Pay It Forward with Empathy; a New Way to Bank: Chelsea Kim

Pay It Forward with Empathy; a New Way to Bank: Chelsea Kim

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On this week’s episode, we talked to Chelsea Kim about why the banking industry (and all industries, for that matter!) need to focus on kindness, and how “paying it forward” can be a business principle.

And we did it live! Check out our guest’s beautiful faces below:

About Chelsea Kim

Chelsea Kim is the Co-Founder and Head of Marketing and Operations at BELLA, a lifestyle brand with the first conversational banking experience 100% powered by love. BELLA is challenging the status quo, building a movement by injecting love, beauty, and empathy into business.

Building businesses is in Chelsea’s blood. After starting her career in healthcare operations 10 years ago, she moved into technology, and for the past 6 years, she’s turned her focus to building infrastructure for startups in Silicon Valley. When New York started calling her name,
Chelsea moved to Manhattan and joined the BELLA team with a single purpose: to build her dream company focused on community and connection first.

In short, Chelsea is building the company she always wanted to work with, one based on inclusivity, kindness, and equality. Chelsea and BELLA are leading by example and changing the world in the process.

Connect with Chelsea Kim

Follow Chelsea Kim on LinkedIn
Follow BELLA on LinkedIn
Check out BELLA at www.bellaloves.me/

Connect with the Voices of CX

Follow Worthix on LinkedIn
Follow Worthix on Twitter: @worthix

Follow Mary Drumond on LinkedIn
Follow Mary Drumond on Twitter: @drumondmary

About Voices of CX Podcast

The Voices of CX Podcast is a podcast that covers all things business strategies, customer decision insight, empathetic leadership practices, and tips for sustainable profitability. With a little bit of geeking out on behavioral science, A.I. and other innovation sprinkled in here and there. The guests span multiple industries, but all of them have years of experience to bring to the table.

Got something to say about CX or want to be featured on the show? Let us know! Email the Producer ([email protected]).

Transcript

Mary: Welcome to season eight of the Voices of CX podcast, as always, bringing you the best thought leaders, practitioners, and academics in one place. Our goal is to make your job easier by giving you the tools and inspiration you need to lead through empathy. one new idea at a time. Hello, listeners and viewers of Voices of CX we are back for another episode, season eight, where I think winding down now, season eight, we’re towards the second half and today I’ve got an amazing guest that we don’t normally have. Well, she’s going to explain who she is and what she does, but it’s kind of the first time that we get a woman in fintech, which is something that’s rare in its own. But on this podcast, it’s especially rare. So, I’d like you to all welcome Chelsea, Kim, Chelsea. Say hello. Introduce yourself. Tell our listeners and viewers who you are or what you do. 

Chelsea: Well, thank you first for having me on the show. I really appreciate it. And yes, it is a totally different space, not just for me, but for women, in general, to be in fintech. I’m the co-founder and I head up operations and community at a company called BELLA Loves Me. We actually go by BELLA colloquially. So, when you see things printed around us, we shorten it because it seems a little bit long to hear BELLA Loves Me LLC all the time. 

Mary: Well, it’s awesome. Tell us a little bit about BELLA for the people who aren’t familiar with this platform. Explain it in a nutshell what it is that you guys offer. 

Chelsea: Yes, a very, very short level. It is a personal banking platform. We don’t own our own banking license so much like most of the fintechs out there. If you’re familiar with Chime or Varo or different ones like that, we use banking licenses from traditional banks and that’s how we get our FDIC insurance and things along those lines. We are insured up to $5 million per person deposits, so it’s more than most people have. And there’s a reason for that with the things that we want to do in the way we want to expand the system. But right now, it’s personal checking and savings accounts so you can set goals for yourself. You can save according to those. And we have really fun little ways like if it’s sunny in New York, put $5 into my savings account for my holiday in the spring or something along those lines. So, it makes it a little bit easier for you to not think about it.

