House calls is a series of profiles of some of the committed and enthusiastic members of the team that is driving Reap forward. We want to know why they are with Reap, what roles they play and how they see the company now and in the future. In the third of the series we talked with someone who has an intense focus on what each customer needs from its relationship with Reap. And who has an equal intense focus on coffee.
When Felix Chung of Growth and Business Operations at Reap recently told us of his part in the company he ended by talking about coffee. However, he did not extoll his own knowledge but pointed us in the direction of his colleague. Anna has a serious enthusiasm for the subtlety and enjoyment of the magical brew. Someone who can discuss the relative merits of espresso, cappuccino and latte is a great asset in a customer-facing organisation. Anna adds this area of expertise to her other qualifications that enable her to give Reap’s customers exactly what they are looking for or, more particularly, need.
User Experience is the key
Leaving Hong Kong, where she went to the same school as Felix, Anna studied at the University of California, Los Angeles, graduating with a degree in psychology and economics. Her course included topics such as industrial and organisational psychology, and customer behaviour. This has given Anna great insight into the way customers think and act. As product manager Anna oversees each product offered by Reap and designs the whole product journey. That journey starts with listening to what customers say that they want. However, as Anna says, it is more important to know why they have a need. Using such tools as the five layers of why and concentrating on causes and not symptoms, she helps customers not so much know what they want, but rather to know what they do not want. In this way, Reap is able to tailor its products exactly to a need customers may not know they have. Anna has concentrated, “ruthlessly” in her words, on early adopters of Reap’s products in order to overcome resistance to their full adoption. She has therefore dealt with corporate credit cards and software from the beginning.
Anna is well-placed to understand corporate resistance to the advances that well-written software can bring to businesses. After graduation she spent a year as a data analyst in the USA and then returned to Hong Kong where she was an application developer with a company writing application programming interfaces. She wrote web and mobile applications that were used by her customers, and helped to “bring a modern customer service web portal to life”. She moved to a virtual bank being set up by a major traditional bank, as a front end developer. Anna spent almost two years with the bank but left before it was officially launched on the market.
She says that the most important element in starting a business using technological advances and innovation is not setting up the appropriate framework, but coming to a new concept with the appropriate mindset. She feels that big, established companies are loath to abandon their traditional ways of working and are unable to adopt solutions without bringing with them the corporate baggage that is now out of date. She felt that the bank she was with might have the word virtual in its description but was still shackled by ways of working and attitudes that belong in the past.
Anna and Reap
Reap on the other hand is “lighter on its feet” and has a more nimble approach to finding solutions. It certainly does not use the old ways of doing things. Anna met co-founder Daren Guo and was impressed by his Silicon Valley mindset. She came onboard almost a year ago and brought to Reap her knowledge of, and expertise in software, customer psychology and finance, a dream set of skills.
Anna says that the subject of credit cards themselves are not as exciting to her as the way in which the company is able to take an old concept and improve it through software. Traditional solution providers can be very inefficient and bring outdated approaches to modern problems. Reap uses modern, quicker, technology-driven solutions to the obstacles that businesses, especially small and medium enterprises face today.
Anna points out that Reap will remain in the niche markets in which it has proved to be so successful. If the company becomes better known Anna would be happy, but is not otherwise concerned. Competition is good but the flexibility that Reap has shown from the start will enable it to meet and overcome challenges from more traditional and well-established rivals. Anna brings a rare combination of skills and abilities to Reap. These, however, are not as important as her ability to concentrate on the reason for Reap’s existence. She and the rest of the team have a focus and concentration on bringing practical and affordable solutions to smaller businesses. These companies are often lauded by bigger companies and politicians, but usually receive no real, genuine help. The team at Reap has a mission and determination to fuel the ambitions of small businesses, and to help them think bigger.
Thanks to Anna, any customer who takes advantage of Reap’s products knows that they are getting solutions that are precisely made for the market they are in, and for the problems they are built to solve. Many years ago, a major bank in London launched an advertising campaign built around the slogan, “The bank that likes to say yes”. Reap knows that solutions are not built around facile and easy catch phrases, but upon a detailed understanding of the obstacles and difficulties that customers face. Another bank advertised itself as “the listening bank” but Anna knows that customers need to understand why their problems have arisen, not merely that there is a generic solution that could solve some parts of the difficulty. She uses her investigative and analytical abilities to identify precisely what the customer needs and how Reap can supply that need. As Steve Jobs, someone with exactly the right mindset, famously said, “if you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution”.
Anna will have other sets of solutions to find as Reap expands geographically, in market share and in product development. However, with her determination, enthusiasm and concentration, this will not be a problem. Her drive and focus on customer needs will serve Reap well as it embarks on the next stage of its journey.
If you get out onto Hong Kong’s many hiking routes you may see Anna displaying her drive and determination as she takes part in trail running, one of her many athletic activities. And yes, in case you were wondering, Anna did meet Daren and talk about job opportunities over a coffee. Her favourite? Coffee using Panama beans and the pour-over method!
Reap is proud of building its success on the foundations of making businesses think that they are bigger than they are, and fuelling the ambition of small businesses. We have great staff and partners, but we never forget that our progress comes from giving you the best solutions that we can, and removing, not adding to obstacles in your way as you make progress as well.