The Bankwatch

Tracking the consumer evolution of financial services

Archive for the ‘Self Service’ Category

A perfect example of customer loyalty | WordPress outage

A key driver of customer loyalty is customer service, especially in the handling of crises and problems.  But there are other aspects.

WordPress for those that are not familiar, is a blogging platform.  This blog is running on WordPress.  Yesterday, late afternoon, WordPress was down for 110 minutes.  On the face of it this would be a crisis.  For example when gmail goes down, even for 2 minutes, everyone panics, predicts the end cloud computing, reflects on how this proves you cannot trust Google etc. etc.

When wordpress goes down, here is the result. Downtime Summary

  1. Jean-Luc Crucifix
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Thanks for this very quick update! We appreciate it!

  2. Olivia Tejeda
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Honestly, I was horrified when I heard WordPress was down, but you did a great job of keeping us informed and getting back to business. Thanks so much for that!

  3. Avraham
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Thanks for all your hard work!

  4. jamesb101
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Thanks for the info…..
    I love you guys…..You’re doing a great Job….
    After I did a level 2 diagnostic check (A la Star Trek ) I knew it was the system and I just left things alone…
    Keep up the good work!

  5. Ruslan Trad
    February 19th, 2010 at 12:06 am

    We understand!:)

We love you, thank you, we understand??  There are 203 comments and they are 100% in the same vein.  There is not one comment suggesting they will leave WP, or even anything remotely negative.

On twitter these were the initial reactions.

And this was wordpress response at the time – note Matt Mullenweg is the CEO.

I have seen similar occurrences when something has gone wrong at WP and the result is always the same.

A few things stand out about wordpress.

  1. They are both personal and personable.  Users feel they are dealing with people.  First names are always used.
  2. Matt the CEO is personally engaged and it shows.
  3. There are frequent enhancements to the service that are promoted on my dashboard, and discussed on their blog and forum. They are always communicating to their users.
  4. Users care about WordPress, appreciate the service, and feel engaged with it.  so when it breaks they feel part of the problem, as opposed to Google users who have no idea who is on the other side of the wall at gmail.  There is no personality in the case of Google.

Relevance to Bankwatch:

In my little case study of one, me, WordPress and gmail are my two most commonly used apps.  They are both technically sound, equally reliable and invaluable to me.  Yet I have more perceived confidence in wordpress than gmail,  this despite the fact that logically I know that gmail has never missed a beat since inception in 2004, and I have complete confidence my mail will always be there, despite occasional hiccups.

I believe one difference must lie in personality, and knowing who I am dealing with.  I always have more confidence in the bank where I know the people than in a monolithic organisation such as a typical discount brokerage firm where there is little human contact.  Incidentally I also recognize the distinction between the immediacy of the tools which will also influence how users interpret downtime. 

The challenge then, relative to the organisational personality aspect is to create that human contact and create it in a way that is genuine, and that will scale, without having to maintain a 1,000 unit branch network for example.  The traditionalists always say that bank branches drive loyalty and new accounts.  Is it the physical locations or is it the personality that located in those locations?  How do we scale personality and personal contact.  Before everyone jumps on it this is more than a twitter solution.  My impression of twitter is that it is actually becoming highly impersonal with RT being the predominant twitter activity.

No, the challenge for banks and other organizations to develop a genuine and trusted personality online will be multi faceted yet essential in order to succeed and produce economic scale.

Written by Colin Henderson

February 19, 2010 at 15:34

Posted in Marketing, Self Service

How much about the approach to Branchless Banking is driven by incorrect assumptions?

Johan picked up on my post about mobile loans, but interestingly pointed to an Economist article in November entitled A bank in every pocket?

Mobiles bankieren in die EU. « – was einer so denkt –

Bis jetzt hatte ich gedacht, dass das eine afrikanische Tradition wäre. Ich finde das ganz spannend.

Until now, I had thought that this would be an African tradition.
  I find this very exciting.

I have covered the African mobile phone market, and this article builds on what is happening there. 

These “branchless” schemes typically allow customers to deposit and
withdraw cash through a mobile operator’s airtime-resale agents, and
send money to other people via text messages that can be exchanged for
cash by visiting an agent. Workers can then be paid by phone;
taxi-drivers and delivery-drivers can accept payments without carrying
cash around; money can be easily sent to friends and family. A popular
use is to deposit money before making a long journey and then withdraw
it at the other end, which is safer than carrying lots of cash.

