Beyond Faster Horses

I once believed that I wanted more Star Wars films to be made (note: I am, of course, a huge nerd1). I was not happy with the Star Wars film that I eventually received in the summer of 1999 — known in my circle as “The Menace That Shall Not Be Named.” Most of my demographic segment have an attachment to the original Star Wars films that borders on unhealthy, as we saw those films during a part of our pre-adolescence during which the style, tone, and content are maximally impactful. What I wanted was to be five years old again, awed by cinematic spectacle and inspired by uncomplicated heroism. To ask a film to take me to this place again as an adult was admittedly a tall order (it does not help that the prequel films are awful, a note that I cannot resist adding here).

New Coke, Heinz’s EZ Squirt green ketchup, and the McDonald’s Arch Deluxe burger are well-known examples of consumer product failures that arose from research into consumer preferences and interviews with target consumers. Software suffers from a similar problem, as end users crave familiarity in their expressed preferences but find the delivery of that content or experience uninspiring. In the design world, many practitioners go so far as to assert that listening to users directly is a practice that all but guarantees failure. The reason being that it is difficult for users to accurately express insight into their own experiences and to divorce their actual preferences from the preferences that they wish to express in front of others. Few of us would admits publicly to watching “Amish Mafia”, but the show has had four seasons (note: I do not watch “Amish Mafia”2).

This is not a call for all of us to stop listening to our customers, far from it. However, there can be a broad gap between the stated end-user preferences, such as “just make it work exactly like it did before” and the actual end-user performance and experience. Measuring end-user engagement and task completion with software interfaces is critical for arriving at objective assessments of usability and capability, not just using interviews and ad hoc feedback to drive design. The counterexample that illustrates this principle is the extermination of physical keyboards on mobile phones driven by the iPhone’s introduction in 2007. Although many end users expressed strong preferences for a physical keyboard, the industrial design and performance of full-screen touch interfaces is clearly superior for apps (and arguably for messaging). Or as I sometimes like to daydream of Henry Ford lamenting: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Innovators hear the desire for the faster horse and think about how to fulfill this wish in a better way.

1 I have, as an adult, watched the entire Star Wars Holiday Special (look it up if you dare).

2 I do not watch it, but I would Executive Produce the show out of my own pocket if the Star Wars prequels could vanish from existence.

Are You Teaching Your Account Holders Anything?

One of my most profound experiences—professionally, anyway—occurred about ten years ago while visiting with my doctor. Doc was standing with his back to me, entranced in whatever it was he was fiddling with, when I said to him, “I guess it gets pretty irritating with all those pharmaceutical reps running around here all the time, huh?” It was more small-talk than visiting – I certainly didn’t expect to solicit the response I did. Doc stopped what he was doing, turned, and said, “Actually, no, it’s not irritating at all—I don’t know what I’d do without them.”

Say what!? I thought. Did I hear you correctly, Doc?

“I swear I’ve gotten dumber every day since the day I graduated from medical school, Will; if it weren’t for the drug reps, I wouldn’t know what the heck was going on.”  Needless to say, I was surprised at his response. He went on to explain that he’s so busy messing with insurance companies, paperwork, billing, seeing as many patients as possible and, oh yeah, being the CEO of his medical practice, that he doesn’t have time to keep up with the latest techniques, procedures and clinical trials—he relies on the pharmaceutical reps to keep him informed.

Not coincidentally, the reps who kept him most informed, were the reps for whom he wrote the most scripts. And that’s when it all came together for me: teaching is selling, and selling is teaching. If you’d like to get your tellers selling, get ‘em teaching. defines consult as: to give professional or expert advice; to serve as a consultant. Teach, however, is defined as: to impart knowledge or skill; give instruction to. Now, which would you rather receive: knowledge or advice? If you’re like me, the choice is obvious: knowledge! And your account holders undoubtedly feel the same way.

