Interesting times in the UK retail banking industry. The public consider the banks to be pariahs; cue a number of new entrants to the market. Virgin, Tesco, the Post Office, Metro Bank, the one thing they all share is the focus upon the customer experience that is perceived to be broken with the established players.
The concept of a bank seeking ‘fans’ rather than customers is very ‘of the moment’, it speaks to the marketing buzz on all things social, to a world where ‘Facebook will rule the Web during the Next decade‘ (indeed where once all journeys started with google, now they are just as likely to start on Facebook with Facebook now surpassing google in daily traffic).
So what does it mean to strive for fans rather than customers?
Let’s leave aside the dictionary definition of a fan “an enthusiastic devotee, follower, or admirer of a sport, pastime, celebrity, etc.:” (an enthusiastic devotee of a bank? Now that’s a stretch goal) Or the fact that it’s origin is a shortened term for fanatic (what are the consequences for having customers with unquestionable loyalty when you evolve and want to do things different? Will MetroBank one day have a Glazer Manchester United moment?!)
Placing the customer at the heart of everything you do is more than just the shiny stuff at the front of house. “A friendly welcome to dogs and their owners, with water bowls and dog biscuits on hand for man’s best friend – dogs rule at Metro Bank!” said the bank’s announcement. It is more than paying lip service to a social media strategy (Rentokil thought they could get all social without taking their traditional PR along on the ride – see what happened). It is about having the right infrastructure in place; robust systems and flexible processes. It is about investing in the unsexy stuff that rarely sees the light of day, because if you don’t do this things will inevitably go wrong. When the bank upsets a customer because the systems don’t allow the customer to do what they want, or make a mistake, perceived or otherwise, no amount of doggy bowls and seven day opening hours are going to get around that one. Metrobank and the new entrants are well placed to avoid too many of the issues that the incumbents face when trying to be truly customer centric, but they will be doing themselves no favours if they don’t place as much emphasis on the back end systems that the marketing team don’t see or understand as much as the shiny stuff in the branches.