Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - March 25, 2015

Are People the Only Way to Deliver a Personal Touch?

Are customers coming into your branch and dealing with tellers or other staff? Are they calling and talking to employees about their situations, their needs, their issues, their desires?

Or are they pointing, clicking, and swiping?

And if they are interacting more often through machines and technology than through your people, have you lost the ability to deliver service with personal touch, with a unique style that helps customers feel good about dealing with you?

These are the issues recently covered in a very interesting article on Banking.Com by Anelia Varela ("What Should a Bank Sound Like?"). She wrote about her own use of a bank's mobile app, which she loved.

But she didn't love it for what it could do, because that was nothing special. Every institution's app can handle making deposits and checking balances and all the usual tasks.

She liked how she was greeted with a local photo and a real "Good Afternoon" when she logged in. And she argued that the need to deliver the personal touch is greater than ever, as personal, human-to-human interactions become less common.

What's more, she argues that adding that personal touch is relatively easy. It takes awareness and commitment from every level of management -- in other words, not leaving all the decisions about the mobile app or the web interface to the technical developers. She also suggests that as we build these tools, we should pay attention to our messages, to simplifying explanations, to providing information that anyone, and any customer, can understand.

That can go a long way toward distinguishing your institution from your competition, as can looking for opportunities to be, well, a little more human in technology-delivered communications.

For instance, when you use most ATMs, while you are waiting for your commands to be processed, you find yourself ignoring ads for mortgages or auto loans or whatever. But I know of a local credit union that has replaced those ads with messages like "Don't forget to floss!" or "We've missed you!"

Isn't bringing a smile to a customer's lips better than showing them an ad they are not going to pay the least attention to? Don't you think this simple practice -- a snap to implement technically -- helps distinguish this institution?

Of course, some communications are constrained by legal requirements, but Varela thinks that's too often an excuse, not a reason. She notes that even the regulators are pushing for simpler, more straightforward language in communications with customers.

Leaving the technical and legal departments in charge of the language you use can just make you come off as annoying, if not foolish. I'm reminded of an auto commercial I saw recently in which a Kia is being driven on an aircraft carrier. These words appear on the screen during the commercial: "Professional driver. Closed course. Do not attempt."

Does that make Kia look concerned for their customers' welfare? Or do they just look stupid? How am I going to get my own car on an aircraft carrier? Slavishly obeying the "fine print gurus" in an organization can easily damage your brand.

You have years of experience talking to customers person-to-person. Take the lessons learned from those interactions to make your technology-delivered communications, along with your various disclaimers and form letters, more human, more personal, even more fun.

You'll be remembered for it the next time your customers are looking for additional services.