Updated: Feb 24
Ben has been in a relationship with Cassie for nearly 10 years now, ever since she was a college student. He talks about her all the time; about how much she loves him and how great they are together. One of the ways he can tell is by how much she visits and how happy she is when she does. She calls and emails too. He visits her at work occasionally, and sometimes he asks her to a local sporting or arts event.
Ben is planning to be with Cassie for life. He’s sure she would never leave him because of how much he has done for her, and what a big part of her life he has become. Still, he would like to get to know her friends and family better. He asks her about them regularly, without much success.
This is all news to Cassie. She thinks of Ben as more of a friend. That is, when she thinks of him at all. When asked, she acknowledges that Ben is a nice guy, and that he has been helpful to her. But she is adamant that they aren’t in a committed relationship. It’s a friendship at best, and most accurately, one of convenience and habit.
She started seeing quite a bit of Marcus when he first came to town, but he’s been acting kind of erratic lately. Kind of like her ex, Finn, who ended up ghosting her. Cassie takes it all in stride though. She isn’t necessarily looking to make a long-term commitment and doesn’t feel like she needs one. She wonders why everyone she meets seems so obsessed with that. She’s not looking to settle down with Mr. Right, she’s happy to take it one day at a time with Mr. Right Now.
Ben Banker doesn’t know any of that. He still has his own perception of his relationship with Cassie Customer. “She loves me,” he beams, “She appreciates how stable and reliable I am, and she knows I’m always there for her”.
When reached for comment, Cassie sighed and said “ Ben keeps wanting to have the ‘DTR Talk’. You know, ‘Define The Relationship’. But I’m like, yeah… there isn’t one. Ben helps me out now and then, and I appreciate it, but that’s as far as it goes”.
What are the lessons for bankers in this allegorical tale?
1. You’re not really ‘in a relationship’ unless the other party thinks so too
2. Loyalty should never be assumed or taken for granted
3. ‘Customer Satisfaction’ isn’t the same thing as loyalty
In my 30+ years of experience with thousands and thousands of bankers across the country and around the globe, I have no doubt whatsoever about their sincere commitment to customers and how much they value loyal customer relationships.
They do exist. I’ve seen them, and I’ve been in them.
Most of our customers and prospective customers aren’t looking for a relationship (if they say they are, it’s probably because they know that’s what you want to hear). If we do things right, one might develop naturally, but too often we show up on the first date with an engagement ring in our pocket.
Customers hire products (and banks) to do specific jobs for them. If you do the job well, they’re likely to hire you again for that and/or other jobs they need done. Having repeat satisfied customers is a great start, but many of those are probably not going around telling everyone about this wonderful new relationship they’re in.
A relationship requires an emotional connection, and that can’t be forced.
Understand that loyalty is earned, not demanded or bought. The way to build a loving relationship between your brand and your customers is to work hard for it, every day. It is not an annuity that happens once and pays dividends forever. Never take it for granted. —2022 US Banking Industry Loyalty Report
We've Grown Apart
A true relationship has to be good for both parties or else it’s doomed to fail. What makes a banking relationship good for banks has remained fairly universal and unchanged— steady recurring balances and revenue, and it’s especially nice if the interactions are pleasant.
For customers, their needs and expectations are constantly evolving. Partially due to changes in their own lives, and partially because the bar for expectations keeps being raised from within and without the industry. Pleasant interactions are always a plus for customers too, but a smile and a handshake in those few personal interactions may not be enough to make up for multiple pain points elsewhere in the relationship.
Love Triangle Turned Polygon
The explosion of new features, products, and providers from every angle only make the quest for lifetime committed relationships harder. The average American consumer has 2.5 financial apps on their phone.
There is a strong desire for banks to be more Forward-thinking, or innovative, in their approach. And this doesn’t only relate to the products or services they offer, but how they are delivered, and the thoughtful customer-led experience they’re wrapped in. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this critical element is being delivered 29% more effectively by challenger banks than by legacy banks, even though the products and services are, at their core, quite similar. What’s different is the platform, the tone, and the user experience they deliver that begins to truly set them apart..— 2022 US Banking Industry Loyalty Report
It's Not You, It's Me
The customer experience is not just defined by those (increasingly infrequent) direct, personal interactions. It’s literally everything that the customer perceives (intentional or not), from your website and mobile app to the forms and process you use to how long it takes and what you do and don’t communicate along the way. Increasingly, customers of all types are expecting technology to make things simple and add value, and even bring that spark back to the relationship.
This is why we’re focused on products and partners who can help us reinvent banking, not just replumb it. Ultimately, it’s the customers who define success in the relationship.
________________________________________________ The corporate and executive growth programs from the Alloy Labs Institute are the industry leaders in helping financial institutions build and leverage their innovative capacity to create competitive advantage and drive growth. We have taught these principles in boardrooms and classrooms around the world, including at leading graduate schools of banking. Unleash exponential growth potential, build internal innovation capacity to "unbreak the bank", and quickly forge ideas into results. You can also learn and apply some of our industry-leading tools and frameworks and learn best practices from peers on operationalizing innovation in our open (co)Lab sessions. Both are open to non-Alloy Labs member financial institutions.