A CIO learns that efficiency isn't enough

Banking is typically regarded as a boring service, maybe even a necessary evil. So you might be surprised to find out that customers have strong feelings when they perform banking transactions.

In a joint project between its IT department and chief marketing officer's team, ING Bank performed extensive research to analyze 16 emotions--such as surprise, joy, pride, anger, boredom and contempt--that customers might feel when interacting with the bank.

The results were pretty clear: There's a big difference between the emotions triggered by routine banking activities versus complex ones.

Routine tasks such as a cash withdrawal are perceived as indispensable and easily accomplished. Customers feel bored and safe and have minimal emotional reaction.

Complex banking products, such as a big loan or a mortgage, are generally perceived as high-risk, so customers exhibit more extreme emotions such as fear, hope and nervousness. This makes sense. For instance, if you're an entrepreneur, getting a loan may mean the difference between opening another store to stay in business or going bust without it. Getting a mortgage may boost your adrenaline more than watching a good thriller.

From a banker's perspective, it was an important insight. ING has always put a lot of emphasis on delivering on promises and providing consistent quality. While that's still essential, the research shows that the company also needs to pay more attention to the customer experience and the emotional part of banking.

Customers today are insecure about their financial future. In a very short time, we've had a banking crisis and now a euro crisis. There's a lot of room for improvement when it comes to trust in the financial industry. Within ING, we had always focused IT on creating more efficiency and effectiveness in quality, speed and usability.

But the last few years have taught us that efficiency and effectiveness are not enough. If we really want to become the preferred bank for customers, we have to build a relationship of trust by delivering excellent products and services at a fair price and mitigating the negative emotions surrounding personal finance. As a result, we're moving from a culture where we solved problems from a technical standpoint to a culture where we solve problems from a customer's perspective.

Technology plays a very important role in this shift. For instance, did you ever forget to pull cash out of an ATM? In the Netherlands, this happens a few thousand times a month. At ING, we're working on a new process that will automatically detect a cash retraction at the ATM and trigger an alert to the customer. We'll be able to immediately send a message to the customer's smartphone or send an email or have one of our agents call the customer. The customer will benefit from quicker service and resolution, while we reinforce our brand as dependable.

No More Return to Sender

Technology can also help when information is missing in a customer application or banking document. There was a time when we would simply return the forms to the customer if there was information missing. Now we have agents who can fill in the information or call the customer, which saves time for the customer and us. Real-time communication with customers keeps them up-to-date and gives us an opportunity to highlight other available services.

In the future, CIOs and CMOs will need a shared agenda that blends the art of marketing with the science of technology. Success will not come solely from doing things in a more efficient and effective way. It will also require taking into account the emotions customers bring to the transaction and put technology to work in creating great customer experiences.

Read more about customer relationship management (crm) in CIO's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Drilldown.

This story, "A CIO learns that efficiency isn't enough" was originally published by CIO.

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