Inside Hokodo

How we scaled our operations to support business growth

Sania Kudaibergen
VP of Operations

At Hokodo, our purpose is to enable digital B2B trade by providing businesses with access to better payment terms. Since the very first transaction we processed, our Operations team (also known as “Ops”) has played a crucial role in supporting our merchants and their customers. 

Over the past two years, our transaction volume has grown more than tenfold. To ensure we consistently provide great customer service while also scaling our internal processes to keep up with the volume growth, the Operations team needs to continuously evolve and rise to the challenges of a fast-growing, constantly changing company.

The early days

Initially, Operations consisted of a small handful of people in generalist roles, handling everything from sending account statements to merchants, to collecting payments from buyers, to analysing data.

While we were experimenting with our product offering, our customer profile and sales channels, our volume numbers were small and many tasks had to be done ad-hoc when the need arose. This flexible way of working allowed Operations team members to move fluidly between tasks and focus on whatever needed to get done in the moment. Few processes were written down but everyone knew everything because everyone did everything! It was easy to keep track of all of Hokodo’s customers, processes and product developments. This mode of operating worked well while volumes were small and helped us keep the team lean. 

Hitting the accelerator

Over time we partnered with more merchants and marketplaces, expanded internationally and released new product features and integration methods. Our volumes took off, and so did the complexity of our operations as the number of transactions, payments and support requests we needed to handle grew rapidly. While the fast growth and pace of change were exciting, they were accompanied by some growing pains. We quickly realised that it was time to review and adapt our team set-up and ways of working. 

People, processes, (internal) product

There were three areas in which we made changes in order to remain effective and efficient while serving our customers and running internal processes - people, processes and product.

The first change we made was to divide all of the work that we did in Operations into several teams with specific role profiles that had clear job descriptions and responsibilities. Thus emerged our Payment Operations, Customer Operations and Collections teams. We also spun out Data and Analytics as a distinct function.

Mapping the individual team members’ strengths and interests to the newly created roles and teams enabled us to be more effective and to build up expertise in each area. It also helped team members focus on developing skills that were relevant to their chosen career paths. In addition, we hired experienced managers with domain expertise to lead and develop each Operations team and support the great talent joining Hokodo in their professional development.

Second, we developed clear descriptions for each of the core processes in each of the Operations teams. From how to process card payments, to reviewing credit limits or finding customer data in our back office – we wrote it all down and centralised the documents in one place, so every new team member (and every Hokodian) could easily find the necessary information. This is an ongoing piece of work, as processes often change and therefore the process descriptions require frequent updating. It takes a bit of time but the benefits are multi-fold – easier knowledge-sharing and the ability for people to refer back to the documentation if they get stuck on an issue. In addition, the process document sets clear expectations about how a process should be carried out to ensure consistent quality of the customer experience. 

The final ingredients that helped us scale our operations were improvements to our internal tools and accessibility of data. In order to know how well we were doing in serving our customers and how efficient we were in our processes, we needed better access to granular data and reports which tracked our key metrics.

With the emergence of our Data and Analytics team, spearheaded by our experienced Head of Data and Analytics, we upgraded our data infrastructure, data processing and analytics capabilities. We also put in place tools which enabled everyone at Hokodo to find relevant reports, keep track of metrics and perform their own analyses. This has helped us uncover insights in every area of Operations and make more data-informed improvements to our processes.

Last but not least, we made greater use of technology to increase our individual efficiency and automate routine tasks. We have adopted specialised software but also built some applications in-house, tailored to the specific needs of our customers and teams. These include scripts to automate tasks such as downloading documents in bulk rather than one by one, and tools that allow us to send automated scheduled payment reminders. 

The work of scaling our Operations is never quite done, as we continuously need to adapt and anticipate challenges. This enables us to continue innovating for our customers as we pursue our mission of enabling businesses to access better payment terms.

Want to pursue a career in Operations at Hokodo? Check out our latest job listings here.