Lots going on, BUT what really struck me was this sentence.

There is no need to set up a national network of branches or cash

So, what are we saying here.  The unbanked, those “poor” folks who for whatever reason have no access to ‘real’ banking services are in fact getting true Direct Banking!!!  [emphasis and sarcasm thrown in for free]

In North America, we are insulated from true creativity in financial services, partly by how Banks’ think, but probably even more by what consumers expect.  When you live in the middle of an incredibly poor area with nominal resources, such as Africa, it seems you can get accept total creativity in Direct Banking/ Branchless Banking, that would not work in North America.  Or would it?

How much about the approach to Branchless Banking is driven by incorrect assumptions?  Maybe, just maybe, our approach to creative solutions is limited by the current environment.  If we approached Direct Banking as Africa has done, and assumed no current resources, what kind of solution might we be able to develop that might address the business case challenges. 

Written by Colin Henderson

January 24, 2008 at 02:15

A new use of the Wesabe API makes switching banks easier

Marc at Wesabe writes about two companies, and their use of the new Wesabe API.  I wanted to focus on one of them with a Banking context – BankSwitcher.

Wheaties for Your Wallet » Blog Archive » LessAccounting, BankSwitcher, and the Wesabe API

BankSwitcher is a service to help people switch their accounts from one bank to another. They just launched their site yesterday, with Wesabe API support baked in from the start. They use your Wesabe transaction data to identify automatic payments and deposits you have set up at your old bank, and to create a “Switching Checklist” that helps you make sure you get everything switched to the new account with no fuss.

… …

The BankSwitcher CEO posted about their launch, and their use of the Wesabe API, in Wesabe Groups.

Such a simple concept, yet powerful, and disruptive to Banks.  This changes paradigms.

This from the CEO of BankSwitcher contained in the Wesabe forum.

Hi, I’m the CEO of Facilitas, a financial services technology start-up
based in NYC. We’ve just launched BankSwitcher, the first-ever
Web-based tool to make it easier for consumers to switch banks.
BankSwitcher instantly identifies all the forms and instructions a user
needs to switch banks and generates a personalized Switching Checklist
that can be downloaded, printed and saved.

Written by Colin Henderson

September 15, 2007 at 22:23

The Bank of the Future | some thoughts on the world of cross-channel sales and marketing

 Just prior to the recent NetFinance conference I was lucky enough to be asked by Dan at eStara to answer a few questions, which were posted on their blog.  Its been a couple of weeks now, and thought I would place them here too. 

Meantime please check out eStara and their blog.  They do a good job at covering many aspects of multichannel development, and not getting caught up in promoting their own products, which incidentally are good, as I can attest from personal experience. 

Anyhow here is the email interview we did, and I relate this to my earlier post on Bank of the Future.

This week, hundreds of financial services executives from all over the world will gather in Phoenix for the 6th Annual Net.Finance Conference to discuss issues pertaining to the marketing and sale of financial products and services. One of the speakers at this year’s event will be Colin Henderson of The Bank Watch blog. Colin, who was formerly director of channel optimization at Bank of Montreal, will be presenting at this year’s conference on Web 2.0, and how banks can incorporate new media and technology to enhance their customer interactions. Recently, we asked Colin a few questions about what banks will be like in the future:

eStara: In your blog, The Bank Watch, you state that the channel efforts of banks ought to be focused on Internet, and then levered across other channels. Explain why you feel this way, and how banks are handling this transition to the Web lifestyle?

CH: This is way to start thinking about things differently, to catch up with customers, yet still maintain old loyalties. Listen, I know that Banking is all about risk aversion. Its about keeping multiple stakeholders happy, both inside and outside the Bank. Generational change is not new, but the rapid rise of internet, means this generational shift that we are going through is new. Telephones took 38 years to reach 10 million mass market customers, cable TV 25 years … www took less than 5. When we overlay that pace of change with GenX/Y/M folks you have an instantly trained generation. That’s a first. Their expectations are not like previous generations (including me). So we have to learn from them, listen to them and be ready for them. By 2011, the net generation will comprise 50% of the working population – that’s only 2 years away in planning/implementation, and execution time.

