Considering the Full Range of Customer Experiences
Earnest offers loans in 45 states, soon to be 46, and has refinanced over $2 billion. They are revolutionizing online lending by making credit more accessible and affordable to financially responsible people everywhere. By considering thousands of additional data points, such as earning potential and savings, they are able to offer applicants personalized loans at lower rates. Earnest further improves their customers’ experience with digital tools for managing payments, as well as access to comprehensive resources and in-house help. Beneath this unique blend of data science and high-quality service, Earnest relies on user research to design products and services that are both seamless to use and trustworthy — crucial factors when dealing with people’s money online.
Although they were already conducting extensive quantitative research and A/B testing prior to joining the Respondent platform, Earnest was interested in expanding their qualitative research efforts. With a diverse customer base across the U.S., but only a small in-house research team, they needed a solution that would allow them to quickly and efficiently scale their research efforts to reach a large variety of participants. This way, they would better understand and account for the many different needs of their varied customer base
Researching the wants of all their customers
In order to keep up with rapid changes in online banking, Earnest uses an organization structure that keeps their research and design teams intertwined. Although this approach helps reduce the lag time from insight generation to design creation, it also means they need to be creative when it comes to sourcing research participants. For instance, they previously utilized multiple different platforms for recruiting. However, this strategy proved time-consuming and inefficient, and often made it difficult for them to interview a diverse range of people.
Because of this, Earnest chose to use Respondent to keep their research in-house and control costs while increasing its reach and efficiency. As a result, Earnest can now quickly find and talk to a much more varied group of people from across the country. “We were not reaching the diversity of opinion that we needed. We were also doing everything manually — scheduling, sending emails — which was difficult to manage,” said Mariam Khan, a designer and researcher at Earnest. “Respondent has allowed us to simplify our research process while also casting a much wider net.”
Whereas their previous methods made it difficult to find and verify research participants, Earnest can now use Respondent to instantly view the professional qualifications, participation history, and validated demographic data of candidates around the country, letting them make informed decisions about who contributes to their insight generation. In addition, by consolidating multiple aspects of their research process, from scheduling interviews to sending out reminders, Respondent has helped Earnest streamline their workflow and increase efficiency even as they conduct more interviews. A variety of other tools, such as the messaging feature, make it easy for them to stay on top of their research needs and react to last-minute changes.
Building a product that reflects real needs
Earnest knows that, when designing a product that will be accessible to users with different needs across the country, it needs to take into account the views of as many different kinds of people as possible. This is especially true for financial services like lending, which can often be a deeply personal experience. “We want to make sure we’re mindful of sensibilities and what people react to,” said Khan. “We want to be thoughtful about how we present information.” By giving them access to a much larger and more diverse group of participants, Respondent has helped Earnest do just this.
— Mariam Khan, product designer and director of research at Earnest
By simplifying their research process, Respondent has also made it much easier for Earnest to manage their qualitative research and quickly collect useful insights. In fact, when compared with their previous methods, Respondent has cut their overall research time in half. In doing so, Earnest has been able to further integrate qualitative research into all their design workflows, making it easier for them to build products that reflect the direct needs of their many types of users, regardless of their different experiences. All this helps ensure Earnest can continue providing low-interest loans for many years to come.