And then the checking side of it, we have two types of accounts, actually. One has a traditional debit card that allows you to use debit purchases through a visa network just like any other kind of card would. But the other one is a debit list card, and it is an account called a karma account, and it actually lets you put money into it and pay it forward to other people. So, if you think about if you were to pick up a small purchase like a coffee for the person behind you, or maybe you’re going through a drive-through and you want to pay for the person behind you, it’s that same concept, but it’s connected through all BELLA members across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. So, if I made a purchase here in New York and you were down in Atlanta, your account might pay for mine and it would let me send you back a note that said, Thank you so much. That was so kind of you. Thank you for thinking of me. And it just creates those small moments of connection and the sort of disjointed digital world. 

Mary: Yeah, it’s interesting because it really does kind of provide a different lens than we’re used to seeing in an industry that’s known for being kind of cutthroat and ruthless. So, I mean, it’s something new and revolutionary, and I and I want to get to what it is that encouraged you and your co-founder to start this company. But first, I want to kind of look at the career path that led you up until this moment and all of the experience that you’ve accumulated during your lifetime that kind of got you to this stage. 

Chelsea: Yes, it was a winding bumblebee path, as I like to call it. So, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the concept or theory behind the bumblebee, but by anatomical reasons, it should never be able to fly. Just does not make sense, right? And so, I kind of relate very deeply to that. Why am I in fintech? You know, just letting it happen and not ever putting boundaries on myself that I couldn’t do that. So, I actually started with health, education at behavior, at university. I worked with autistic children just ten and under where my specialty and working in their families. So, it was a lot of teaching, training, thinking of things in a different way, and having to approach people from different perspectives, especially autistic children have very structured mindsets a lot of times. And so, trying to get them to fit into the normal society we’ll call it typically developing society that has sort of happened to them. And so their families have adjustments and things along those lines. So, it taught me a lot of empathy and a lot of caring. And from there, it’s a very high-stress environment, especially being in the home with newly diagnosed children, trying to work with their families. To be totally honest, I burned out and I wanted something different. And I’ve always been really interested in learning, and I never really knew what I wanted to do.

I changed majors I think six times in four years, universities, so it’s pretty typical for me to try new things. And when I came back from being in the skills training and working with those autistic children, I kind of reevaluated where I wanted to be, and I ended up in tech. It was something that I didn’t necessarily know I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted something different. I wanted to make a difference for people, and it seemed like a really good place to be. I wasn’t a stem major, you know, I wasn’t engineering or science in those sort of traditional ways. And so, the way that I actually got in was through a startup, I was their first business hire. So, they never had anybody who thought like me, and I came into the operations component. And from there, it was looking at me like I had three heads when I was like, what do you mean? You don’t have an ordering system? I mean that you don’t know where that invoice is or if it’s been paid. 

So, it was a journey. It was learning again how to communicate with people who think differently than you and don’t really understand what you do. And I think that’s pretty typical for a lot of people in operations. They run the business, but what do they do every day right? So, I think the skills training gave me a lot of understanding and empathy and education coming back from a university degree of teaching people and from there turned into working as a customer success manager at a drone company and built out an industry, became technical account management and really owned it end to end of. Once that sale was made onboarding implementation renewals, we were responsible and had a stake in all of it, which I think is very nontraditional for a lot of CSM teams that, you know, they maybe have renewals, but if it’s an upsell, it goes to sales or something like that. We owned it end to end. And I felt that that was important to the holistic relationship.

From there, I moved on to a communication company and then met the co-founders of BELLA and we decided, all right, let’s do this thing. And that was in November 2019. We launched in November 2020. So, a year later, we had an app on the market. We had a checking accounts going and we had our first members. By the end of December, we had about 10,000 members that were depositing money into our accounts. And sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and go, why do people trust me with their money? But I think that it’s really based on the concept about caring empathy. It’s why we named it BELLA Loves Me. It’s because it’s about you and it’s about what your experience is and whether that’s in banking or, you know, the technologies that you use or the things that you’re doing every day. It’s about that connection. And it’s a different approach. When we first launched, we needed to advertise that we were in the middle of a pandemic. How are we going to do that? So, we had to go to digital sources, and Facebook actually blocked us because the word love and banking is so disjointed that they thought we were a dating app and we couldn’t advertise to people who were considered non-single. So, if you go in your Facebook or Instagram said that you have in a relationship, we couldn’t reach you because apparently, they don’t need bank accounts. So, so it was a journey, and it was really interesting to see how the market is and how the industry is and try to change that. 