So, back to the question … by building for internet now, and adapting as required for others, we are aligning the organization for customer expectations.

eStara: How do you feel banks are integrating the online customer experience with their call centers and branches?

CH: With Call centres, I think pretty well. Most are still wrestling with organisation, do you put email people with telephone people, with click to talk people etc, but that’s a healthy discussion. Branches are different .. they are generally still in 1985. Part of this is regulation, and concerns for privacy and confidentiality. The irony is that customers and branch staff are corresponding about banking using email, whether its allowed by Bank rules or not.

eStara: From a customer service and support perspective, how do you think the banks of the future will meet the needs of consumers?

CH: I will take that as ‘should’ meet the needs, because frankly some will and some won’t and will suffer accordingly. Broadly, banks’ will do a better job at being there all the time, as required for their customers. I recall once, an old visionary Banker talking about the ideal future Bank. He said its like a genie in a bottle, your own personal genie. Banking is boring and being in the bottle most of the time is just fine. But at that moment, in a shop, purchasing online, after a phone call – whatever the catalyst, if you need your Bank, you need them right now. It goes from not even on your mind, to instant need. So the good banks will be there, via wireless, online, phone to a certain extent, to provide an answer. Some say this is too expensive, but to me that’s an execution issue.

eStara: You’ve worked in banking in the U.K., Canada and the U.S. Are there any unique challenges in each country? What are some of the shared challenges?

CH: North America is very conservative, conventional. I attended a conference in Geneva in February, and I have to say the interest level in new ways of doing things, including particularly financial services is very high. Its a space I am watching closely.

As a final note, I wanted to mention Web 2.0 and blogs, and before everyone’s eyes glaze over – there are new opportunities there now for Banks to experiment, at low cost, with alternative methods of engaging customers, and consumers. The immediate reaction is often, “It’s too high risk and what about our brand image?”

But that train has left the station … people are already talking about your Bank online. If you do a Google blog search on your Bank, its remarkable … I did one just as I was typing this, and took something at random, on page 10 of the search. It was ‘Dave’ writing about the families of deceased soldiers in Afghanistan losing life insurance, because a war clause invalidated mortgage insurance:

Here is a snippet (Feb 2007):

…she was initially told she would likely not be able to collect on her mortgage insurance because of a war exclusion clause.

She pursued the issue with officials at the Bank XYZ, who issued the policy near her home at New Brunswick’s Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, and was told they’d look into it.

While awaiting an answer, Customer, who has two children under the age of 15, was forced to continue paying her mortgage. Four months later, she says the bank revealed it had no such exclusion clause and would begin payments.

My point is not the specifics here, horrific as they are. The point is that these discussions are occurring online. There were three comments on that blog post, but none from the Bank in question … what a fantastic opportunity, to right a wrong … missed, gone forever. That customer could have been the most loyal customer advocate for that Bank…now how many people will she tell the opposite? Meantime the customer communications group believe that the televised story earlier that week, is over, and phew!, we managed our way through that will minimal press

Source: Thought Leader Q&A: Colin Henderson, The Bank Watch, on The Bank of the Future – Multichannel Musings – Insight into the world of cross-channel sales and marketing


Financial Services Customer Care Centres lag other industries

In a rather damning report (dated Dec 2005) on financial services efforts, their Customer Care Centres are seen to be lagging almost all, along every axis, with the exception of Insurance, government, and Telcoms – three hardly known as exemplars.  I would suggest that this is partly because they have not made the leap from Call Centre to Customer Care Centre, the second have cross channel implications.

I see this tying into the need to develop proper benefit from CRM within Banks.  The report does note that Banks’ have been investing heavily, so benefits should be expected.

Despite comprising nearly 23 percent of the U.S. CCC market, behind only telecommunications and technology (25 percent) and retail and manufacturing (27 percent), the efficiency and effectiveness performance of financial services firms’ CCCs has lagged that of most other industries.

