Bank Customers Want A Seamless Experience (My Foot)

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Foot wasn’t exactly the first body part that came to mind, but I’m trying hard to keep it family-friendly here.

Yet another consumer survey from yet another technology company finds that bank customers want…..wait for it….a seamless and personalized customer experience. And that consumers are even willing to share personal information with the bank in order to get that personalized experience!

Only problem here…well, actually, it’s one of a number of problems here…is that this really doesn’t hold water.

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Before I explain what the main problem is here, I should come clean and give you the self-psychoanalysis of what’s bugging me here.

It’s not simply a claim that doesn’t hold water.

It’s two other things: 1) the Questionable Chain, and 2) the potential revenue loss.

Here’s the Questionable Chain:

  1. A technology company commissions a consumer research study which asks consumers questionable questions…
  2. …which produces a bunch of questionable conclusions….
  3. …which finds their way into a questionable press release…
  4. …which provides a questionable argument for why said technology company’s technology should be purchased.

Here’s the potential revenue loss: They didn’t pay ME (or my firm) to do the study for them.

So yes, I have some dishonorable (questionable?) reasons for bashing the research. But that doesn’t mean that what I’m going to say about it is wrong.

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I’m not going to provide a link to the research or name the company. You can Google it and figure it out. I’m deluding myself into thinking that if I don’t mention the firm’s name, I can avoid pissing them off.

The headline of the press release reads as follows: “Consumers want a more seamless and personalized customer experience from their bank.”

My take: No they don’t.

Consumers want things to work. Period. But if you must elaborate, they want things to work the way they expect those things to work, when they use them, and where they use them.

And consumers don’t want to have to think about any of it. They just want it to happen. If you really think about it, what they really want is for banks to be invisible.

“Seamless” is a term that implies that there are seams that need to be hidden or sewn together. I don’t want “seamless” pants, I don’t think my wife wants a “seamless” dress. We want clothes that fit and look good.

Same mentality applies to banking. Consumers don’t think in terms of “seams.” It’s true that there are interactions that require handoffs between channels or people within the bank, and yes, customers don’t want things falling through the cracks or to have repeating their problem five times.

But those interactions are really few and far between for most customers. Most customers don’t start checking their account balance in one channel, and finishing it another. Or starting to pay a bill online and then completing the payment on their smartphone.

The concept of channel integration or consistency in banking is misused and overrated.

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The other problem with the press release headline is something that is very common among the customer experience transformists: There is no such thing as “the” customer experience.

Interactions between a bank and its customers run the gamut of many different types of transactions and interactions. There is no single “experience.” Washing over the differences in the types, qualities, and importance of the various types of transactions/interactions is fool’s work.

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A third problem with the press release: When asking consumers if they would provide more personal information in order to get more “personalization,” what does that really mean?

What are we talking about when we say “personalized” experience and what information is really needed to provide it?

Asking “would you be willing to provide personal information for a more personalized experience” — without getting into more specifics — is simply poor research. It makes for a nice headline, but it’s completely useless, and very misleading.

Let’s explore this for a moment.

How about I personalize your experience on this blog if you provide me with some personal information. OK?

So….why don’t you tell me your sexual fantasies, and the next time you access my site, I will show you pictures of people engaging in those sexual activities.

A “personalized” experience based on your personal information.

OK, sorry. Back to reality.

What exactly is a bank going to do to “personalize” customers’ transactions and interactions? (I’m trying to avoid using “experience”).

There have been lots of attempts to do this already: Use the customer’s name online or at the ATM, customize a dollar amount to be withdrawn at the ATM or the amount to be transferred between accounts, based on previous transaction history.

But those didn’t require additional “personal” information.

I simply don’t understand what personal information I’m supposed to be giving up in order to get a more “personalized” experience that I can’t visualize.

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The release also quotes a company exec as saying “Retail banks that succeed in providing a seamless customer experience across all channels to market- branch, mobile, online, contact center- will be the winners of the future. Superior customer experience will be the only long term sustainable differentiator.”

Nonsense. 

A corporate competency to continuously design, develop, and deploy superior products and services can be a sustainable differentiator. And as I mentioned before, customers don’t use every channel for every transaction/interaction, so this concept of seamlessness just doesn’t hold water. 

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The rationale for publishing research like this comes down to some combination of two reasons as I see it: 1) To generate publicity, or 2) To align or tie the company’s products to the concept of customer experience.

It may have succeeded on the first point, but I think it does little to accomplish the second. 

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