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Banks are product not customer focused

I walked into a grocer’s store the other day. The store was resplendent with fruits of all colours and continents. There were red, yellow and green peppers; carrots, courgettes and cauliflowers; oranges, apples and bananas of both large and small; watermelons, honey melons and mangoes; green grapes, red grapes and grapefruits; and more and more and more. It was a fantastic array of fruit and vegetables, and a choice of everything.

“Good morning, Mr. Grocer”, I says.

“Good morning sir. Can I interest you in a lemon?” he says.

“Well, I actually came here for a pineapple”, me says.

“No sir. I don’t have any pineapples”, he says, as I’m staring at an array of pineapples, “you need a lemon”.

I’m a bit stumped. I don’t need a lemon. I want a pineapple as I’m making a pineapple turn-over cake.

“I want a pineapple as I’m making a pineapple turn-over cake”, I says.

“Well, why don’t you have a lemon drizzle cake?” says the grocer.

“I don’t want a lemon drizzle cake”, I says. “I don’t have the right ingredients”.

“Ah well”, says the grocer, “we can help you with that. LOTTIE!” he shouts. “Lottie? Can you help this guy with a lemon drizzle cake recipe please”, says the grocer.

I’m now getting irritated. “Look”, I says. “I don’t want lemons or a lemon drizzle cake or a lemon drizzle cake recipe. I just want a pineapple to make a pineapple turn-over, for which I have the recipe and the ingredients.”

“Well, I can’t sell you a pineapple”, says the grocer. “You thought of trying a cake shop?”

I relate this story, as this is how many customers feel about a bank, especially corporate customers. The bank starts with the product and tries to force that product upon the customer. They don’t think about the customer need or problem, and find the right solution, but they start with the product and internal focus and try to force that upon the customer.

It may sound silly, especially in the scenario given above, but I have seen this in action. Banks classify customers into different categories – peaches, apples and lemons. If you’re a lemon, you’re a lemon and that’s what you get.

But it is far more than this. If there’s no cake shop in town, then you have to do the job yourself. You have to select the ingredients, buy them and bake them. You need the recipe and you have to do the work.

But what if a new company came along and offered you any cake you want. You don’t need to buy a lemon or a pineapple, but just order a lemon drizzle cake or pineapple turnover of your choice? This is something that a friend of mine wrote about on LinkedIn recently and pointed out to me the other day.

Nigel Walsh, Partner at Deloitte and Co-Host of InsurTech Insider with 11FS, wrote a great article about InsurTech and how insurance companies behave:

We may have lots of InsurTech Ingredients, but we really just want cake!

Nigel talks about what customers really want and how insurance firms should focus upon the wrap-around services that go with that need, not just the need. He also states that firms should focus upon the full-service solution and not the product itself. He gives various examples from Peugeot selling cars where all you need to do is add fuel to dating websites where babysitters can be ordered to go with the date. Nice.

I can recommend Nigel’s thoughts and my own conclusion is that if banks and insurance firms want to be life events managers, then they have to look beyond the product to the customer need and then present the total solution, not just the piece they deal with. This will be the delineation between those financial firms that win and lose in future, but it goes beyond this. They need to actually predict when these life events will happen. That can be achieved by using AI and machine learning … hmmm, maybe that’s another blog for another day.

Meantime, focus upon holistic customer needs with total financial solutions, not just upon internal product sales with a piece of the puzzle. FTW.



About Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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