Monthly Archives: January 2014

Banks, are you paying attention to what T-mobile just announced?

 

T-mobile just announced that they plan to provide mobile banking services to their customer base.  These services include a pre-paid debit card, a mobile banking app, and a basic checking account.

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Clearly T-mobile is continuing to offer value to their customer base that has signed up for a phone using a pre-paid contract…. and it’s working.  T-mobile is quickly winning customers in the coveted 18 – 35 target market…the segment that is most likely to engage with mobile banking.

T-mobile is partnering with The Bancorp Bank to provide this customer value.  Sprint was the first carrier to partner with Boost Mobile to provide similar banking features to its customers.  These strategic partnerships provide a great deal of value to both partners in the mobile and banking verticals. Many T-mobile and Sprint customers have pre-paid contracts so it’s not a far leap to understand this segment would also see value in a pre-paid debit card and low fee banking products.  The banks providing these services gain access to a mobile savvy customer base that is not being well served by the Top 100 banks.

These strategic partnerships should raise the neck hairs of executives at the remaining mobile carriers and at the Top 100 banks. Yes, Verizon and AT&T are big guerillas.  However, similar to bank sentiment, mobile carrier sentiment is low too.  Consumers are tired of paying high fees for mobile service. However, by providing additional value to a high life time value audience, these carriers can attract customers away from the larger carriers…even if it’s a slow and steady rate.  Remember the tale of the tortoise and the hare?  AT&T and Verizon should consider opportunities that may be available with yet “un-wed” mobile banking providers like GoBank, Moven or Simple. I’m wonder if the pay as you go mobile provider, Ting, is talking with any of these similarly minded banking providers? There could be an interesting partnership there.

From the banking perspective, executives are aware that it’s all about mobile.  Contrary to recent articles touting that top banks are aware of the importance of mobile, it’s well understood that most banking technology innovation will occur OUTSIDE of the banking industry.  I’ve heard this big bank mobile focus described as a mobile arms race.  However, I think banks may need to buy their “arms” from outside the banking industry providers, to continue the metaphor.

Over time, maybe within just 5 years, a young and frustrated segment of customers will be evaluating and switching to banking providers who meet their needs in the most cost effective way through a channel that is most convenient.  It’s no secret that this channel is mobile.

Banking executives must quickly evaluate how they can meet the needs of customers beyond banking and providing special offers that can be found already in a Penny Saver. Because of the negative sentiment towards banks, financial institutions may consider being an unbranded, silent partner where they provide the banking back end and rely on a partner to provide the branded consumer facing front end.  However, could a big financial institution that is used to being the “alpha male” in a relationship be open to playing a more balanced role with an innovative partner?  Over time, the bank’s future as a leading financial institution may depend on this as the coveted 18-30 population ages and mobile banking becomes more ubiquitous. *

* The use of the word “ubiquitous” is brought to you by Starbucks, a brand with retail locations everywhere. 🙂


What Can Bank Social CRM Teams Learn from Ford? A lot!

Last year my wife and I began our search process to find a new SUV. Our consideration set included Toyota, Ford and Chevrolet. I tweeted out one evening that we were considering the Ford Explorer and asked for feedback from my community.  Within 24 hours I received a reply…not only from friends, but also from Ford.  The response included a link to the Explorer’s features and an offer to schedule a test drive. Color me impressed. (Tweet me at @ericdunstan with the 80s movie reference)

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I responded that we were interested in a test drive. A Ford rep quickly responded and offered to schedule a demo and to provide incentives.

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Ford is effectively using social media as a lead generation tool and quickly acquired my information to schedule a test drive.  I used all natural language text with no # or handles. Clearly Ford is monitoring the social media channels and has an effective strategy to capture the information and act on it.   Nice work.

I recently blogged about my frustration with the mobile deposit feature of the Wells Fargo mobile application.  I tweeted my frustration as part of a theraputic venting processes.  Within 24 hours Wells Fargo replied with a tip to address the mobile application #fail and a request for me to call a 1-800 number to address any further issues.

