Breaking Digital Gridlock

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Breaking Weekly Digital Gridlock #29: Convenience vs. Utility

Weekly FinTech Tip: Creating a Continuum of Services Between All of Your Channels Greatly Improves Your User’s Experience

Is your financial institution trading convenience for utility?

The digital transformation challenge is all about providing the same level of service on every channel. The bigger challenge is providing the same products and the same features on every channel. Following is what I like to call “Best’s Law”.

Best’s Law: The more convenient the channel, the less it can do.

Are you missing key services or features on your mobile channel or your home banking channel because those features or those services are difficult to get to, or they’re expensive to apply to those channels? This is how we trade convenience for utility. Below, you’ll find the Best’s Law Triangle of Convenience vs. Utility.

You will see that at the bottom level, the channel that has the most utility is a Branch. You can go to any branch and ask any question. You want a reverse mortgage? They’ll find out how to do it for you. It’s because you’re dealing with people, and those people have resources to help you and computers in front of them to do it. However, of all of our channels, it’s the least convenient in terms of access. You’ve got to get in the car, drive there, fight traffic in some areas, park, walk in, etc.

Let’s move on to our next idea for a channel. At some point, somebody had the great idea for a Call Center Channel, and that makes up the next step in our pyramid. The call center is more convenient, right? All you have to do is get on the phone, talk to someone, and then they can help you. However, oftentimes, you’ll find that there’s a long wait to speak to someone. Additionally, it’s not always convenient to make that phone call. You may be, say, in the middle of a mall or otherwise out and about, and you don’t really want everyone around you to hear that conversation. However, from a utility standpoint, a call center is almost as good as a branch.

The next channel is Home Banking. Home banking is a very convenient channel because it can be done on your computer from the comfort of your home, but as far as utility, it’s lacking a lot of features that you have access to through the call center or in the branch. How many times have you had to call your financial institution because there’s something you wanted to do, but you couldn’t do it in home banking? Why is it that branches and call centers can help us with these services? Because the branch and call center people have access to those third-party systems and can do that work for you. As far as self-service channels are concerned, I find that oftentimes, many of those deeper or more advanced features are lacking in the more convenient home banking channel.

Now let’s go to the tip of the pyramid: Mobile. Mobile is the most convenient thing you can find. If the app is built right, it allows you to do many things, and you can use it anywhere. You could be sitting on a park bench; wherever you are, you can do banking. However, it’s still missing a lot of features.

This is our biggest problem. It’s convenience versus utility, and here’s the worst part: as we add more and more channels and see the proliferation of IoT, or the Internet of Things, we only make the problem worse. Think voice, VR, all of these technologies that are coming. Other channels just get further and further behind. How do you keep your channels up to date with all your services, your products and your features and eventually get to parity with your branch or your call center? This is a never-ending struggle. “Why does this happen?”, you ask yourself. “Why are we in this predicament?” Well, one reason is because as we’ve added new channels, we’re really just thinking of them as their own sort of autonomous things. Each channel is its own separate entity, so when we need to add something like mortgages to it, it may be with a different vendor, so it requires a whole different way of thinking. In fact, you may have to go and build some sort of new technology to allow it to do that.

So, how can we avoid this? With old-fashioned hard work, and it begins with a strong foundation. Your foundation has to include all of your services wrapped into one thing. One stream where any of the channels can pick it up, take it, and turn it into whatever delivery mechanism they need to. It starts with a small step, and that is understanding that you need this foundation. Some people refer to this foundational element as a Enterprise Service Bus, and no, not the kind of bus you get on to go downtown. It’s a bus where services can travel between other channels and allow people to interact. This means not only can you provide channel and service parity across channels, but you can also provide a continuum, which means that the continuity between channels will be in effect. You need to find a provider that will take all of your products, services, channels, and features – the things that make you who you are – and wrap them up in this enterprise service bus so that they can be delivered into any kind of device anywhere.

This has been a FinTech Minute. My name is John Best. I am the CEO of Best Innovation Group and author of Breaking Digital Gridlock, available on Amazon and anywhere books are sold.

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