The Importance Of Cross-Channel Customer Experience Design

Alain Jourdier, at Marketing Bytes Man, tells of his bad experience opening a bank account online. To make his not-so-long story even shorter, (and omitting the name of the offending bank, since that’s not important here), Alain says:

I recently opened an account online….and then the next day went to [the] branch and deposited cash into the account. After a few days, I paid a credit card bill online using this account. I was surprised when I got an email from the credit card company alerting me that they hadn’t received the payment. [The bank] told me that all account balances opened online are held for 30 days! That’s why they rejected the payment even though I had put cash in the account. I repaid it again from the same account after a supervisor told me that it would go through, [even though] their call center told me there was a hold on the account. I paid the credit card company with another account….and rode down to the branch and closed the account. The branch folks insisted the money was there and that there was no hold and could I please give them a chance to rectify it. But after two days of hassles and time lost….no ******* way.”

Here are my takeaways from this story:

1) Customer experience is inseparable from business process. I previously wrote that, in 2007, smart marketers would spend less time and money on branding efforts, and more on process quality and integration. I’m sticking to my guns. Banks have enabled customers to open accounts online for years now. But few (and clearly not the one in Alain’s story) have redesigned the account opening process from a cross-channel perspective.

Instead, the focus is on site design and the online account opening process. My bet is that site design was not a factor in winning Alain as a customer (that is, he made his decision to apply because of the checking account’s features, and applied online because it was the most convenient way to do so). But poor process design was a major contributor in losing Alain as a customer.

2) Customers’ expectations are an integral part of process design. It’s understandable (if you’re in the industry) why the bank put a hold on the account. Understandable — but not defensible. If Alain already had other accounts at the bank in question, then the hold is inexcusable.

Even more inexcusable, however, is that the bank didn’t understand that Alain (like many other online consumers) expected the funds to be available immediately. Maybe there was notification of a hold on the bank’s site, and Alain just missed it. It’s still the bank’s fault for not understanding the expectation and ensuring that its customer was aware of the hold.

3) Boring trumps WOW. The scary part of this example is that you never know where the stories that customers tell themselves are going to come from. The branch personnel probably did everything one could have expected them to — they were courteous, helpful, vowed to rectify the issue, etc.

But the story Alain has etched in his mind is “I opened an account, put money in, and they told me it wasn’t there”. If the bank could have simply understood his expectations — and delivered on it — then it would still have a customer, and the story Alain tells might be “I couldn’t believe it — I opened the account, and started writing checks against it within the hour. Amazing.”

And sadly, the bank didn’t even get a chance to ask Alain if he would refer them to his friends and family.

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