Studies have shown that consumers much prefer to buy things, rather than be soldthings, and they definitely don’t prefer being “advised” of what to do. It’s when your account holders have been taught something—partaken of your knowledge—that they feel empowered to make informed decisions of their own free will.

After more than fifteen years of working with community financial institutions, I’ve heard bankers repeatedly say that selling isn’t easy. Specifically, “We just can’t seem to get our tellers to sell, Will.” The problem, however, isn’t that they can’t sell—it’s that they’re not teaching. I once managed a team of relationship managers and many of them told me they were uncomfortable with “the selling part.” They felt that as relationship managers, they were violating the sacred, unspoken terms of their impartial, objective, client-advocate status. When I told the relationship managers to replace the word selling with teaching, their cross-sell numbers went through the roof.

To remedy the perceived problem with selling, instill a culture of teaching among your tellers. Educate them on the benefits of this new and improved approach—greater trust between you and your account holders; stronger relationships as a result of greater trust; and less attrition as a result of stronger relationships—and they’ll buy into it.

And know that your account holders aren’t the only ones who appreciate knowledge—your employees appreciate it just as much. Assign various folks to become subject matter experts, and then have them teach their peers.

Now is the time to get your tellers teaching. According to a 2013 study by Power Consulting, during which 839 in-person audits were performed by small business owners at 38 financial institutions (FIs) across the country, nearly 40% of FIs audited never even mentioned their FI’s business mobile offerings.

A Cisco IBSG study found that “financial education” was one of Gen ‘Y’ and Gen ‘X’s’ greatest needs; nearly 40% of both groups surveyed desired “help managing their finances.” If you’re the FI that fills that need, you may just have an account holder for life. Just remember: teaching is selling, and selling is teaching. Are you teaching your account holders anything?

Will Ferrell is Vice President of Product Marketing for Q2.  Will is responsible for shaping the messages and painting the pictures that tell the story behind Q2’s passion for strengthening communities by strengthening their financial institutions. A veteran of the virtual banking and payments industry, Will has spoken at numerous industry conferences and tradeshows, teaching anyone who will listen about the power of the virtual channel to improve lives, all the while dodging “thought leaders”.


The Perils of Information vs. Knowledge, Empowerment, February 14, 2011, Stan Lepeak, Managing Director Global Research)
— Power Consulting
— Celent

So How Do You Thrill a Customer? Solve Their Vexing Problem!

Today, I conducted a webinar, part two of a three part series on branch transformation. Today’s webinar was focused on how financial institutions need to change the focus of what actually occurs in the physical branch. I am advocating for a dramatic move away from the traditional transaction/new account opening focus to an engagement center. Activities that will actually draw in existing and potential customers in three distinct categories: consultative selling, education, and problem solving. Based on the feedback from the webinar, this message resonated with the FIs that signed up for the series.

Not an hour after the webinar ended, I was clearing out some emails and found this article from Bank Innovation. The story was about a new study released by Ernst and Young that revealed the results of why people make the choices they do regarding primary banking decisions. Interestingly, the three areas that EY highlighted from the study are simplicity, advice, and problem solving. I found the fact that their three key areas were so similar to what I had advocated in the webinar both validating and challenging. Validating in the sense that what I was providing in education for the attendees was in alignment with a new study right on topic. Challenging in that I still don’t see much movement in community bank and credit union C-level executives’ attitude regarding how rapidly the virtual branch is advancing and the associated impact on the branch.

I firmly believe that we live in an age where people of all ages and companies of all sizes know how powerful and liberating mobility has become. People are shopping, receiving entertainment, transacting, and interacting via mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets have enabled anyone to be able to access their financial institution at any time and place they choose with whatever device they have in their hand. How powerful! The resulting decline in branch traffic and any measurable statistic on transactions has been precipitous. Yet many bankers cling to the traditional structure and say that it is in the branch where true customer service is manufactured. And to them I say: customer service is what any one customer says it is and nothing more. Once someone has deposited a check from their mobile phone at 11:00pm on Sunday evening, can you really say that requiring them to make a trip to a branch Monday morning is better customer service?