Source:  Integrating sales with service in financial services customer care centers  pdf

Elements of expected investment are:

  • Multi channel integration: expected to account for 28% of that investment.  Purpose is to integrate enterprise resources across channels, using a mix of technology and people-oriented solutions.
  • Efficiency:  various activities depicted in this diagram:


  • Cost reduction:  There is much focus on cost reduction activities including:
  • Migrating customers to lower-cost channels
  • Improving workforce deployment and agent productivity
  • Outsourcing CCC operations
  • Raise revenue:  This component has less meat in the report
    • Providing training tools and incentives that encourage
      and enable agents to cross- and up-sell
    • Segmenting customers and developing targeted
      sales efforts
    • Integrating product and channel strategies to
      optimize sales.
  • Customer retention (loyalty): 
    • Integrating channels to provide optimal, consistent
    • Sharing customer data across channels and LOBs
    • Tailoring services to customer needs and preferences
  • Contact flow management:  standardized processes, workflow and business rules cross the enterprise and across channels
    • Identify and segment incoming calls – Using interactive voice response (IVR) in combination with customer data to determine customer needs, existing relationships, past interactions and recent transactions across all channels. In  addition, by using customer lifetime value or tiered customer ratings (such as gold, silver and platinum), banks can also tee up segment aligned products and services that provide special
      price considerations
    • Direct calls to appropriate levels of service – Using skills-based routing and an agent proficiency matrix to route transactions to the agent who is best equipped to complete the call successfully on the first attempt
    • Increase levels of self-service, where appropriate –
      Directing customers to lower-cost channels, including IVR and the Web. However, this strategy must be well thought out since a poorly designed self-service offering risks increasing the number of online calls exponentially, to the detriment of the initial objective
  • Achieving optimal customer profitability: Optimal customer profitability requires identifying and targeting customer needs with tailored customer service and product offers, including the following actions:
    • Route customer calls to appropriate channel or media –
      Identifying and segmenting customers by needs and preferences, based on data from all interactions and
    • Build cross-selling and up-selling capabilities – Enabling
      agents to identify opportunities and close sales
    • Make outbound customer acquisition and retention
      calls – Targeting desirable existing and new customers
      in target segments.

    Its quote a sweeping paper, and worth the read for technology strategists, as well as business leaders trying to understand the leverage points of technology versus process, and when you need both for best impact.

    Finally this diagram trying to pull together some of the activities.


    Written by Colin Henderson

    December 4, 2006 at 15:20

    NatWest – Mobile Phone Top-up Demonstration at the ATM

    Courtesy of Improving new account opening,  this demo of ATM functionality.  Now this is a good use of flash, and the way the demo is done where you actually click the buttons as if you were at the ATM is brilliant.

    Link to NatWest – Mobile Phone Top-up Demonstration


    Written by Colin Henderson

    September 18, 2006 at 08:55

    WaMu Shifts Strategic Focus to the Internet From Branches

     Now here is a headline I have been waiting to read.  Quietly online account acquisition has been gaining momentum amongst the big banks, supplemented by high interest rates on such accounts.tags:

    Washington Mutual Inc. plans to rely more on the Internet to attract new customers. The Seattle-based bank is adding more than 700 new checking accounts a day, CEO Kerry Killinger says. Driving customers to cyberspace to open and manage accounts cuts back on the need to open more stores — something Wamu has been doing with singular ferocity over the last several years.

    Source: BankNet 360 – TOP STORY: WaMu Shifts Strategic Focus to the Internet From Branches

    Written by Colin Henderson

    September 8, 2006 at 20:20

    "BankerVision: The reaction of bankers « Bankwatch"

     James comments to the earlier post on P2P lending raises some interesting points.

    Also, banks have trust and security assets, branding and otherwise, which could go some of the way to addressing the 30% of loans unfunded problem.

    And certainly the larger banks aren’t competing all that hard for deposits anymore, especially when wholesale money can be had more cheaply.

    Source: “BankerVision: The reaction of bankers « Bankwatch – Mozilla Firefox”

    The competition for deposits continues.  HSBCdirect, BofA, and ING are all in a deposit battle, that brings both deposits, and new customers.  Having said that, the best deposits are the free ones that sit in chequing accounts, so any deposit gathering efforts hope to attract those at least as an offshoot of other marketing efforts.

    But the core point is here:

    From the bank perspective, if there is an appropriate revenue share, I’d think a partnership of this kind would be highly lucrative. The economics are compelling. Practically no cost for a nice fee income stream.

