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How Chime uses a research-first approach to grow their business

How Chime uses a research-first approach to grow their business

With over 8 million customers, Chime is the largest and fastest growing company in the online banking space, leading with a mobile-only, no-fees model that is focused on the member experience. 

“We have a lot of values at Chime, but the first one is being member-obsessed,” says Chuck Liu, head of user research at Chime. “Our mission is to give people financial peace of mind, and for my team, that means developing a strong understanding of the people we serve, and sharing that customer empathy with the rest of our team.”

Liu is responsible for research across the organization, which includes talking to Chime customers as well as understanding the market potential. The company was using SurveyMonkey to help teams organization-wide—from product development to marketing—collect and analyze insights about their existing customer base and the overall market. 

“On the product side, we’re trying to understand, what's top of mind right now? What's making people worried about their finances? What are they having trouble with?” On the marketing team, understanding brand sentiment and evaluating partnership opportunities were important drivers for their growth and success.

Chuck knew there were a lot of different teams using SurveyMonkey, and data needed to be organized and centralized to meet compliance and security requirements. In addition, as requests for more in-depth data grew, he wanted to put a richer toolset in the hands of the users who needed it throughout the organization. 

Chime upgraded to SurveyMonkey Enterprise to give users access to a deeper feature set and to ensure all collected data was secure and accessible. “We need to be able to scale our organization to hundreds of people, and maintain not only the data quality, but also the data security,” said Liu.

Chime also expanded its use of SurveyMonkey Audience, which helped Liu, his research team and marketers tap into a global base of potential customers. 

We need to understand how things happening in the world might affect our brand sentiment.

Chuck Liu, head of user research, Chime Bank

“We’re co-sponsoring Audience studies with our marketing team to figure out things like, how can we better target certain audiences? How do we improve our brand?” says Liu.

Partnerships were a critical part of building Chime’s brand strength. They used Audience to understand how co-marketing and co-branding opportunities with other companies would resonate with their audience. “We asked questions like, are their consumers the same types of people?” said Liu. “Could we size the opportunity with other brands before we commit?” Most importantly, they needed to know if they could get data to make a timely decision.

We either tend to do things really fast or we want them yesterday. The pace at which we do research is really aggressive, and we have to understand a large amount of data that shifts seasonally.

The true test of timing came in the form of an opportunity that forced them to move faster than they knew they could. The Dallas Mavericks had just gotten out of a sponsorship and were looking for a new partner. And while Liu’s team had done early research, they weren’t sure how a sports partner and aligning with a specific team might affect customer sentiment.

“We wondered, would the NBA be a match for the audience we currently serve? Would our customers have loyalties with other teams or other sports? Could a partnership create tension?” asked Liu.

The timeline for making a decision was tight. Really, really tight, according to Liu. At noon, the executive team asked Liu to provide data for a 6:00pm call with the Mavericks, where the decision would be made. The race was on.   

We had analytics data, we had marketing data, we had social media data. We were missing data that would help us understand what the rest of America was going to think about this.

The research team turned to SurveyMonkey Audience to create a survey that would collect the specific information their executive team needed to make a decision.  

“We needed to understand the sentiment of how sports related to their opinion of finances,” said Liu. “It was a totally weird topic like, ‘Hey, so what would you think if your bank and your finances were suddenly associated with this national team?’”

Liu ran 3 studies through SurveyMonkey Audience; 2 geographic areas and 1 national as well as a comparative study to their own members. The challenge was to do very specific geo-targeting to understand the impact both inside and outside of the geographic areas as well as nationally.  

Liu immediately got in touch with the SurveyMonkey Market Research Customer Success team to help with data collection and analytics in order to meet the end of day deadline. 

“I asked SurveyMonkey, how possible is it to do something like this, in this amount of time?” said Liu. “I knew that in terms of standard industry turnaround times, the ask was kind of impossible.”

Chime got the study made and fielded in the nick of time. “The fielding part is super impressive, because the audience types and targeting were more complicated than what’s normal,” said Liu.  SurveyMonkey’s Audience team was able to develop specific targeting.

“The results came right at—I remember very clearly—5:04pm,” said Liu. “It was that missing piece that we needed to make sure we're making an informed decision.”

“I did the analysis cuts in the last 15 minutes and delivered the results by 6:00pm, and we closed the deal by 8:00pm. It was great!”

Looking back at the partnership process with the SurveyMonkey Audience team reminds Chuck of the other two Chime values.

“Our second value is 'teaming up,' which really does happen with SurveyMonkey,” says Liu. We use it cross-functionally to help a lot of different groups do a lot of different things.”

The third value—one that was put into practice for the Mavericks decision—is ‘make it happen.’ Says Liu: “We use SurveyMonkey in a way that not only helps us achieve our goals for the team, but also to live them too.”

According to Liu, the Mavericks project is the perfect example of how data drives all Chime decisions, and how that contributes to their success.  

“Chime is a research-first culture,” he explains. “We really start with trying to understand the underlying problems and sentiments, how people are feeling, and then we try to figure out ways to help them.”

We wouldn't be where we are today as a business; one that's still growing. And we have to thank the SurveyMonkey team for helping us do that. It's been wonderful.