How Being Customer-Centric and Data-Driven is Leading Nubank to Lean Mastery | An Interview with Jefferson Gonçalves

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If there’s one thing that is getting clearer investment after investment, is that Brazilian startups have great potential to grow fast and globally. I’m really proud to follow this market development closely at Pipefy and even prouder to constantly exchange knowledge with other startups—especially if they are also Lean—such as Nubank.

The unicorn fintech has been revolutionizing the market for the past six years and after reading this amazing interview with Jefferson Gonçalves, customer experience manager at Nubank, you’ll understand how Lean, data and passion for the customers are the keys to their success. Enjoy:

Q: What is your purpose at Nubank?

A: Inside the customer experience area, my team is responsible for the client’s voice. Our job is to understand what the customers are bringing to us as information and deploy it internally in order to truly improve our processes, our communication and our customer service, so we can give the customers the best experience possible.

Q: Tell me about your history with Lean management.

A: I first heard of Lean at the university, where I studied Production Engineering. In this course, Lean is very strong and its main subjects are about Lean manufacturing and its history. It was here was when I met the philosophy and those were my favorite topics.

Later, after graduating, I started working in a boilermaker where at first I was part of the processes and methods team, and later part of the continuous improvement team. This was where I got to really apply Lean for the first time and start using the tools in a practical way. One interesting fact about that experience is that it was a moment of crisis, so Lean was really needed. It wasn’t just about being more productive—it was about gaining competitiveness to keep the company alive.

That was a really difficult professional moment, but very enriching at the same time. I learned how Lean can make a difference in sensitive times. After that, Lean became part of my life and I carried its teachings everywhere I went.

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Q: How do you apply Lean at Nubank, a company far from the manufacturing world?

A: Today, at Nubank, we really look forward to understanding what the client is bringing to us. We make deep data analyses—which is a natural thing being in a fintech, then we map and list every problem along the way, so we can prioritize them to attack in the best way possible. A good example is that we aim to answer the customers as fast as possible, through the channel they’ve chosen to reach us through. In order to do that, we analyze the data to understand our customer’s behavior, so we can have enough staff answering requests when and on a platform that our customers prefer.

Q: Which Lean Six Sigma tools are applied in the Customer Experience area at Nubank?

A: A tool that I really like is DMAIC because it makes really clear what are all the phases of the improvement process. It stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control, and we use it to define what our problems are and to map our data.

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Basically, before starting every project, we apply this tool, so we Define the problem very well, then our Business Analysts Measure and Analyze all the data, and only after we manage to understand all the information we extracted, an action plan is developed to Improve and Control our processes.

At times, we also apply the Ishikawa Diagram, which helps us identify the root causes in modules, so we can also build an effective action plan.

When using these tools, we use a prioritization matrix in which the guideline is the impact our actions will have on our clients. Today, at Nubank, the customer impact is what has the highest weight, so we are very focused on efficiency, but also focused on how that efficiency will impact the customer experience.

Q: How do you envision the Lean practice outside the manufacturing environment?

A: For me, it’s clear that you don’t necessarily need to be in a Continuous Improvement area to apply Lean. Only the first company I worked at did I have a continuous improvement job. After that, being in different positions even outside the engineering field, I carried the philosophy with me.

Lean preaches for waste reduction, constant progress, improvement of the customer’s experience and the quality of your product, so to achieve that, you don’t necessarily need to be in a continuous improvement spot, you must only understand the problems, map what is going on in your area and prioritize to effectively attack.

That’s why a specific job position isn’t mandatory for applying  Lean. It’s a lot more about the mindset of looking for efficiency and improvements, so before you realize it, you’ll be using Lean even unconsciously.


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Q: How did you manage to build a customer-centric culture at Nubank?

A: From Nubank’s day one, customer-centricity is an essential part of our culture. We were built to solve our client’s problem in the financial sector, so it’s something that is passed on while we grow—it’s a cultural thing.

In every meeting, with every Nubank employee, the customers are taken into account and we always discuss their perception of our product. In the customer experience department, for example, we continuously seek to understand the reasons why they reach us and the platforms they choose to do so on.

If I could translate this culture into bullet points, there would be two topics:

  • Our team: we focus a lot on giving the best experience possible to our internal clients because we believe that when you’re motivated, seeking a common goal and enjoying the ride, it reflects on the external clients.
  • Our clients: when it comes to decision making, Nubank always prioritizes what will have a good impact on the clients. Because we want to continuously improve their experience so their needs will always rule our strategy.

Q: How do you guarantee the collection of ideas for continuous improvement and what is the culture of experiments at Nubank like?

A: Today, Nubank is organized in squads, so every product or project is centralized in specific groups. Considering customer experience, in every squad, there’s a core that is responsible to guarantee that value will be added to the customers at the end. Keeping that in mind, all the squads work to build the best experience possible, so ideas of continuous improvement come up repeatedly and organically.

When we need to solve a specific problem or build a special solution, we gather the whole team to accelerate new ideas and brainstorm. After that, our analysts validate our hypotheses and evolve them into experiments and tests. That’s also part of our PDCA (Plan, Do, Check and Act) cycle and because of our Lean and data-driven culture, we end up being very assertive in our experiments.

Q: Tell me about your biggest learning during your Lean journey so far and which tip would you give to those who are getting started now?

A: Don’t think of Lean as a bunch of tools. Embrace it as a philosophy not only in your professional life but also in your personal life. It will definitely help you develop and launch your career, but it will also help you become the better version of yourself.

And if there’s a special tip I can give you regarding Lean itself, it is that the main part of the continuous improvement process is to understand the problem very well. In order to do that, you’ll need to analyze data—focus on this part and really understand what is going on.

Bonus: Special Question by Maria Eduarda (Duda) Kumlehn, Data Manager at Pipefy

Q: What is the importance of data to the continuous improvement culture and how do you foster this data-driven culture at Nubank?

A: The data analysis is a fundamental part of the continuous improvement practice, once you really need to understand the problem in order to know how to prioritize and attack.

As mentioned before, we work in squads. Inside each of them, there are the Business Analysts, who are responsible for analyzing our data and understanding what is going on with our platform and system, so we can run improvement tests. That’s why we deeply cherish data—it brings us the most essential information for our development and improvement. That’s how we keep moving forward in the most assertive way.

 


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If you are a Portuguese speaker, don’t miss the chance to watch Jefferson’s full interview here or listen to this episode’s podcast on Spotify:

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Leonardo Tomadon

Leonardo Tomadon is Pipefy's Lean Evangelist. His mission is to spread the word about Lean benefits and make them accessible worldwide. Contact: [email protected]