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I applaud Well Fargo for capturing or “hearing” my frustration on Twitter and responding.  However, given the importance of social media as a marketing channel, Wells Fargo’s response is almost a given.  I would imagine that almost all of the Top 100 banks have similar processes in place to monitor and manage the social media channel.  However, I believe Wells Fargo’s response falls short of meeting my customer needs and their social media team could learn a lot from what Ford is doing.

The Wells response was very generic and made me do the heavy lifting.  “Try closing the app and restarting your phone.  If the problem persists, please call 800….”  Duh. Wells Fargo, I’ve been an iPhone user sense the iPhone 3 and know that restarting an app is a quick fix.  However, given the Wells app recent reviews, I think this functionality fail is an application problem.  Additionally, the LAST thing I want to do is call your 800 number to then have to dial through a myriad of prompts to eventually talk with a representative after a several minute wait.

The Ford response was very personal, responded to my specific question, and provided a channel to connect with a representative directly.  Ford made me feel personally taken care of, listened to and treated as a desired customer.  Wells could have worked harder by…

1. Offering to collect my information so an online/mobile customer service rep could contact me directly

2. Having the rep present the option of contacting him or her directly through a Twitter DM to help trouble shoot

3. Providing me a link to their website with a list of known issues

4. Acknowledging my frustration and offering an incentive as a “mea culpa” for their failed application

I feel like my concerns were heard by Wells Fargo, but I don’t feel personally taken care of to ensure my issue was resolved and that I’m a valued customer.  This is an example of the difference between just listening to the customer and engaging with the customer.  By engaging with the customer, Wells has the opportunity to personally respond to my need to show that my customer relationship is valued.  Ford did this so well that we bought an Explorer from them.

Moving beyond just listening to and engaging with the customer may require rethinking how customer support teams are trained and incentivized.  Additionally, companies should consider implementing a social media analytics and engagement software solution.  These solutions go beyond functionality of Tweet Deck that enable users to track multiple accounts and listen for mentions of their company or brand.  The more robust solutions, like Attensity or Nimble, for example, enable companies to listen to the customer, analyze the need and then act on meeting the customer need.

Consumers are increasingly frustrated with their banking relationship. There are a few Internet and mobile only banks, like GoBank or Moven, which take the mobile experience and customer service seriously.  Leading banks, including Wells Fargo, will quickly lose customers should they not learn how to actively engaged with their customers through all channels of customer support, including social media.


Know your customer first to find the right strategic partnerships

This week I had a conversation with an executive at a mobile banking company. We spent a majority of our time discussing the strategy of using strategic partnerships to build a customer base, deliver products that meet customer needs and generate revenue. This executive shared an unfortunate experience where his team was pushed into a partnership where they provided most of the product development resources and had to commit to the lion share of the marketing spend to promote.  Unfortunately, the double barrel commitment yielded little return in helping the company achieve its goals. The partnership was more of a distraction and had high opportunity costs. Frustrating.

Strategic partnerships are an important lever to pull to grow revenue, drive acquisition, build out technology, and increase product functionality.  However, it’s mission critical that the right strategic partnerships be established or the relationships will be a distraction and take critical focus off of what is important.

One of the most important exercises a company must go through is to understand who their customer is and how the company will meet customer needs.  Without this understanding, it will be impossible to find the right strategic partnerships. Once the customer is understood, companies need to evaluate potential partners across 4 factors.

The first factor is access to the right customer.  Will the partner enable a company to market their product to a customer segment that will generate revenue and have high life time value?  If not, the partnership will yield access to consumers whose needs are not met.  As a result, little value will be provided to the company.  Unfortunately this happens far to often as young companies rush to find ways to acquire new users and monetize as quickly as possible.  As we all know, this is a symptom of a short-term focus and a need to show growth to current and would be investors.

The second factor is to understand the required investment needed to realize the value of the strategic partnership.  For example, eBay entered into a strategic partnership with PayPal to meet the needs of its users to pay for things securely online.  Yes, eBay had to invest product resources to integrate the PayPal technology into its listings.  However, the investment had a very positive ROI for it brought huge value to eBay buyers and sellers. The product partnership proved to be very successful, as we know, and eventually resulted in eBay acquiring PayPal.

