The One Question You Shouldn't Ask Your Customers

Capgemini, UniCredit and Efma recently published their annual World Retail Banking Report. Lots of interesting data in the report, definitely recommend that you give it a look.

There are some surprising findings in the report, as well. You might not have guessed that customer satisfaction with primary banks was highest in the United States (especially if you’re a credit union executive here). Personally, I’m not surprised. I like the way they asked the question: Satisfaction with primary bank. Everybody hates banks — just not their own.

But there is one finding that bank (and credit union) executives should take with caution. Bank Systems & Technology summed it up in this headline: Customers Say Branch, Online Channels More Important Than Mobile. Per BS&T:

“Mobile was considered the least important channel in all regions, but was valued more highly by Latin Americans than customers elsewhere.”

This finding leads us to the one question you should never ask your customers: Which channel is most important? (or alternatively, Which is your preferred channel?)

There are probably a thousand reasons why this is a bad question. In the interest of time, I’ll share three of them:

1. It’s too generic. Which channel is most important or preferred for what? You don’t really believe that when a customer says the branch is most important or preferred that she means for all transactions and interactions, do you?

2. It’s unactionable. What are you going to do with this finding? Pull money out of the mobile and call center budgets because they’re “not as important” as the branch and online channels? You might very take money away from a channel, but only if the interaction volume in that channel significantly declines, or if the mix of interactions changes. You’re not going to mess with the budgets simply because some survey shows one channel is preferred over another.

3. It ignores the Blepfard Effect. The blepfard effect states:  “It is impossible to ask people to imagine a situation, a state of mind, or something that they can’t possibly imagine when they have no basis of experience to do so.”

The mobile channel is a blepfard. It doesn’t exist for the vast majority of customers. Asking them “how important is the mobile channel?” is a ridiculous question. They haven’t experienced the channel, and what it can and can’t do — and more importantly, what it might be able to do. In fact, for most financial institutions, the mobile channel doesn’t really exist in a mature state, either. What most FIs have done to date is simply port existing functionality from other channels to the mobile device — they’ve hardly scratched the surface of what the mobile channel will be able to do.

There are a lot of good questions you should be asking your customers in the surveys you do. Channel preferences isn’t one of them.

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One thought on “The One Question You Shouldn't Ask Your Customers

  1. Great comments on the findings. It does point out the challenge of investing in new technologies before there is significant adoption of that technology. Given the historical context of branches, it really isn’t surprising that they continue to be a significant channel for consumers.

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