How Banks Can Learn from Disney (And Why They Should)
In the words of Steve Jobs, “Picasso had a saying — ‘good artists copy; great artists steal’ — and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”
What does this mean for banks? Steal. Steal shamelessly.
In the world of banking, stealing is generally frowned upon. But there’s always an exception to every rule and when it comes to Disney, financial institutions should absolutely consider stealing. Specifically, they should steal Disney’s customer experience mindset.
Stealing from Disney
While Disney is not a part of the direct competitor set for banking and financial service needs, they absolutely shape the industry and have inadvertently contributed to the jaded, stuffy, and cold appeal that big banks have.
For years, Disney has defined and redefined the ideal customer experience, so much so that this model has been coined, “the Disney Experience.” And it resonates so strongly with Disney’s customers that they are willing to pay thousands of dollars to travel to Disney World to stand in long lines in the hot sun and chase after teenagers dressed as cartoon characters for a photo op.
Put that way, the Disney experience sounds terrible. But it’s not. It’s magical. Why? Because Disney offers a one-of-a-kind experience leaving consistently positive impressions on visitors. And how does Disney ensure that this experience is consistent? Disney makes the experience of every visitor the responsibility of every single employee, no matter what part of the organization or park their job resides.
When is the last time your customers have been excited to visit your bank? Would your customers actively promote your bank? If these answers aren’t to your satisfaction, maybe it’s time to consider a paradigm shift in your operating model.
Loyalty and the Interaction Spectrum
When developing an operational strategy, banks should consider how their customers want to interact with their banker. The “Interaction Spectrum” below demonstrates the range of interactions, from purely transactional to purely relational. A purely transactional interaction (the default banking relationship) is defined by a buyer and a seller exchanging goods and services. Emotion and connection are meaningless here. Think about Uber. I choose to ride with Uber when I need a ride and a driver is available. I don’t choose Uber because of a strong social or emotional connection (taxis are even more applicable examples as they’re “right place right time” commodities).
Alternatively, a purely relational interaction is defined by the preexisting relationship. The goods or services exchanged are inconsequential here. When my grade school aged cousin sells wrapping paper for a fundraiser, the interaction is relationship-driven (I buy wrapping paper because I like my cousin, not because I need any more Frozen-themed wrapping paper).
Why Customers Break Up with their Banks
Most financial institutions have limited, irregular interactions with customers. Given the overbanked nature of the industry, and with the emergence of banking alternatives, it has become increasingly important that each interaction is a positive one. Remember, you’re only as good as your last interaction.
Loyal customers forgive mistakes. Know your customers’ tolerance for mistakes. Low tolerance suggests low loyalty. Do your customers value speed and price? If so, they’re likely transactional customers.
Transactional customers address their banking needs only when necessary (and banks are often an afterthought). Some banks have started to figure out how to migrate “Northeast” (towards relational interactions with a loyal customer base) and have taken steps to craft a truly enjoyable experience.
How to Craft a Great Customer Experience
A great customer experience begins by engaging customers in the ways they want to be engaged. Banks that are only willing to engage with customers on the banks’ terms have already deteriorated the customer experience before it has even begun.
How do banks do this? Start with these three steps:
Organize your operations around the customer rather than industry norms and the “traditional” bank model. View your bank’s customer journey through the customer experience lens. Many banks believe that they are customer-centric but have never experienced their institution as a customer (and without employee perks).
Consider this: Many banks were initially slow to adopt websites and mobile apps, and even now, their web and mobile capabilities are often limited. For example, does your bank allow customers to open accounts online or easily transfer money to family and friends? If not, remember that companies like Venmo and Paypal do (and FinTech start-ups are encroaching on traditional bank territory).
Build Bridges, not Walls
Customer-centric operating models leverage other teams and combine resources. As banks grow, silos form. This occurs naturally with organic growth. Acquisitive growth compounds this challenge. Bridging the gap between customer expectations and operational execution is difficult but necessary to become an industry-leader. In the words of Aristotle, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Each interaction with a customer is a chance to shape the customer experience. In the last decade, banks have adopted a “me too” mentality, adding websites, apps, and bank products to their portfolios without a cohesive strategy. Technology deployed without a strategy can be successful with some degree of luck. Sustainable benefits are only attainable through planning, executing, and maintaining living strategy.
Disney sells tickets for admission to generate revenue. Those tickets, however, represent much more than admission to a theme park. They represent accessibility to a truly magical experience. As banks develop their operational strategy, they should consider how to deliver a similar experience.
Delivering a differentiated customer experience—and reaping the benefits it can produce—requires engaged employees, compelling brand values, and smart operations. This is where the magic begins.