Mary: Yeah, it’s one thing that I heard you repeat a couple of times is the empathy thing. Mm-Hmm. And what that tells me, you know, I’m in a market when you know, we’re talking about customer experience, there’s a lot of empathy and customer experience is kind of the backbone of it. Not quite usual for fintech. 

Chelsea: Definitely not. 

Mary: So, do you feel like this empathetic approach to everything that you’ve done along the course of your career is what really makes you the different voice in the room and provides you with a critical perspective that may be lacking in other people and do you believe that that may be one of the things that has brought you into so many amazing positions in so many great organizations? 

Chelsea: I do. I think empathy is extremely important and that sort of emotional quotient that you’re able to bring to any situation. It’s definitely made me more successful because I can take a step back out of myself and think about the other person. And if you’re in customer support, customer experience, engagement, any of those things, you have to know who you’re talking to in the right way to talk to them. And it translates across all industries. It doesn’t matter if you’re, you know, working in health, food or if you’re in dog treats. If you don’t know how to talk to the person that you’re trying to either sell to engage with whatever it might be, you can’t relate to them and you can’t be progressive with them. And so, you have to understand where you’re coming from, where they’re coming from, and try to find the best solution to compromise between those two. And that’s really what I think I bring to the table with BELLA and the reason that I head up the community side as well.

I’m very practical and tactical and logical with the operations. I mean, the processes and things that have to go in certain ways, especially in banking regulations and compliance, have to be followed. But bringing that little bit of empathy and the different way that you engage with your customer or engage with the businesses or partners that we work with, it all comes down to knowing where they are and being able to approach them in an authentic way, which is again comes back to the empathy. 

Mary: Yeah. So, let’s with that lens. Take a look at what it was that inspired the creation of this technology, to begin with. So, what was it that made yourself and your co-founders stop and reflect and say the market needs this? The market needs a loving, empathetic approach to finances. Where did how did that come along? 

Chelsea: Well, I can’t take credit for that because I definitely was not in finance or any of these types of technology to be like that needs to change. I accepted it like everyone else, right? You know you put your money in a bank or in investments or things like that, and you let it do its work. You don’t think about what that engagement is or who you’re managing that with. It’s just a necessary evil. So, to say right and I accepted that. And then Angelo and Wil came along. Angelo, that’s actually also the founder of Buddy Bank in Italy, and he has been in the banking industry with UniCredit, which is the largest bank in Italy and most of Europe for years. I mean, 20 plus years. And so, he has always taken this same empathetic kindness approach, but he was in this really stodgy industry that didn’t want to change. And I think it just kind of came to the point where society might have been ready for it. And he always wanted to infuse this love and empathy into the industry where he never felt it and getting an opportunity to bring it to the United States, I think, was a big piece for him as well.

Will was actually living in the UK. He had a podcast and he interviewed Angelo about two years before we started all this journey and interviewed him for Buddy Bank, which was really about being a buddy. It was having a personal concierge and having that sort of elevated personal experience, and it was wildly successful there. And so, the two of them became friends, and then they came to the U.S. I met them, and the rest is sort of history, but it was always Angela’s idea, I think, to find a way to change the status quo. And when I heard about it, of course, I couldn’t say, no, that’s a challenge. 

Mary: That’s what I was going to ask, like if it was like a regular, hey, there’s this cool fintech that’ll help you be a really great finance bro and buy, you know, stock, you know, without paying taxes on it. Would that be something that would attract you? 

