To Develop
a Startup
Mentality,
the Customer
is Key.

WRITTEN BY ALISA ELLIS
Global Head of Innovation & Emerging Products,
Discover Financial Services
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This article originally appeared on Discover’s Medium Blog on December 9, 2020 https://medium.com/tech-discover/to-develop-a-startup-mentality-the-customer-is-key-dbb45db12645
From improving the consumer experience with payments to providing local networks and issuers around the world with global access, our customers are at the core of our business. Since our early beginnings as a start-up issuer and network, to becoming a Fortune 300 company, as with most startups — our best work comes from partnering with customers. This startup mentality makes us one of the most innovative players in the financial industry. We have a unique view into the customer because of how our company is built. We are a network, an issuer and a digital bank — all under one roof. That combination of expertise allows us to do things differently than other networks, building and exploring new experiences with a different lens. With our flexible approach and a willingness to zig when others zag, Discover is a great example of how an entrepreneurial spirit can keep you ahead of the curve — no matter your size.
To embody the startup approach, you have to embrace the ideas of partnership and co-creation. For startups, partnering with other companies can be the ticket to real, measurable growth. As a network we are a bridge or connector between many partners extending benefits across the payments ecosystem from enablers and developers to our cardholders. As we sit at the crossroads between financial services and technology, we can bring multiple benefits and opportunities to collaborate with new and existing partners. We have multiple agreements with local networks and issuers that have allowed us to expand our international reach, such as with companies in Brazil, Turkey and India. These agreements increase not only both companies’ global footprints but also access to new technology to simplify and streamline payments, attracting new entrants into their markets and giving our cardholders access to more outlets. When it comes to entering into partnerships, the important thing is to forge all relationships out of a desire to benefit your customers.

Frequently employed by startups, a customer-first approach to doing business is one of Discover’s defining traits and a key reason we’ve continued to add value in the marketplace for the past 35 years. We were one of the first networks to introduce to customers a no-signature program at the point-of-sale, and continued our industry leading rewards practices by creating redemption options with top ecommerce merchants. As the fastest growing payments network with acceptance in more than 200 countries and territories, we act as both a closed- and open-loop network, which ultimately provides a more convenient customer experience. A closed-loop network means we have both network functionality and access to cardholders all under one roof, which facilitates opportunities for promotions, unique functionality and more. We continue to offer our customers features that make their lives easier, even when it means going against the current — and that’s certainly not the way every Fortune 300 company operates.
Startups are finding unique ways to get to know their partners. We value our customers’ needs and their feedback, we embed processes for collecting customer feedback into multiple channels — and then we listen. We spend time with our enablement partners to understand their needs while providing insights into the rapid changes in the ecosystem. We host round tables with senior leaders, merchants and international partners to conduct valuable research on changing customer expectations. By embracing our areas of opportunity, we can work with them to put value out into the market place that brings mutual benefit. Other large financial companies frequently lose focus on the people they serve. It is Discover’s willingness to listen to and act on consumer feedback, and our unique view of being the issuer and network, that results in our award-winning customer service.
Startups are known for their entrepreneurial attitude, but that mentality isn’t solely reserved for up-and-coming companies. It means always looking ahead to at what can help our partner. We are exploring, how payments will adapt to the next generation of digital commerce, the impacts of an internet-connected economy, how access to data will influence real-time payments, the Internet of Things and the benefits of blockchain-based solutions to name a few.
Businesses of any size and age can benefit from adopting the same values held by successful startups. The combination of Discover’s customer-first approach, eagerness to partner with others to expand our offerings and prioritization of consumer feedback have helped us become an innovative player in the industry. So, what comes next for Discover? We’ll see what our customers have to say.
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