A startlingly good payments solution
Startle is a UK-founded tech company that curates atmospheres for retail and hospitality brands. “You might think a customer’s buying habits are shaped by their personality but people are just as likely, or more even, to be influenced by the context they’re in,” said Adam Castleton, Startle’s CEO.
We use music and behavioural science to create the right environment, and we use technology to scale this across a retail or hospitality estate. We help to influence the behaviours people might exhibit in these locations, and contribute to their feeling of having had a great experience.”
Startle was founded in 2012 and had a great few years, gaining some big, national clients: everyone in the UK, and probably the US, is likely to have walked into a location with and atmosphere powered by Startle. But the last 12 months have been really tough, as the pandemic hit retail and hospitality businesses and their suppliers.
“Luckily, we built Startle to be very lean, very flexible, and efficient, which means we have weathered the storm well. And we’re here to support clients now they’re opening up again,” said Adam. Today, nearly 300 clients use Startle in just over 10,000 locations across the UK, USA, and Australia, as well as some European locations.
Automated payments for scale
Getting paid is important to every business, but Startle’s strategic focus on scale meant it needed finance and payments solutions that would enable growth without increasing costs.
For us, it’s all about automation. How can we onboard new customers and take payments without creating additional overheads? Once set up Direct Debit payments don’t need any customer action, so they’re more likely to go through, which improves our cash flow as well as reducing the amount of chasing required. And we have visibility of exactly how much we’ll be getting in each month.”
“But our previous Direct Debit provider’s solution wasn’t at all automated. We built custom reports that we had to download into a spreadsheet, and we would then manually manipulate it before forwarding it to the provider to collect the payment. We knew this wouldn’t scale so we turned to GoCardless.”
One of Startle’s approaches to business is not to reinvent the wheel. “If there is an off-the-shelf product we can use to get the job done, we will always choose that rather than build something ourselves,” said Adam. “So the fact that our cloud system integrates to Xero, and GoCardless integrates to Xero, meant we could just plug the three tools together and have a chain that does everything for us.”
Now, Xero automatically creates customer invoices based on information from the Startle cloud platform, and GoCardless, via its Xero integration, automatically collects the payments. “What used to be a very manual payments process is now completely automated,” said Adam.
Reducing the admin burden
The benefits of GoCardless go far beyond payment collections. Startle’s accounts team used to spend one or two days a month processing Direct Debits, plus payments had to be reconciled and marked as paid. Together, GoCardless and Xero do this automatically.
Approximately 80% of Startle’s client base now pays by Direct Debit via GoCardless, and it’s the default payment method offered to new customers. “Despite having grown substantially, we’re operating with the same size accounts team as we had six years ago. For every new customer we onboard, we don’t create any more accounting admin,” Adam said.
Not having to grow the finance function also means Startle has been able to better invest its resources into the right areas, including product development, sales, and marketing, which are all key to the company’s success and growth.
“I think it’s also about creating jobs that people enjoy, and there are very few people that enjoy repetitive manual processes,” Adam said.
GoCardless enables our people to spend their time on things they are more passionate about, not processing admin.”
Switching to a better experience
Migrating to the new set up initially concerned Adam. “I was worried that customers would be impacted, that they would have to take action to make the switch, and that we wouldn’t get paid that month,” he said. “So it was great to know that we could simply pass our existing Direct Debits to GoCardless, without our customers having to do anything.”
“A GoCardless account manager supported us through the process. It was a few clicks within the system a few days ahead of the next collection date, and everything transitioned smoothly. Most customers didn't even notice, and we were paid on time,” said Adam.
Adam believes that moving to GoCardless will contribute to Startle’s continued success in the future. “Atmosphere and customer experience are more important now than ever. And that’s end-to-end – it’s not just the product we provide to our customers, that they use to deliver a great experience to their customers.
“It’s also how we manage our own customer relationships, from the interaction with customer services through to billing and payments, whether it’s the online Direct Debit sign up process, or enabling flexibility on monthly billing dates – things that weren’t possible before GoCardless.” Adam said.
“We’re incredibly positive about the future, despite everything the industry has faced over the last couple of years. We’re continuing to grow, and we’re continuing to invest in our growth.”