Chelsea: Definitely not. I am a touchy-feely one. It’s like we need to all connect to each other, especially in the world. Yeah, I mean, we’re in COVID and we’re all locked in our homes and can’t talk to anyone. And you can’t give anyone a hug because who knows if it’s safe for them, right? And finding a way that we could connect that piece of the things that matter to me with the things that matter to the world was just a lightbulb moment. It was one of those that, you know, you come, and you talk about the way that BELLA approaches things, and people kind of give you a sideways glance at first, and then they kind of start to understand it as they play with it. And even in our app, it’s all in a conversational period, right? So, you type to it like you would type to your friends. You don’t use hamburger menus and commands. You say I would like to transfer x dollars to this account or that at place or whatever it might be. And they’re shortcuts. So you can, you know, QuickType them, but it is an actual, conversational experience. It is not about just going to a hamburger hitting transfer, select account, select account, enter dollar amount because people don’t talk to each other that way. And we need to train each other how to talk to technology in the same way that we talk to each other, or else we’re going to lose that ability to talk to each other in a really sympathetic, empathetic way of understanding. 

Mary: That’s an interesting approach, because I have this pet peeve of speaking to like a voice technology, even, you know, Siri and Google and stuff like that, I have a really hard time because I use things like please and thank you and they don’t feel ridiculous about it. But at the same time, I think that I still prefer that than to people who are aggressive with their AI slaves, as I call them. You know, I sometimes I read a story a little while ago about the amount of like verbal abuse that AI’s get from individuals that I’m like, wow, is that a power thing? Like, where does that come from? Is it because the A.I. won’t it’s not going to judge them for it? Where does that come from? But when you said that learning to talk to technology in the way that we talk to people so that we don’t lose that element, I think it’s crucial that we don’t start talking to people as if we were commanding an AI to execute something for us, you know? 

Chelsea: Exactly. I mean, if you think about it, that’s how we code to you. Give explicit commands, right? And so, I think, you know when technology is not sort of progressed to the point of human intelligence and it can’t quite understand you or it has a language barrier, right? And it has to learn from you. We’ve taught it to accept commands and we scream at it. If it doesn’t listen to us or it’s deaf or doesn’t have the mental capacity for it, which of course it doesn’t, because it is like a small child. And I think the piece that you were talking about is using please and thank you, it’s so foreign that it’s like, these are not words that are necessary. Why are you saying that, right? Yeah, but it does matter. And I think if we trained them, then they will accept that, right? It’s machine learning and what we teach it, it will learn.

But they do studies and children are becoming more aggressive that way, too. They demand things. They’re commanding things because if they’re talking to A.I.’s, because we all have smart homes, at this point, they’re being taught that you speak in commands. You don’t have to use the fluid as kind of please and thank you. And I appreciate that sort of technology, you know, communication. So, when they’re playing on their iPads or wherever they are watching TV, they’re doing things in commands. They’re not doing that in a kind way. So, by putting that into technology, we are re-teaching them. I think that that’s important and it’s important to communicate that way. 

Mary: Yeah, I think that I recently wrote an article about empathetic A.I. And, you know, we’re still a really far ways away from empathetic A.I.’s but perhaps something that programmers could start considering is the repercussions of not teaching empathy to an A.I. and perhaps creating some artificial empathy. That may not even be, you know, the development of the A.I., but could be a reflection of human behavior to a higher degree. Could kind of maybe, you know, like maybe a sassy A.I. that talk smack everybody like sassy AI’s because it’s funny. It’s light, it feels like a human emotion. And I think the idea behind it was always to try to mimic human behavior, you know? So perhaps adding a little bit of love to artificial intelligence may work as well.

Now, speaking of love, I’m pretty sure that your co-founders did some pretty intense market research before coming up with this product. How did they understand that this was a pain that actually existed, and they could be the pain killer for this, and especially when it comes to the Karma account and the possibility to like, pay it forward How did that come across and how did they find out that this was something that was viable that people would be interested in? 

