can be the same in the B2B space, she said. Feedback loops and continuous dialogues with partners help forge the paths to get there. Ellis’ team is tasked with providing that similar, consumer-like experience to the Discover Global Network customers, a pantheon that includes digital-only FinTechs and traditional financial services players.

Easier said than done when it comes to targeting specific pain points and frictions inherent in B2B flows. As she remarked to Webster, the payments ecosystem is so complex, and growing exponentially every day — and it’s only getting more complicated.

“Payments are not a singular capability,” Ellis said. “It has a nested set of related things,” especially with digital efforts such as tokenization and as Discover Global Network clients need to transition their acceptance infrastructure to the cloud with the aid of APIs.

“You have to use measurement and data analytics just like we do in the consumer marketing business,” she said. “The qualitative feedback loops are very important — because they give you insights, while deploying the data analytics are the proof points to those insights” that ultimately creates value for users.

The application of design-thinking principles and a collaborative approach, she added, are essential to designing new products and services. And so, she added, is understanding the various B2B “personas” or stakeholders.

Getting to Know the Personas

Those stakeholders, she said, can range from large acquirers, global issuers or digital enablers. Not all of these firms may not be coming to Discover as a network directly and may not even be connecting directly to the firm, but they have significant roles to play in the distribution of products and capabilities into the ecosystem.

“That means understanding not only who the partner is ‘next’ to us, but who are their partners downstream from them and what their needs are,” Ellis said.

Getting to know what these various stakeholders are after, she said, is the first level of consideration. That leads to a discussion of the “functional personas” — and their specific data and connectivity needs and the information they have on hand to get there.

“This is where you can start to personalize things and get to great experiences,” she said. “And we do have to collaborate” to build what she termed “authentic feedback loops” that deliver what those network partners need. Discover Global Network, she said, promotes that collaboration through advisory councils and informal round tables that convene partners from different parts of the ecosystem. Discover Global Network also brings in UI and UX designers who staff the network’s development teams to observe the user experience tied to online sites and portals in real time.

“We get opportunities to share some things that are still in draft form,” Ellis said, “and make sure that we are getting the right answers” about usability, right down to the number of click-throughs across pages and where things need to be tweaked and improved, especially with those partner firms.

Ellis cautioned against the “big bang” approach that does away with legacy technologies and processes altogether in favor of one that relies on “baby steps” to test new ways of doing things before rolling it out to Discover Global Network’s collective, joint customer bases.

The collaborative, design-principles mindset is being actively used by her firm. Ellis offered up an example from the internal operation of Discover Global Network — identified and since addressed — as its agents had historically been embarking on a lot of “chair swiveling” to serve end customers, toggling between programs and data sets, juggling digital channels and paperwork. Data and analytics have been harnessed to cut down on those inefficiencies.

“We’ve been able to break down silos,” she said, “between who works on what application and who doesn’t — bringing people together into a room to understand the steps in a process, and where efficiencies can be introduced.”

Bringing those teams together, she said, “makes sure that we are not measuring activity — we are measuring outcomes.”