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The "Hunger Games" Era of DeFi is Here - Learn Why your Favorite Cryptocurrency Services Could (and Should) Lose

By mekhiMKL | The Layperson's Crypto | 12 Jul 2020


A wave of change is washing through the DeFi industry. Newer, more innovative products and services are overtaking some of their older counterparts. Some older companies are struggling to stay competitive against the latest generation of cryptocurrency and DeFi endeavors. One factor may make the difference between whether your old favorite is able to adapt or will fall behind. That key factor is customer service. 

What's Wrong with the Old Way of Doing Things? 

A cityscape overlaid with a  paper financial ledger

Throughout Crypto and DeFi spaces, it seems hard to get someone to give you a direct, relevant answer when a transaction goes awry. Many DeFi products products and services unfortunately harbor people with the same condescending and defensive attitudes that we see throughout the DeFi/Crypto community. Concerns by end-users are often ignored, or may even be met with insults. Some of this behavior may be accidental, but much of it seems to be motivated by the mistaken belief that consumers are the enemy, and are trying to make the product "look bad".

A man yelling into a phone, against the backdrop of a disintegrating

If you manage a product or service which only provides user support through discord, or telegram, any public relations fallout due to customer requests for assistance is a problem entirely of your own making. If you don't want users to communicate problems publicly, then provide them a space to get help directly and privately. And no - a barebones "FAQ" is not a replacement for customer support. 

A woman laughing on the phone beside a black queen chess piece and overlaid with fiat and cryptocurrency

Amazingly, many  companies don't seem inclined to hire customer service professionals or institute formal support systems that would improve the end-user experience. Apologists of poor customer service dishonestly try to conflate the desire for adequate customer service  with consumer desire for traditional finance services, or lack of familiarity with DeFi products. Ironically, this attitude itself demonstrates a lack of understanding of the complex interactions of DeFi products involved in a typical transaction. This also demonstrates the lack of familiarity that some project coordinators have with running a business, and with the end-user experience. 

A woman standing with a laptop in front of computer equipment overlaid with a candlestick chart

When an end-user has something unexpected happen in a transaction. there's often justifiable confusion about which product or service may be causing the error. Thus, seemingly simple problems may not necessarily have straightforward solutions. Yet many last-gen DeFi companies are run by or hire individuals who do not have the critical thinking or creativity to problem solve effectively, and who react in an emotionally immature way when they do not immediately understand a situation or have a solution.  

Next-Gen DeFi Companies Set a New Precedent

A footrace with a candlestick chart overlain

We are beginning to see a trend where many companies with poor or non-existent customer service are being outpaced by newer companies who have more sophisticated technology and better customer service. This convergence is not an accident. Companies with better customer service are more likely to retain customers, and thus make more profit that then can be reinvested into technological infrastructure expansions. ChangeNOW and Atomic Wallet are two examples of newer companies who are thriving due to their focus on improving the consumer experience. If you are already aware of these products but haven't tried them out, now is the time! Use this link to initiate an airdrop of 5 AWC (the value of which has more than doubled within the last month) for both you and I: https://atomicwallet.io/join?kid=18HY7BYou can try out changeNOW through: https://changenow.io?link_id=950016cf0c55e9 (please note that I am a changeNOW affiliate and will receive a small percentage of exchanges generated through my link). 

The "Company Store" Model is Antithetical to DeFi

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Many earlier DeFi services took the stance that because there were so few products like theirs on the market that they could essentially ignore the needs of consumers. This "company store" monopoly model has fallen apart as new services, headed up by industry veterans and others with superior business acumen, have entered the fold. DeFi services no longer have the luxury of mediocrity.

a stack of coins, with a clock in the background

Other last-gen DeFi service providers react so strongly against sensible finance industry norms, that they have struggled to adapt. Some of them believe that it "just isn't DeFi" for their company to invest in professional customer service. However, individual companies do not define the DeFi movement, particularly in ways that work against end-user experience.

A seal with the words

If anything, it is the experience and concerns of end-users that have defined the ethos of DeFi, and created the movement, through demands for a less restrictive, more equitable alternative to TradFi. One of the worst offenses of the TradFi industry is the arrogance of companies who believe that they can continue to profit, despite their treatment (and even exploitation) of ordinary consumers. While most DeFi companies do not rise to the extremes of big banks, brokerages, and government regulators, replicating any of the detrimental attitudes and actions of the TradFi industry hurts the DeFi community and cryptocurrency communities as a whole. Simply put, poor customer service is bad for business. 

The Impact of Covid-19 on Crytpocurrency 

A man in a hazmat suit, drinking coffee and reading a newspaper

This new reality has taken root during the covid-19 crisis, where we have begun to see stark contrasts between who can and who can't adapt as external and uncontrollable pressures put stain on many older companies. Coinbase, the lumbering giant of cryptocurrency exchanges, has long been seen as behind the times. Some of its products (like the glitch-ridden Coinbase Wallet app, or even Coinbase Pro, with its delayed response times, uncomfortable interface, and flash-crash dramas) are being abandoned by consumers for newer, more reliable options. This is despite Coinbase's attempts to expand their customer base through the introduction (and reintroduction) of new token listings to Coinbase Pro, a new Coinbase Earn offering, and a much-hyped partnership with Cardano

A closed sign, overlaid and encircled by a red landline phone

When you look at their customer service infrastructure, it becomes clear why they are struggling. They have no chat support, and their phone support is only for hijacked accounts, and will threaten to freeze all your holdings if you persist through their automated menu. Their email support warns of "4-5 week" wait times, which in the covid-19 reality can often drag on several months. To many, Coinbase may seem "too big to fail' - but that is a TradFi perspective. Coinbase's simple interface may continue to hook novice users, but the duration or extent of their use of Coinbase products may be reduced as rising dissatisfaction forces more savvy users to seek out alternatives. Perhaps this will only shrink their footprint, or slow their growth - or perhaps at some point the burden may cause the behemoth to fall to its knees. In all scenarios, poor customer service will likely be the straw that breaks the camel's back. 

The margin for error during the continuing the Covid-19 crisis is particularly small, due to workforce restrictions and a worsening economy. Cryptocurrency users have had to come to terms with the reality of the volatility of anchor currencies like Bitcoin, their susceptibility to market manipulation, and the resulting impact on the larger market. It's time for old-gen companies to come to terms with their new reality as well, if they want to survive.

The Future of Old-Gen DeFi Services

A laptop which is powered up and glowing, below a neon sign which says

We are entering an era where customers have more choices, and it will soon start to create a "survival of the fittest" scenario where poor customer service is selected against. Profits of old-gen technologies who fail to see the writing on the wall will continue to fall, and they won't have the capital to catch up. The problems will compound, as more and more consumers switch over to user-friendly, professionally managed services, whose profits continue to rise, and whose infrastructure continues to improve.

A boxer being announced the winner, with scrabble tiles spelling out

Yet it's still early days, and many of us hold a lingering attachment to the services we are used to, even if we have had some unpleasant experiences. Maybe competing technologies haven't completely overtaken your old stand-by in terms of the diversity of offerings, or the overall cost-savings. We, as the end users, have two primary tactics for achieving a better consumer experience - to throw our lot in with the new-gen DeFi companies, or to demand change at our old-gen favorites. Nothing keeps us from doing both, particularly as many older DeFi companies may continue to struggle to hear and respond appropriately to consumer concerns.  If they do not value end-users, and the culture of DeFi, enough to adapt to the changing times, then their failure might be the best outcome for the community. 

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The Layperson's Crypto
The Layperson's Crypto

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