Chelsea: I think that it’s always there in communities, and it’s just a matter of taking it into a platform and making it part of your everyday life without having to think about it. I think the simplicity is the piece that was really key. If you look at the Karma account, you don’t direct the money, you don’t select where it’s going to go, you just put money into it and let it go into the world. So, to say. Right? But when that happens, you get a notification that you did something kind and it’s this little boost of oxytocin for you, right? Where if you do something kind, you actually get something out of it. And we consider it the selfishness of kindness, right? You’re doing something for yourself. 

Mary: I’m a fan of that, yeah. 

Chelsea: Yeah, you get it from both sides, right? So, the person receiving it is like, wow, someone was kind enough to, even if they didn’t specifically directed at me, do something that would allow for this to happen and how appreciative they can be to somebody paying for, you know, whether it’s a bagel or a coffee or whatever it might be that they’re out getting, it’s small purchases. It’s not meant to bankrupt anybody here. But it could even be a percentage of a large purchase, maybe of a 20-dollar grocery bill, and it pays five. All of it, but it’s just that little gesture that lets somebody know that they’re thought-about and then having the reciprocation of being able to be thanked for that, but also having the notification in your app that, hey, you did something nice.

We’ve also publicly track it. So, in the app, there’s a section called the BELLA Loves Me index, and it only tracks the good that people are doing within the community. So, BELLA, surprise this kind of surprises. We also have a donation piece in the platform. So, any time somebody does something, they get logged into that and it’s a running list. But it also is like an index of stocks that only goes up. Right? So, it’s only tracking the good in the world. And I think that those components are the pieces that were so necessary was people do kind gestures all the time, but secretly people want to be acknowledged for it, right? Even if you pay for that person behind you while you’re waiting for your food and then they find out you want to see their face. And even if they don’t know that it was you, you want to see that joy. And so, bringing that to the platform was really the key to being able to have people understand the purpose of it. I think if you look at the history of banking and the way that people interact, it was very clear that this was sort of missing an unnecessary piece, right?

There is empathy and kindness and customer experience in all industries. If you even think about business to business, people are generous with each other and there’s gifts at Christmas for, you know, your top clients and all that kind of stuff. That’s to an extent expected at this point. But you never expect your bank to do anything for you. Why not? Right? And what if you could? What if that became the standard that everything you interact with should be generous and kind with you and with each other? That’s a community because we do things for each other in our surrounding neighborhoods because we know that it benefits the whole. And so looking at the psychology of communities, the way that people interact, the empathy the karma account actually came from a tradition in Naples that’s been around for hundreds of years, called the café so special. So you go to a coffee shop, you buy one espresso for yourself, and you pay for another because Naples is a traditionally poor community, and so they gift to each other to make sure that the whole stands. So, somebody needs a coffee, they can get it. They do the grocery stores. They do it at pizza places. It started in coffee, but it’s all over and they take care of each other. And if you take that sort of tradition and that experience, we see it intermittently throughout the world. But it’s something that we could do better, and we could do more of because if we take care of each other, ultimately it helps the whole. 

Mary: Yeah, and these small gestures are also a reminder of our humanity, and sometimes we lose track of that with all the. Shit that happens in the world and it’s a little tiny reminder, little tiny gestures, sometimes what a person needs to turn their day around or to just be. Reminded that there is good in people and that people are willing to help each other and that sense of community encourages. I would imagine encourages almost like ripples 

Chelsea: It does. 

Mary: And the whole idea of paying it forward is that a person that receives that benefit will also pay it forward somehow in the way that they can. Now, when we were having our pre-call, you were discussing how you have kind of a local community way of doing things starting in Los Angeles. Do you want to get into that a little bit? 

Chelsea: Yeah, we’ve been working on micro-communities lately, so we started out at the macro level across all BELLA users. We selected some non-profits that we were going to work with, and people have donated to them, and they can forward their surprises. They can forward their karma, everything to keep the cycle going. But it was a little bit disjointed for people because if I’m in New York and I’m contributing to a dog shelter that’s in the Pacific Northwest, that’s all well and good. But it doesn’t directly affect my local community. And maybe there’s somewhere that I can be putting that money that will help the person down the street from me and create a little more impact in my local space. And so, taking that into account, these donation platforms were successful, but they just didn’t create the connection we wanted. And so, we were looking at, OK, where can we maybe do this in a test market? And we figured L.A. was a good spot. 

