How Upgrade Leverages the Customer Voice To Uncover Meaningful Insights

At Upgrade, a focus on gathering and synthesizing customer feedback translates into improved products and services.

Written by Lucas Dean
Published on Apr. 20, 2023
How Upgrade Leverages the Customer Voice To Uncover Meaningful Insights
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There’s a question that causes some divide in tech companies the world over — is the customer actually always right?

What is true is that customers do — or at least should — play an essential role in providing constructive feedback, and companies and products are improved by capitalizing on these opinions and observations. 

When companies leverage the voices of their customers, great things can happen. Brand loyalty is boosted, and products and services can be honed to better address pain points and strengthen usability. 

These improvements aren’t just a nice-to-have. According to PwC’s 2022 customer loyalty survey, 26 percent of respondents stopped buying from businesses, often due to poor customer experiences. Meanwhile, 51 percent said they would be less loyal to a company if the online experience was less pleasant than in person.

The bottom line? A great customer experience will benefit your bottom line. 

However, capturing, sorting through and implementing feedback to create a better customer experience is easier said than done. In the increasingly competitive and volatile tech industry, it demands a multi-pronged approach and strategy that spans teams and expertise.

Built In NYC chatted with Upgrade’s Senior Director of Design, Mitchell Kim, to learn more about the methods and tools they leverage to gather feedback, synthesize data and improve the customer journey. 


Mitchell Kim
Senior Director, Design • Upgrade, Inc.

Fintech company Upgrade provides over 2 million customers with credit, mobile banking and payment products. 


Where is the best place for your company to gather the feedback needed to capture the voice of the customer? And why?

Our front-line support teams in Phoenix and San Francisco are the best place to capture the voice of our customers. Dashboards and data reports do a great job of showing how our platform is used, but hearing directly from customers is what really helps us understand the ‘why’ behind certain consumer behaviors. We have a dedicated team who monitors our app store reviews and chats with customers in real-time on our app and website. When the support team observes an uptick in a specific customer issue, they highlight it to product leads, who can then investigate the root cause and come up with solutions.

Hearing from customers is what helps us understand the ‘why’ behind certain consumer behaviors.”

We’re also experimenting with more proactive ways to capture the voice of the customer. For example, we recently launched a new product called OneCard. This is a debit-credit hybrid card customers can use to either pay for purchases immediately or over time with interest. Support agents with available time reach out to new OneCard customers to welcome them to Upgrade, provide a brief overview of the card’s features, and answer any questions the customer might have. In doing all of these things, we can get ahead of issues before they arise while simultaneously meeting customer needs.


How do you synthesize this data in order to capture deeper insights into your customers’ behaviors and preferences? What tools, technologies or methodologies do you use to accomplish this?

We begin by defining the problem that needs to be solved and collecting data to help us identify the root cause. We use analytics tools like Heap to get fine-grain instrumentation data if we’re interested in deeper analysis around a particular customer journey. If we see that the issue is specific to a certain screen or step in a process, we use tools like Full Story to observe the customer’s session and identify how the problem arose. 

To help clarify why customers behave in certain ways — which quantitative reports can’t always explain — we’re able to quickly run user research on Userlytics and collect customer feedback through our support platform and customer service agents. Our next steps depend on the insights we collect from this data. They can be as simple as a copy change on a landing page or as complicated as a strategic shift in our planning to make room for a new feature to work. In general, we prefer to move fast and run experiments to test and iterate our way to the solution.


How do you leverage the voice of the customer to improve the different stages of the customer journey or to inform your product, marketing and CS strategies?

On the brand strategy side, we recently refreshed our logo, physical card design, illustration system and tone of voice. Our leadership team agreed early on that the voice of the customer (VoC) was critical to how we evaluated our legacy brand system, which validated the design concepts we came up with. We began by doing foundational research with current customers to better understand their perception of our brand. To narrow down the concepts later on in the project, we also used VoC to evaluate the concepts against the brand attributes we targeted. This approach helped us pick the concept we ended up choosing.

The voice of the customer is also critical as we grow new initiatives like our Home Improvement product, which helps general contractors get their customers the money they need to complete renovations. Every new customer gets a call from our team to welcome them to the platform, answer any initial questions they might have and provide them with ways to get support from our team. We also encourage these new customers to provide feedback to help us improve this new product. We believe our ability to listen to our customers and act on their feedback is one of our advantages.


Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images via listed companies and Shutterstock.

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