I was in Orlando 2 years ago at what use to be retail banking seminal event: BAI. It wasn’t what it use to be… One speaker stood far above the crowd, it was Michael Porter the preeminent strategist from Harvard. For those not familiar with Porter, his books include “Competitive Strategy” the reference book which defines the subject. I was fortunate to hear him speak at the large forum, and at the round table following. His words have stuck with me for 2 years: ‘The time that you (bankers) spend trying to figure out how to make your products sticky, and increase your switching costs, is that much more time a competitor is going to develop a model that delivers value to your customers’.
Banks don’t spend enough time thinking about how to deliver value. Let me give another example of a “value” bank that probably has one of the better reputations in the US: ING Direct. I was with Arkadi Kullman (CEO ING Direct) in Oct 2004, he said his “model” wasn’t for everyone (customers or competitors). From a customer perspective according to Arkadi ‘if you want a relationship then go somewhere else, ING’s goal is to deliver value with minimal interaction’. Following this comment he continued ‘if you (customer) call me more the 3 times a year, I will cancel your account’. This is obviously not a customer centered message. Even banks known for delivering value are more focused internally (low cost in ING’s example) then on the customer. I believe that most successful large banks actually started with a strong customer focus; after all how can any company be successful without making customers happy?
Perhaps customer expectations of financial service providers has gotten so low that the industry needs a face lift. As the former CEO of Egg said to me (Egg has the highest customer satisfaction in the UK) “we are the best of the rats.. customers hate banks”. Most customers in the US choose their primary bank based upon its proximity to their home.
Is there another way? What are the keys to a successful financial services relationship? Lets explore this over the next few days.