Our CEO, Angelo, was also a co-founder. He lives in L.A., so it was something that was easy for being close to him. His wife’s from there. And so, they had already had community ties and it said, OK, how do we do this and their community and make this really impactful? And we met the L.A. Hope dealer. Her name’s Corey Mattie. She’s the 2021 Woman of the Year in L.A. and she started in the pandemic, gifting hope by painting buildings with these messages of kindness and connection. And just this controversial sort of statements of why are we doing these things to harm each other? We should be supporting and loving each other. And so, knowing that piece of what she was creating and how it connected so deeply with us, it was kind of a no-brainer to work together. And so, we over the course of a year tried to figure out how can we do this. We didn’t want it to be totally out of home because, you know, it’s pandemic and we don’t want to encourage people to be unsafe. But at the same time, we wanted to create something that was standing and that people who didn’t specifically know BELLA.

If you get a notification in the app, that’s great. But like, how do I communicate that with you, who maybe doesn’t have the app, right? Right. And so, we ended up doing a mural. It’s in the Melrose Art District, and right now it’s raising money for breast cancer awareness and research. Corey’s mother was deeply affected by cancer, as was mine. And so, it was something that was near and dear to both of us. The timing worked out that it was also Breast Cancer Awareness Month when we launched it in October. Pros and cons Right. We don’t want to be looking like we’re just jumping on the bandwagon, but timing worked out. And so, she painted this gorgeous mural that is right in front of this comedy show, and it has a QR code, and you can pay it forward even if you’re not a BELLA member. So, by donating, it goes into the L.A. community. We chose local organizations like the Dr. Susan Love Foundation, City of Hope. They are helping local L.A. people, and we will continue to do that and test it out and see how people react to it and if it’s something that is meaningful to them. 

We’re also looking at micro-communities like the artists of L.A. And what do they need? How do they need to understand business and finances? And is there an education component we can bring to them? And really in grading ourselves into those local and small communities to make the biggest impact because Cory is great, but supporting maybe, you know, children who are learning how to organic farm in their neighborhood in a food desert in Indiana might not totally react well with her as a local artist in L.A. who’s trying to help with homelessness or, you know, whatever else that she might be trying to work with or teaching other artists how to do murals or things like that are going to be more impactful to her than maybe another industry that’s across the country. 

Mary: Is the idea behind that the more granular you can get with things that people have? Have in common than the more empathy you can provoke. that’s a feeling that I kind of have, you know, someone who’s an artist will want to help out another artist or someone who has a relative that’s struggled with cancer will be more willing to reach out and kind of contribute and form that support group. Is that something that you considered? 

Chelsea: Yes, definitely. And I think that’s why we started with breast cancer as our thing was because both Corey and I are affected by it, and it’s very powerful and meaningful to us. And it’s something that I’m not an artist by trade, but it’s something we could connect on a deeper level because we had this in common, right? And I think for her, you know, teaching art and working in inner-city locations, helping with homelessness, things like that are deeply connected to her because of people or places or things that she’s had to experience. And so not try to speak for her, but I think that that’s something that would be more impactful to her as a person. So, if we can understand individuals and we do that actually through our app, we would to an extent collect data. It sounds really terrible, but you know, but it’s only things that people have told us, so we consider it love data. 

So, if you told me that you have a dog named Sadie, I would log that into your account. And that way I would be able to reference that as the person that maybe you talked to the next time that you’re getting support and ask how your dog is. But the more that I know about you as a person, the more I can relate to you and the more that you’re going to care about me and vice versa, right? And so, there’s always some commonality. There’s always something to spark interest in each other, but you just have to find what that is. And as the more things that we can touch and resonate with, the more people that we can reach, and the more that they’ll connect with us and vice versa and then connect with other members of BELLA. Because if you can trust that the company is doing the things that they say and that they’re not putting on a front, you can trust that the people that work with them are the same way. 

