Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Remarkable But Not In A Good Way

The inertia of banking customers is astonishing. I have been with my bank for over 20 years and never really contemplated switching despite occassional frustrations. Banks know that I'm displaying the archetypal customer behaviour and thus don't offer very much different from their competition. It increasingly resembles a commodity business albeit one with premium product profits.

But now, in the interest of offering me more choice (have you heard that line before?), they're actually making my experience worse. Every time I use an ATM, I monitor my balances by printing out a slip - a simple task that was, logically enough, a one step process. Until very recently that is. My bank that I shall not name initially has suddenly imposed an extra screen on me. So now I have to use twice as many button presses to obtain that slip. Usability halved in one fell swoop. And this for what I imagine to be one of the major needs of ATM users.

Ironically, this comes at a time when banks are starting to make claims about theirs being a retail environment and marketing themselves that way via additional offers and gimmicks such as half-price sales days! So, I wrote to the head of marketing to question this diminution of the customer experience. In the interim, I noticed a newspaper columnist complaining of a similar over-complication at the same bank, so I was wondering if the feedback message was getting through to head office. Clearly not, the response I received this morning was breathtaking.

"To accomodate the new charity donations and mobile phone top-up functions, we have re-arranged the initial menu screens, with the balance enquiry function now spread over two steps.

Whilst we are continually looking to improve on the automated services that we be bring to you through cash machines, changes such as these are NECESSARY (my capitals) to allow for new services to be introduced."

Imposed services in a customer-focussed busines. Yet another Paradox of Choice.


Blogger ann michael said...

John - I agree. I was actually annoyed when I had to specify which language I wanted to use on ATM transactions. I used to run up, throw in my card, and type my PIN. Now I can't. Why can't they default to English and then either allow you to type your PIN or, on that same sreen, to press another button to pick an alternate language? What percentage of user's would then save a step???

4:11 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger john dodds said...

It's astonishing Ann. Since I wrote the post, I see examples everywhere that I'm sure infuriate customers, users and staff.

Thanks for commenting - it's nice to know somebody is reading this stuff because I'm sure I'm not maximising its exposure.

12:29 PM, April 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure a lot of people are reading it. Blog readers just don't post a lot, so don't stress.

When you start thinking as a businessman (as I have recently), you start realizing that every decision made where a sacrifice is necessary (useability, etc.) is simply a financial decision. I can see that it's in their best interest, as well, since most customers will not complain and will even adjust to the new changes within a few attempts.

I recommend the book Simplicity by Edward de Bono for a good essay on the values we're talking about.

9:07 PM, April 22, 2006  

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