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Customer Experience: From the I to the O

I ran across a thought-provoking article from our friends at GonzoBanker. The crux of the article deals with one bank’s frustration with increasing their efforts at “customer experience” without experiencing an associated increase in new account acquisition (via referrals) or account penetration with existing customers. The banker quoted increased the level of knowledge that his branch staff had on products and services in order to increase the perceived “value” of his FI’s services.

My immediate thought was that the banker did what “he” thought would create a better experience for his customers. I believe there is a big disconnect with what most financial institutions management “thinks” creates a great customer experience and what customers think is a great customer experience. We’ll call this the “I-Focus”, an internal effort at improving the customer experience. Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that an I-Focus isn’t valuable. It’s just incomplete. What’s missing is the “O-Focus”, the outward look at what drives customer behavior, preferences and activities. Customers are voting with their time and wallet: they want more mobility, more engaged self-service, more freedom to access the bank at a time and place of their choosing. No amount of additional training classes for branch staff will enable the type of experience that customers are electing. And this is not just a financial services issue; they are selecting self-service for shopping, travel, entertainment, and much more.

Start by determining which customers you want to keep (I’d suggest the profitable ones, however you measure that) and the customers you want to acquire (Gen Y and Gen Z potential customers represent acquiring $41 trillion of wealth over the next 30 years …) and then find out what is a great experience for them. Ask them. No, I don’t mean a SurveyMonkey email, I mean really ASK THEM! I find when I ask someone about what makes an experience memorable for them, they will always offer up something. Then categorize these in a meaningful way and determine what it will take for your FI to get from what you offer today to the experience the targeted customers want. Determine the O-Focus first; then determine the appropriate I-Focus course of action that will create the appropriate environment for the desired increase in new accounts and total account penetration.

Starbucks is selling coffee. Amazon is selling books, music, lots of stuff. These are commodities, nothing special. Both of these entities have created an “experience” and work diligently to continue to make that experience special. They know that the experience is emotional and is different for different customers and create an environment where that experience is valued. Now go into O-Focus mode and do the same.

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