The third factor is the company’s internal resources and willingness to support the partnership.  I’ve seen many companies stumble on this factor. I was part of an organization that needed to partner to quickly provide product features to remain competitive.  It was one of those standard “make vs buy” debates that resulted in the executive team deciding to move forward with a partnerships strategy.  Unfortunately, employees outside of the executive committee did not feel they had the resources needed to support any technology partnerships and quickly dug their heals in and resisted any discussions. Needless to say, any partnership agreements quickly stalled in the implementation process.

The last factor is both parties’ shared interest in a successful outcome.  The partnership must be of equal or greater strategic importance to both partners.  While at Excite@Home I managed a strategic partnership with Paramount Pictures that was designed to increase awareness that Excite was a destination to learn more about the latest blockbuster movies. I managed a team of developers, designers and marketers to build solutions to promote Paramount’s movies across the Excite@Home network.   We busted our butts to get things done.  Unfortunately, Paramount didn’t have much interest in promoting us as defined in our partnership agreement.  We were lucky to get an Excite@Home logo placement on the front page of the Paramount website…but were nowhere close to receiving any offline placements.  Paramount reminded us of this too frequently.  Such is life in the big city. It will always be Silicon Valley vs Hollywood.

So blah.  What is the conclusion to my bloviation? Before company executives start frothing at the mouth to strike strategic partnerships, it’s important to do the introspective work first.  Who is your customer?  What customer needs are being met with the product?  What needs are not being addressed by the product?  Only with this sense of corporate self-awareness can companies enter into fruitful strategic partnerships.  Without doing the upfront work first, it’s like searching for a spouse without knowing what qualities one is looking for in a mate.


Mobile must remain a priority for large banks to retain customers

My family and I received several checks from family members as gifts and as payback for gifts purchased.  My wife typically handles the day-to-day checking account and generally handles making deposits at the nearest Wells Fargo ATM.  I suggested that she try using the mobile deposit feature on the Wells Fargo mobile application.  Being the wife of someone who works in FinTech, she agreed to try out the feature….despite all the negative feedback about the application. Unfortunately,  she successfully validated the negative comments splattered across iTunes.

The biggest disappointment came through the application crashing after each attempt to deposit a check using the mobile deposit feature. What I found most interesting were my wife’s comments after the 3rd attempt. “Well, Wells Fargo, I guess you REALLY don’t want me to use this feature,” was the first comment.  The second comment was “What happened to the pics of the checks I took before the app crashed? Are they stuck in the app or are they with Wells?  Can someone steal the money?”

Three interesting thoughts came to mind as I digested her valid complains.  One, when it comes to getting customers to try new features that involve their money, banks better be sure the feature works for the customer the first time.  Yes, app crashes can happen for many reasons.  Unfortunately, several reviews reflected the same frustration and experience my wife had…which implies that improvements need to be made to the application. From my wife’s point of view, Wells Fargo implicitly told her mobile deposit is not ready for prime time and to keep using the ATM.  Wells needs to track that these customers are and target them with a “mea culpa” CRM program to win back their trust with new technology. After all, according to a recent study, 49% of consumers will change banks for a better mobile experience.

Secondly, I think my wife’s concerns about where the check pictures have gone after the application crashes point to an engrained reaction that stems from frequent e-commerce transactions.  I think similar “where’s my money now?” concerns come up when a consumer enters in a credit card number online, presses submit and the site crashes. “Did my credit card go through? Do I need to re-enter my credit card? If I do, will I get double charged?  Is my card number safe?”  All are common questions following an e-commerce site crash.  I think it’s only natural for my wife to ask similar questions after a mobile banking application fails.  In-application messaging must be delivered immediately to consumers to quell their anxiety when things don’t go as planned.

Lastly, the low application star rating and poor review indicate that mobile is NOT a big priority for Wells Fargo. In an effort to win customers, I would imagine that the mobile team would quickly iterate and redeploy an application as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, Wells Fargo is not the only major bank that appears less focused on winning customers through mobile.  Chase and Bank of America have similarly low rated mobile applications. If these major banks do not step up their focus on mobile, the door will remain WIDE OPEN for innovative mobile banks like GoBank and Simple to entice customers through compelling mobile banking experiences.


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