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Two different financial providers cards in a boxing ring
Business

When is a bank not a bank? The impact of experiential competition

by Hannah Hollis
23rd January 2019

Question: Who are your competitors?

Many of us would answer instinctively with a shortlist of companies within our industry who sell products or services comparable to our own.

But 2019 is a different world. I can order ramen with just series of taps on my phone. Much in the same way, I can hail a taxi to whisk me out of the rain with a series of taps. As technology advances, user expectations have become ‘liquid’, seeping from one industry to another. If I select, order, and pay for food and transport in this way, then why can’t everything be this convenient and fast?

Just as customer expectations have become ‘liquid’, so too have the competition that we measure ourselves against - a bank is now very often not just a bank – as competition broadens beyond direct competitors to experiential competitors. Take Deliveroo, clearly, they’re not a bank, but my experience of their service still tacitly contributes to the expectations I have when it comes to other services. Simply put, businesses can no longer afford to think within the parameters of their industry alone.

Take my recent millennial emergency, for example. 

I have two bank cards: one ‘traditional’ bank card (A), my main account which I use for bills and essentials, and one ‘challenger’ bank card (B) for everyday spending - eating out, commuting, overpriced artisanal coffee and suchlike. Whilst I use B more, the former serves as my main account; it’s what I know, it’s a typical, established bank.

That was until on a Thursday evening in Covent Garden, where I misplaced both bank cards. Despairing on the way home, I embarked on two very different experiential journeys: 

Journey 1:

Thursday 12am: My anxiety builds over thoughts of card A being used to buy endless rounds of G&Ts in Covent Garden.

The next day

Friday 10am: I’m searching online for the bank’s lost cards helpline. I engage with 10-minutes of automated voice recordings and number pressing. Gaze out of the window to strange maraca holding music. Eventually get put through to a well-mannered call agent, before recounting all my bank details over the phone. The agent confirms that a new card will be sent to my local London branch for collection the following week.

The next week

Wednesday: Still waiting for my new bank card…

Friday: My new bank card turns up at my home address…in the Channel Islands.

Tuesday: New bank card arrives in London. Hurrah! Now to change all those direct debits…

Journey 2 

Thursday 12am: I open my mobile app for card B and tap the freeze button – my card is instantly frozen.

12:01am: I tap ‘request new card’, tap again to confirm my address. The app confirms that a new card will be dispatched the following day.

Saturday 9am: New card received through the letterbox.

In the same way that I order an emergency taxi, a series of taps resolved the panic and emergency of losing access to my money. I knew where and when card B would arrive, receiving it in record time.

Bank B didn’t ‘think’ like a bank. It responded to my needs in that critical moment, in line with the experience that I am accustomed to in a frictionless economy. Banks could do well to think less like a ‘bank’ or retailer and more like an emergency service; if we need to contact them, then it’s safe to assume that something has gone wrong. When that happens, we need to trust that we’re in swift and steady hands. We need to know what’s going to happen and when, receiving answers before asking the questions.

Summing up 

By focusing only on direct competitors, businesses risk their customer experience failing. As customer expectations transfer from one industry to another, so must the mindset that businesses adopt to design their services. The benchmark of success is no longer set by an industry standard, but by the end user themselves.


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