It is unbelievable how many times I hear the cry “who owns the customer?” being raised by bankers, particularly during discussions about mobile telephony.
Their concern is that the mobile carriers are trying to take over the customer relationship, with the result that the bank becomes a back-end commodity.
It’s not just confined to mobile telephony however, as the question is raised whenever banks talk about ‘partnerships’ with non-banks.
Being a manufacturer of banking products to a retail partner, a telco, an airline or any other business causes the bank to worry about what it means to their trust, relationship and ability to cross-sell to the end target: the customer.
Who owns the customer?
Well, I’ve got news for you.
No-one owns the customer.
The customer owns you.
The idea of ‘owning’ the customer is antiquated 1990’s terminology, and those who use this terminology haven’t woken up to the world we live in today.
Today’s world is one of social media, social networking, Banking as a Service, and all the other stuff I write about here.
Why don’t they get it?
Why can’t they wake up?
Y’know what, I’m surprised they don’t talk about how they split their customers into key demographics of work, age, sex, ethnicity, address and so on and so forth.
Oh shucks. They still do.
I mean one of the guys here told me about how they understood all the discussions I have about internet guph but it’s just for the 18-24 student demographic isn’t it?
And this wasn’t some backwater bank in Outer Hicksville, Deadstown.
No, this is a bank in one of the most technologically advanced countries of Asia.
Talking about customer ownership and using old style demographic models is just so wrong that I cannot believe this bank still exists.
So here’s how it is.
There is no customer ownership, except for those customers who want to be ‘owned’.
These tend to be the customers who don’t care. They don’t see banks as having differential attributes because they believe all banks are the same. They won’t change banks and just stay with you because they’re too lazy, fed up or disillusioned to change.
There are other customers who ‘own’ you, because you earn their loyalty and trust. They own you because they want to be with you, they enjoy their relationship with you, they see you as being an operator in their interest that suits their lifestyle and so they give you their business. In giving you their business, loyalty and trust, they expect to ‘own’ a relationship with you, not the other way around.
Then there are customers who seek to own the very best deal they can get, and jump around faster than Paris Hilton can find a new handbag. These guys ‘own’ the rates, and they don’t want relationships or dialogue, they just want to get the best out of their finances. These are the folks migrating to Mint and Wesabe and other financial planning and modelling tools.
These groups of customers don’t have singular attributes or homogeny of demographics.
Some are young and some are old.
Some of them ignore technology channels and prefer the branch and human touch, whilst some are highly socially networked and expect to have a personalised touch through their Facebook or Twitter channel.
Some live near a branch and enjoy the convenience of walking past every day with access when needed, whilst others have exactly the same age, locality and profile but they loathe the branch and do everything via their mobile.
There is no predictability, homogeny, ownership or relationship with any of these individuals. Just people who have financial needs who give you their business, relationship, loyalty and even trust as long as you earn it, keep earning it, and fit their lifestyle for the 21st century way they live.
So please stop talking about customer ownership and demographics.
If you do that, you’re living in the 20th century and 2010 is just a few months away.
So get with the programme.