Customer centricity in online banking? It’s people not technology that make you feel valued…

Banks seem to believe ‘customer centricity’ means encouraging us to do everything online so they can close local branches. Where the Badger lives, for example, there were 6 branches five years ago – now there’s one. That’s not a problem for most of us – provided, of course, online services are joined up and work well. If not, customers get grumpy, re-evaluate their loyalty, and consider moving to where there’s a better ‘customer centric’ experience. The Badger’s doing just that! Why? Because of a recent experience applying for a savings account online with a bank where the Badger’s used their Internet Banking service for >10 years.

Things unfolded thus. A letter arrived saying the interest rate on an existing online savings account was reducing by more than a third. Shortly thereafter another letter arrived saying a ‘loyalty’ account with an enhanced rate could be applied for online. Time for action! The Badger logged in, applied, and was given a reference number. The account would be accessible in Internet Banking within 7 days. Seven days? Nah, surely with modern IT and an established long-standing customer it would be quicker. Hmm.
Seven days passed. Nothing happened. A standard letter then arrived saying a) the account couldn’t be opened because the Badger’s address didn’t match the bank’s records, and b) the Badger could correct his address via Internet Banking or by visiting a branch. The Badger logged in, found that all his details were correct, and was baffled. A 25-mile round trip to the nearest branch ensued.

A 25-minute conversation with a helpful cashier revealed that the bank had two customer records for the Badger, identical except for two slight differences. One has the Badger’s house name and street name, the other has the same plus the house number in the street. One has the Badger’s title as Dr. and the other as Mr. The cashier ‘sent some emails to get the data aligned’ and the Badger had to reapply for the account at the counter with the cashier.

The Badger was unimpressed. The original application was made when logged into Internet Banking so, surely, it could have been validated correctly and immediately? Surely with today’s powerful IT and modern technology, a bank has a single view of its customer and can identify from two near identical customer records that they’re the same person? Hmm. How silly to think that!

The Badger drew the following conclusions from the experience. Firstly, that the bank’s Internet Banking services are ‘bank centric’ and not really joined up or ‘customer centric’. Secondly, the experience at the branch reinforced the importance of face to face interaction with real people to make you feel like a valued customer. It’s this interaction that makes ‘customer centricity’ real…not technology. Loyalty is rattled. The option to move elsewhere is under active consideration…

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