One of the most telling statistics from the EY study had to do with satisfaction with their institution across four categories: products, channels, benefits, and problem solving. Not surprising (at least to me) was that satisfaction with problem solving ranked the highest, with 56% saying that when their FI solves vexing problems, that brings the highest level of satisfaction to account holders. See chart below:


In light of this fact, it is interesting to that so few FIs make any actual real effort to be in the problem-solving business. The model I advocate for banks to consider and possibly emulate is the Apple Store and the world-renowned Genius Bar. How hard would it be for a bank to have one? You already have a really good bar structure– you call it the teller line–just cut all that wood off the top and you’re left with a great looking long piece of marble or Corian. Put some geniuses behind there and you are in business. Once your customers and members knew that such a resource existed from your institution, they would be calling making appointments the next day. And perhaps, just as an Apple store in the mall is slammed at 11:00 on Wednesday, so your branch would experience the type of activity that befits an engagement center, drawing in virtual branch customers and prospects alike.

To get the full story, sign up for the webinars. (If you missed them, you can always ask for a replay.) But even if you don’t, I strongly urge you to revisit your strategy on branch transformation. These physical locations can become powerful engagement centers. But it won’t happen organically; you are going to have to push a new paradigm, a different attitude towards what constitutes customer service.

For more information on Q2’s Webinar Series, contact q2webinars@

Protect Yourself from “Phishing” Attacks & Social Engineering Scams

So what is phishing?

Phishing is an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, account numbers, credit card details, and other personal information by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Phishing is typically carried out using social engineering techniques such as email spoofing and often directs users to click a malicious link, or enter sensitive information at a fraudulent website, disguised as a legitimate or trusted source. Phishing e-mails may include a company’s logo or tagline along with a message of urgency regarding a problem with an account or a need to validate personal information.

How do you avoid phishing scams?

Your bank or credit union should NEVER request personal financial information from you as a customer via e-mail or online forms. As a customer, if you ever receive any suspicious e-mail containing logos or references to your bank, contact the bank directly. Never respond to an unsolicited or suspicious e-mail or provide any information to an unknown source.

Be suspicious of any unsolicited email requesting personal financial information – even if it appears to be from an entity you trust. These requests may ask for usernames and passwords, PIN numbers, social security numbers, account numbers, or card verification values (CVV) from the back of your credit and debit cards. Never provide this information unless you are using a known secured website or calling directly over the telephone.
Be aware of links embedded in suspicious e-mails. Consider bookmarking free sites such as, which will PDF any URL in real-time and present it back to you so you know if the site is fraudulent or real.
Never overlook your computer security measures.  Install the latest anti-virus updates and anti-spyware software on your computer to prevent malicious websites from installing spyware. Visit to learn more about available security software and other ways to help safeguard your computer.

Awareness is Key

Review your monthly credit card and bank statements.  Remember, time is of the essence.  Don’t wait for your statement to arrive in the mail or your inbox. Checking your statements online will enable you to easily identify errors or recognize unauthorized account activity.  In the case of a disparity or unauthorized transaction(s), notify your financial institution immediately by contacting its customer service department.

Take Prompt Action

If you feel you have been a victim of a “phishing” scam, take immediate steps to mitigate any damage to your personal information and your identity.

1. Report the fraudulent activity to your financial institution.

2. File a complaint online with the W3C.

3. Close existing deposit and checking accounts and reopen them with new account numbers.

4. Monitor and review your credit reports.  Report unauthorized activity to the three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

5. Request a free copy of your credit reports.  To obtain a copy from each of the three major credit bureaus, visit  You may request your reports online, by phone, or through the mail.

6.If required, you may request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit record requiring that you be contacted before credit is extended using your name and social security number.

7. Report suspicious activity to the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General Fraud Hotline, by calling 1-800-269-0271 or online at OIG’s website