I’ve written and talked about this sort of thing before, but never blogged. In the hope that the blogosphere offers a little more interactivity, I going to re-articulate some thoughts and sound out a reaction – hopefully it will be a bit like lighting the
Are Retail Banks that bad?
Retail banks are arguably easy targets when it comes to customer service and satisfaction; we love to hate ‘em! And this is truer than ever post-crunch. It’s hard not to find grating the vanishing contrition and rapidly recovering executive pay and bonuses
and yet little improvement to service. We feel, I suspect, ‘a bit robbed’!
Frankly, there is no smoke without fire and there are plenty of stories on this site about customer service ‘let-downs’ Much of the malaise in my view is a result of several, inter-related factors. First, banks for the most part are long-established institutions
where a sense of tradition and therefore inertia is inevitable. Retail banking has never been very ‘dynamic’ in the strategic sense of rapid rate of change in the market environment (mainly in fairness to the banks, because as customers we haven’t demanded
or even needed much change or innovation).
Second, this institutionalised inertia has reinforced an organizational structure in banks that is siloed, and introspective.
But worse is the attitudinal aspect of retail banking culture– they seem wildly out of touch and they don’t seem to care enough to change.
If you think that is all a bit too strong just think about a few examples.
Banks have collectively invested billions on programmes that seek to ‘manage’ customers when mostly we don’t want managing. A full picture of a customer in either a B2C or B2B context is laudable and the sought after ‘single customer view’ a healthy goal
but I’d argue this has been done primarily to cross- and up-sell product rather than to offer me a better service or an overall richer ‘experience’. Sure, for some, the outcome of a well-targeted campaign, perhaps driven by Real-time Offer Management and
supported by honed predictive analytics might result in a better product mix or service, but I suspect this is the minority. All I know is that every time I interact with my bank (actually banks), I’m always offered something and it is always the ‘next best
offer’ the bank has to sell me, not the next best thing for me. I don’t think that is progress!
I’ve not met a bank in the last 10 years that hasn’t proudly proclaimed to be ‘customer centric’ and yet when one looks over their organisational structure it is entirely built around product families and is heavily siloed – the ‘lending organisation’, the
transactional business etc. You can’t get less ‘customer centric’ than that! Many of course have VOC processes, Customer Advocates, and even segment managers (but usually in marketing and usually not that senior) and one can make some progress in breaking
down these silos with technology of course, but I’d argue the silos aren’t necessary in the first place.
Few, a handful maybe, of banks really reward loyalty. That’s astounding, but check it out – Do you get better service, better rates, or lower fees from your bank as a long-standing customer than a ‘walk-in’? I’d hazard a guess that 9 times out of 10 you
What’s the fix?
So what to do? If I had a magic wand, I’d strike first at the culture of complacency, especially around the notion of ‘customer for life’. If banks started to adopt a mindset that I might leave at the slightest issue, poor service experience or inconvenience,
then I wouldn’t have to. (In fact, it is becoming increasingly easy to move even primary financial relationships – but we perceive it will be hard and consequently we’re just not very good at voting with our feet when it comes to banking).
Actually, take the mindset shift one step further – treat me as a ‘consumer’ not a ‘customer’. It’s not just semantics. At the end of the day, I want to consume some banking services. Generally, I have little interest in the underlying financial instrument
anyway; it’s what it gives me that is important. I want a car, I need a car loan, I want a house, I need a mortgage, I want convenience and a store of money, I need a current account etc.
If I consume and I’m satisfied, then I’ll keep consuming – Most of us are happy to reward a good experience with loyalty. Maybe then the bank has earned the right to treat me as a ‘customer’, but not until.
To be clear, this mindset shift doesn’t mean banks can’t charge the appropriate fee for the service, or they can’t offer me new products and services, it just means that they treat the relationship between us as more ‘fragile’, potentially more transient.
That’s why I think banks don’t need ‘customers’ – it has encouraged a cultural viewpoint within retail banks that is not healthy for either party. It might seem counter-intuitive, but treating customers as consumers may be the way to get a radically different,
and better, retail banking experience.