Mary: Yeah, it’s really interesting that you say that, because one of the things that we believe here and Worthix and we’re a tech company as well, and we build tech for this, but we believe that empathy is achieved through conversations. because when you talk to someone and you’re able to form that intimate bond, that’s when you can feel what they’re feeling and understand what they’re saying and relate to those experiences. And that’s when empathy kind of blossoms, right? Empathy is such a strong human emotion. And it becomes one of the strongest communication tools, not only for people but for brands as well, because it is truly the best way to reach individuals where they are and feel and have people feel heard and seen by a brand is an interesting new concept that technology is now allowing us to do. 

Chelsea: Definitely, it’s something that should not be new and innovative. It’s how our communities and society work, right? We’re connected closely and you know, it takes a village to raise a child sort of a thing, right? Well, your village is your people close around you. It’s not the person. It’s half a world away. So how do you not have that in business? How do you not have that in technology and the places where you’re interacting all the time? It seems really obvious, but unfortunately, it’s not something that’s been given a lot of light. 

Mary: Where do you think that we lost track of that as a race, as a society? 

Chelsea: I think the faster that technology evolves, the less time we have. If you look at our patients, if you look at movies from like the 1930s, 40s the credits are upfront. There’s usually an orchestra that plays you in right now. During the credits, they’re playing parts of the movie like you don’t even have to sit there and read anything right. They’re already entertained. And so, from those perspectives, if you look at the way that our patients is, we’ve lost patients with each other and with the things that we interact with, and you can’t create connection if you don’t sit down and listen and interact in that way. 

So, I think the technology and all these different pieces have been conditioning us to be impatient and to expect the immediate. And you could see that in the way people interact with customer support agents or how they want to get to an agent instead of going through the decision tree on the phone, right? It’s because they don’t want to listen to something that’s not going to help them immediately. And I’m not saying that that’s necessarily wrong. I totally do that. I’m like, Skip over this A.I. It’s not going to get me where I need anyway. Let me talk to a person. Yeah, but also when you’re talking to a person, you can, like you said, connect and you can say, OK, this is my problem. It’s not black and white. Let’s talk about it and see how we can help each other with this. Maybe I need to do a return and it’s outside the window. But there were extenuating circumstances, and I am not going to understand that it’s operating by a set of rules. A person can maybe make an exception right. So, comes to that talking connecting. Yeah. 

Mary: Yeah, I think that because I think I’ve got a little bit more of an understanding of what A.I. can and can’t do. I have very little tolerance, especially with A.I.’s that are more simplistic. I’m the kind of person that when I get on the phone with a company and they want to run me some through some sort of triage, I might speak to a representative, you know? You know we all get stressed; my overall body temperature will increase. I’ll get that cortisol. I mean, I just need to talk to a person because this machine is not set up to if I’m calling, it’s because the processes failed. So, I don’t try to put me through another process to figure out why it failed, you know? 

But I do think that we’re going to get there eventually, and I do think that we’re going to find a good balance between humanity and technology. You know, we were talking about possibly programming some humanity into artificial intelligence and stuff like that. And I think that as a race, I have a lot of faith in us. Actually, most people are pretty pessimistic when it comes to considering the future of mankind. But I’m not. I’m an optimist and I believe in the good and people, and I believe that ultimately the good that we built as a society ends up outweighing a lot of the bad and your product, your company. I feel like you’re doing that. You’re adding an element back into something that lost its humanity. And hopefully, this will become the new normal. Hopefully, in general, maybe not in the exact way that you’re doing it, but finding a way to bring uplifting human experiences in. Industries that have traditionally lost it. I think that’s a really beautiful mission, so I’m commending you for that. 

