Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Retail Banking. A Watershed Moment?

Banks have struggled with relevancy for a long time.  Since the advent of telephone banking, the physical bank branch has had an identity crisis.  There have been some interesting experiments over the years—combining with other “errand services” such as dry cleaning and coffee; break down of teller/customer barrier, presenting the bank as a point of community (see Umpqua below) etc.

And there have been offers.  Lots offers. 

From consumers’ perspectives, it all just seems like a lot of promotional noise.  If an incentive to open a new account or a make a referral is acted upon, it seems it is a short term engagement, given that a new, more enticing offer will come down the path.  Consumers don’t switch banks the way the do coffee shops, but what is really going on here?

We are at a watershed moment; as we define a new economic normal, banks have a truly unique opportunity to reestablish themselves in the lives of their best customers.

Banks Standing Out

I recently asked people in my networks about their best banking experiences. (Thanks Jeff, Melissa, Emily, Nikole et al.)  There is a great deal of indifference out there.  Much of what banks offer is basic and is simply dressed up with promotions and advertising.  There seems to be very little product innovation, so when USAA and Bank of America and Umpqua (see below) get some nods on these fronts, they really stand out.

Money is an emotional thing.  What are these banks doing to elicit such enthusiasm?

“USAA! USAA! USAA!! It's the bank for Active Duty Military Members, Veterans and their families. Is your Dad a Veteran? If so you too can reap the benefits.”

“….for those of us lucky enough to be members, no one beats USAA, and they don't even have any brick and motor branches.”

“Chuck, they do lots of good things, excellent customer service and innovation like "deposit @home" - scan a check with your computer and deposit it. No fees, ATM charge refunds. Whenever I've needed a loan or to transfer money around it's always just a quick phone call or a few clicks.”

Umpqua Bank is fantastic.”

Yes, this is a bank.  Umpqua. A point of community building.

We can see evidence of the Principles of Consumer Centricity http://bit.ly/9DbM7j in the reactions of the people above.  We see connections made between the brand and the customer based on deep knowledge and authenticity.  Consumers like good ideas that make sense, such as “deposit@home” and reassurances along the way that the Bank of America ATM experience video shows.

Bank of America ATM Experience


To paraphrase, Now is the time for all good banks to come to the aid of their customers.

So, tell me about what your best banking experience. 

Posted via email from ConsumerX: cXChuck's Stuff

1 comment:

  1. This is from a colleague via LinkedIn:
    "...I have to say that as a result of Umpqua's unique banking experience I find myself visiting the bank up to 3 times per week—and looking forward to it. I make excuses to go and get a cookie and coffee. The experience is always pleasant. This is the complete opposite from all of my past banking experiences. I hardly ever physically went to a branch. I appreciate the friendly and personal experience vs the impersonal service at giant traditional banks. Each branch has free coffee, cookies, wifi and computers to use. They encourage customers to come in and hang out whenever. Actually, one branch in downtown Portland has tables and booths kind of like a coffee shop. They sell local goods from local stores which are on display in the lobby. They also allow community groups to use their space and host community events. As a designer, I also appreciate how this is all translated and communicated across all touchpoints--even down to how they deliver your deposit slip--on a dark wood tray with an Umpqua chocolate. I think the biggest thing for me is that I truly believe they care and I appreciate their ability to rethink banking. Do you know of other banks using this model?"

    Thanks Nikole.