Mobility and the Channel Challenge

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17 April 2013
Daniel Latimore
I’ve had several recent conversations about channels and mobility. The discussions often start from different points, but they all are trying to get at how to characterize and address the differences between online, smartphone and tablet. Like many knotty issues, it’s important to frame the question correctly. I’d like to frame this issue by asking, “Is the notion of channels still relevant to consumers?” My response is that not only is the traditional notion of a channel outdated, its continued use can be detrimental to banks. I’ll give you my bullets, and then elaborate a little more. • Mobile is part of the digital channel, which today consists of online, smart phone, text and tablet (and even some elements of ATM) • Devices are ways to access the digital channel; each has distinctive characteristics • Banks should formulate their digital channel strategy holistically; strategies and tactics with respect to one device will affect, and should inform, others Channels originally existed because they were distinct means of interacting with customers for different sorts of transactions. The original channel was the branch. Then came the call center, and ATMs, and then online. Each of these channels had a different group looking after it within a bank. And yes, they ultimately came together nominally under the head of retail banking, but banks were (and still are!) tremendously siloed organizations. That siloed organizational structure has persisted, even with the advent of online, mobile phone and tablet. In the worst case, different channel organizations can work at cross purposes due to their different success metrics (who wants to have their domain shrink, for example?). Consumers, on the other hand, don’t think in terms of channels. They simply think in terms of getting access to what they want, when they want, and how they want it, and generally as easily as possible. Conditioned by great digital experiences from retailers and other service / app providers, they wonder why banks can’t deliver equivalent services. Part of the reason is that the different product organizations in a bank don’t coordinate very well, and as each pursues its own agenda with different emphases, the customer is underserved. Banks are getting to the point where they truly think of the needs of the customer, rather than the needs of the bank, first. They need to think about the customer and her use cases (checking a balance while waiting for the bus is mobile phone; looking at a check image on the couch is tablet; serious bill pay is a PC online, for example). But there’s ultimately just one digital channel. There are different ways of accessing the digital channel, but they should all derive from the same source data, and they should all ultimately provide the same experience to consumers – not the literal experience, but one that’s comparable in terms of general navigation, look and feel, and vibe. And that’s where the art comes in – the experience is visceral, subjective, and unquantifiable -- and the customer doesn't care through which channel the bank deems the experience to have been delivered.

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