The Banker, the Consumer, the hat and the money transfer

I haven’t yet met anyone willing to deny that ours is an industry like no other. Of the many ways that sets it apart, the one that fascinates me most is the banker/consumer duality.

I’ve written about this in the book and also here when I spoke about the Banker and the Sour Grapes

“[…] no other industry behaves quite like ours or has been affected by the sharp advent of technology and its effects on customer experience in quite the same fashion so we’re experiencing unprecedented levels of discomfort […]”

At the intersection of Financial Services and Digital, for bankers, Art-of-the-possible experience wise, things are equally crystal clear as they are are mudded and nebulous. For customers? They are, for the most part, cumbersome, unsatisfactory or even unpleasant and nearly painful with every interaction.

And bankers are customers. They know both the possibilities and the impossibilities. Intimately.

This is what makes it possible that you can have a conversation with any of your friends who works in banking who would be naturally as up in arms as you are when the latest failure to service has occurred – be it something as small as a rogue ATM or something as big as a major disruption in all services- as they are bemused when you seem to think they have anything to do with either causing it or fixing it.

When we do our Emotional Banking change work with banks, one of the hardest things to do is encourage them to take on the discomfort by staying with it instead of dismissing it by swerving completely into either direction. This isn’t pleasant of course. As humans, we are wired to avoid what makes us feel uncomfortable and do our best to minimise it but realistically, nothing new or worthwhile is created in comfort, much less in our industry.

A simple exercise we do in most of our workshops is the hats one. We have two sets of baseballs hats, one marked “Banker” and one market “Consumer” and we pass them across the room, offer an example and ask participants to give us a phrase they would say about a Money Moment™ (interaction they have with their bank) either as a banker or as a consumer. Needless to say the language is abundantly more expansive and natural when the Consumer hat is on but that’s another “Keep it real” story for another episode.

What’s fascinating is that, with each passing example, the Customer hat stays on for longer but the sentences are shorter, punchier and more irreverent where as the Banker hat is swiftly and apologetically passed on after a stiff, businessy expression that sounds forced and apologetic.

Example: “You need to send a transfer to an ailing relative in dire need – you decide to do it on the train on your commute to work. The process ends up taking twice the time you envisioned it would and ends abruptly with a screen saying “Done” and you have no clue how to check if it “went” – What do you say to yourself?”

Customer: “What the hell is wrong with these people?!? Why has this taken my whole train journey and I ended up never reading the news on my phone because of this?!? Why did the app need to update before I could even log in?!? Why has it taken forever to find the “transfer to another account” button and then I had to register a new recipient for ages?!? What’s the point of logging me out of the app every goddang time that I need to flip to email to find the account details?! Why is there a bloody “daily limit” so I have to do this tomorrow again?!? How do I know if aunt Gertrude even got this?!? She’ll be calling mom and making her think I’ve not done it. Oh gosh, she said she needed it this afternoon or they’ll postpone that bypass, when is this arriving?!? Where can I see if the money was even transferred?!? Why can’t my bank at least tell me when they send it if not when she picks it up? Gosh I wonder if I’ll still have enough left for my water bill direct debit to go now that I sent it – how do I check that? I wish I went to a branch over lunch!”

Banker: “Our ability to transfer to a non-registered recipient on the go is finally ready and live to consumers with the newest release of our award winning mobile app. No other competitor executed this feature as well. We have redesigned the customer journey with the imperatives of the technologically savvy customer in mind offering them unprecedented seamlessness while maintaining the highest standards of compliance and security.”

In our bankers’ defence, the above example is sadly still close to Science Fiction for some banks who are struggling to even get their mobile apps to do anything other but point to the nearest ATM on a map.

Have you ever worn two hats? No, really. Physically. Have you ever tried it? It’s not easy. They are hard to balance, heavy and heat you up not to mention make you look rather ridiculous yet that’s what we ask our participants to do while marrying the two and asking them to portray both in the same breath and add a seemingly outlandish postulation at the end i.e. “Why the hell do I have to log in again every time I write down the numbers of aunt Gentrude’s account?!?” – We have to log the user out of the app every time they flick away for their own security. In the future, we won’t do that at all and security would be persistent no matter what the user is doing in their phone so this frustration will be eliminated.

Empathy is a powerful tool and it works both ways. We have a duty to understand the Customer and equally if not more urgently, we have a duty to understand the Banker. No matter how much of a nuisance we find this fact in a world of numbers and regulations, we can’t get away from how humans who work in banks are both and seeing how they are the only ones able to make it better for the rest of everyone else, that’s a really good thing.

As for whether or not our Customer will still have enough left for the water direct debit to go and how he could have saved more if he used his invisible savings virtual currency account to make this transfer? No one is that imaginative while balancing hats.

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