    The problem we always have, is that such efforts are incremental to current bank strategies.  That’s an expensive proposition.  If we could see a way to replace aspects of current lending practices with such a partnership then now we are talking.  Banks have enormous numbers of personnel located across thousands of branches.  Scale through selling/servicing multiple products is the model.

    For example Banks could exit loan gathering at the branch.  Then loan requests would be routed through the partnership.  That’s an extreme way to make the point, but its not unheard of.  Credit card applications left the branch in essence years ago.  Credit cards are sold at the branch only as an addon product.  Most credit card app’s are handled virtually, by mail, call centre, Internet.  That’s part of the reason they are wildly profitable, because of the high levels of automation, (and of course high interest rates).

    But would banks be successfully able to remove the staff associated with loans, and remain able to sell the other products within the branch.  This is the ultimate conundrum for Banks to move from branch to virtual banking.  Its hard to get there gradually.

    Anyhow, the notion of a partnership is fascinating, and getting the economics right would be the interesting part.

    tags: , ,

    Written by Colin Henderson

    August 26, 2006 at 11:24

    Alerts 2.0: Interactive Financial Messages

    The premise is that alerts will blossom into Interactive Financial Messages (IFM’s), and those will replace todays online banking sites. 

    IFMs Will Replace Todays “Costco-Size” Financial Web Sites …

    Javelin views the term alerts as insufficient to describe these futuristic exchanges, and we now call them IFMs, or Interactive Financial Message

    Online banking is the Costco approach … presumably referring to bulk impersonal buying.

    Web sites will continue to grow as the place people get “Costco” size access to their finances, such as viewing and paying bills or manage the needs of multiple financial accounts.”

    Where the premise is off (imho) is in the concept that IFM’s are the next generation of online banking sites.

    bite-sized beats Costco-size (Did my DDA account running low? If so, can I get a recommendation on overdraft protection or a line of credit to tie me over? Hey-thanks for double-checking with me before approving that unusual overseas transfer

    I get the IFM and bite sized concept, but I don’t see that as a replacement for online banking.  This in fact is the future of online banking, the next in a series of evolutions in online banking, following bill payment, service requests, and cheque/statement presentment.  Customers still need the Costco stuff too.

    What I would add though is that all channels will come into play.  The recommendations for overdraft protection, orline of credit, may appear in wireless, branch or ATM channels.  The format of the IFM will vary depending on the channel.  A rich context sensitive approach online, or a quick nudge for further contact on the ATM.

    Is this a harbinger of increased complexity for financial and payments providers? You bet. Does this represent real market and customer value? Yes again! That’s why IFMs are the battleground for future customer share

    This makes sense.  Customer loyalty requires capability beyond transactions, and basic information.  IFM’s represent the next generation of self service banking.  The notion of proactive advice, notifications, and suggestions is compelling.  Banks have built out internal data.


    Written by Colin Henderson

    August 26, 2006 at 10:08

    People come back to places that send them away

    Fascinatingly simple post from Dave here.  He speaks of Google, and how they have made a business out of sending people to the right place/ information/ source. People return to Google because they are a trusted objective source.  Its stickiness by not being sticky.

    Scripting News: 12/12/2005

    People come back to places that send them away. Memorize that one.

    Yahoo doubled their share of the online news market by adopting RSS and sending readers away as fast as they can. Who to? Their competitors, of course.

    Now the fundamental law of the Internet seems to be the more you send them away the more they come back. It’s why link-filled blogs do better than introverts. It may seem counter-intuitive — it’s the new intuition, the new way of thinking. The Internet kicks your ass until you get it. It’s called linking and it works.

    This gets to the very core of internet, and is almost spiritual in its simplicity.  How can Banks deal with that?  Well for starters, they could provide the links to the right information for moving, insurance, legal, accountants, home repairs, car purchases etc.  All these things need money, and its in banks’ best interests to help customers find those things that will improve their overall position.  Its a win for the bank and a win for the customer.

    Relevance to Bankwatch:
    There is an opening for a bank or banks to trusted source for links. Send your customers away and they will return.

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    Written by Colin Henderson

    July 9, 2006 at 15:08

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