The Wesabe Process

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[Note: I’ve asked some of the Wesabe team to contribute to the blog, starting with Nate Hatcher, one of our member advocates. Enjoy! –Marc]

Everyone at Wesabe loves feedback. I answer a goodly number of support requests, and I’ve found that Wesabe users are really good at giving feedback, both compliments and complaints. The complaints are really interesting because more often than not the people complaining are complaining because they want to use Wesabe. Here are some paraphrased examples: “Why don’t you support my bank in the Automatic uploader?”, “Why don’t you guys support investment accounts?”, and “I can’t use Wesabe because my bank only exports in Excel”. These complaints have the following in common: they come from people who like what Wesabe is doing, and want Wesabe to work for them.

Of course, these complaints get transformed into a more disgruntled version by the passage of time. Waiting for Wesabe to let them and their bank into the party doesn’t make people happy. So what does the Wesabe team do? Well, first of all, we consider the complaints as a team. At least every day someone in the engineering team shares a complaint and everyone discusses it for a few minutes. Three major considerations guide us: What do our current users want? What do potential users want? What do people need that they aren’t asking for yet? And here’s where the conversation about feedback gets even more interesting. In any endeavor, you can’t please everyone. During the process of creating something new and innovative, you can please even less people. When picking a few issues to focus our efforts on, we spend time on our current users and our potential users, but we also spend time on creating features that nobody is asking for, but that will be useful to everyone. Making people happy makes us happy, but we’re also driven by inventing new things. A good example of this is the new value engine which lives in the “Tips” tab. That feature deserves a blog post of its own, but in short, it has the potential to open up and democratize the market by giving customers useful hard data about businesses — data that’s available nowhere else.

The balancing act between innovation and adding requested features is a hard one. Feature fixes like search — which is back, improving, and is already better than before — and an overhaul of the spending and earning summaries (currently in progress) were delayed so that we could focus on an innovative feature (Tips) and a widely requested feature (the Automatic uploader). Support requests for feature fixes and feature requests can get overdue when those features aren’t the ones under development. One of the ways we’re trying to increase transparency is to start updating people who have older support requests (which are generally complicated ones that require a bug fix) with the current status of the engineer. Right now we’re just trying this out, but so far I think it’s a good thing: we haven’t forgotten your request and here’s one of the things that we’re working on right now.

In the long run, here’s why I think Wesabe will succeed in this balancing act: we have a mission, and we aren’t willing to compromise it. For example, the team here believes that people are coming to Wesabe to get control over their finances, so we don’t show advertisements. We put our money where our mouth is. Another example is security. We don’t think people should be forced to give up their bank username and password to use a financial tool, so we have always offered and will continue to offer uploader tools that enable people to use our service while maintaining whatever level of control they desire. This isn’t just lip service, we try to make it as easy as possible for you to not give us your bank logins if you don’t want to.

While Wesabe needs some fixes and new features, I think it’s purely a matter of time. What’s most important is that we are dedicated to providing financial management tools designed to relieve financial stress for people in all situations. And we’re going to fulfill this mission without cutting corners or compromising.

One Response to “The Wesabe Process”

  1. Ben Tremblay Says:

    *sync*
    Reading your blog for the first time I found myself thinking that there should be clear attribution … and then realized that I didn’t /know/ there were multiple authors. The next post was this one. So … buy-line is nice to see.

    FWIW I found Wesabe.com refreshingly personable; got here via a tweet by Tim O’Reilly, to which I replied.

    cheers
    –bentrem

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