Chelsea: I mean, we’re betting on people. It’s like you said, you know, the outlook of society can be really dim at times. You look at war and politics and religion and all these divisive sorts of concepts. But if you really boil it down, it doesn’t matter what your political views are. When I need to talk to you as a human right, we can disagree on certain concepts or realities. And, you know, privilege or experience or whatever it might be is coloring something. But if I can take that into account and understand, I’m not going to correct know maybe something that’s a little inappropriate and racist that my grandmother says because she was raised in a time where that wasn’t, you know? And sure, capacity for learning needs to be taken into account. I’m not negating that, but by being empathetic and understanding that certain things are the way they are due to past experience allows us to say, OK, we can take that out of the equation and not judge the whole for the part. Right? And so, I think that’s a big part of what BELLA is about is bringing people from all walks of life, and the commonality is just trying to be better in general for yourself, for others within your community. Just try to be better. And a lot of our customers, actually, they are sort of that underserved market.

I think that’s very traditional on fintech because of being the nontraditional, you know, large banks incentivize large balances. If you don’t have a large balance, you’re usually taken advantage of overdraft fees, you know, maintenance fees on your account for not having a minimum in it, those types of things. And so, a lot of those people gravitate toward fintechs because those things are removed, those barriers. But you’re not helping anyone if you’re not educating them and helping them figure out how to take themselves out of that place. And that’s a big part of BELLA is educating them that you should be saving, even if it’s only $5 a month. But also, we found that those are the kindest and most giving people. The people who don’t have large balances are often taking the two or $3 they can from their paycheck, putting it into a karma account, letting it accrue until it’s enough to pay for somebody else’s water or coffee or groceries. But we also get amazing stories through our app reviews and through our social media thing and even though our conversations, because all of our conversations in the app, if you escalate to is an agent, it’s an actual person.

We don’t put you through a lie because if you’ve come to us like you said if you’ve already exhausted that the process doesn’t work and we’re not going to make you frustrated, right? But then it becomes a conversation with a human, and you can relate to that person. And it’s not just forum answers, it’s oh, wow, OK. It sounds like you’re really having a hard time here, and I understand you need that money to go wherever you’re going, whether it’s getting food or gas or whatever. Let’s figure this out together. How can we either get your funds, release those funds, you know, figure out how your card got stolen, whatever it might be. And it’s now, we’re in it together and we’re trying to be better for each other without just reacting with anger immediately. 

Mary: That’s awesome. Beautiful value proposition in general. So, I’m going to leave it right there because it’s really uplifting and really positive. And there’s no better way to wrap up an episode for our viewers and listeners who may be interested. How can they learn more about BELLA? 

Chelsea: Yeah, best way is to go to our website. www.bellaloves.me You can download the app from there. You can learn about our services. There is a community section that talks about the different things that we’re doing in this macro and micro-communities and where we’re starting. I know we’re starting in a big city, L.A. We get a lot of people saying, what are you coming to my town? We’re testing it out in a large market. That’s really what it is. It’s not about preference for large city versus a small location. It’s just that, you know, a large city, you have more test market but you can also check out things that we’re doing in business on our LinkedIn page. And it’s just BELLA Loves Me. Or you can check out my LinkedIn page and message me, and I’m happy to answer any questions. We also have a message button on the website where you can talk directly to our agents. 

Mary: That’s awesome. Chelsea, thank you so much for coming in and sharing your work and your vision, and your mission. It was, at least for me, a really uplifting conversation. I hope the people at home feel the exact same way. 

Chelsea: It was really wonderful. I always love talking about love, so if there’s an opportunity, I will. 

Mary: That’s great. Well, to our viewers and listeners, thank you once again for joining us and we will be back next week. See you then. 

Mary: That’s our show. Thanks for joining us. We hope we’ve brought you one step closer to leading through empathy. It’s our way of making the world a better place. one business at a time. Voices of CX is brought to you by Worthix. I’m Mary Drumond, this podcast is hosted and produced by me, edited and co-produced by Steve Berry. 

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Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond

Mary Drumond is Chief Marketing Officer at Worthix, the world's first cognitive dialogue technology, and host of the Voices of Customer Experience Podcast. Originally a passion project, the podcast runs weekly and features some of the most influential CX thought-leaders, practitioners and academia on challenges, development and the evolution of CX.

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