It’s The Little Things

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5 May 2014
Craig Weber
I bought my wife some flowers recently, and was shocked to discover that the florist—as of this minute, my ex-florist—no longer gives out those little cards you tuck in the arrangement. The person behind the counter said, “We have these new ones from Hallmark, for only 99 cents…” Huh? I’m spending $20 on cut flowers that cost you only $5, and you think it’s smart to eliminate the cards that cost you two cents each? That’s nonsense. The real story here is that service experiences cannot be disaggregated. As a customer, I don’t view the Buy Wife Flowers Exercise as 10 separate steps, each with its own decision tree and cost benefit. I want it all, end to end, seamlessly. A good selection of fresh flowers, nice vases, honest and helpful service, a fast checkout process, maybe some ribbon, and those little cards that make sure I get full credit for my thoughtfulness. For that, I’m willing to pay $20. Start messing with the formula, I assure you I will look elsewhere. It’s the same with all of my financial institutions. The basic product features and price are important. So, too, are how they sell to me, how they communicate routinely with me, what happens when things go wrong. And if I’m sitting across the desk from someone, how they treat my five-year-old when he interrupts a financial transaction with an explanation of his favorite Lego. It all matters. The institutions I am loyal to are the ones that understand this. For example, I got an honest-to-goodness email from someone in a local bank branch when she noticed something unusual about my account that was, in fact, my mistake. “It didn’t look right, so I thought I’d ask,” she said. Problem solved, customer won over. In the case of the Lego interruption (a different bank), the rep couldn’t have been more patient, which taught my son an important lesson about polite listening. The next time the bank calls me to offer a new service, I’ll return the favor. I’m still waiting for one of my insurers or my broker to do something small but meaningful to convince me that I’m something other than a random, periodic check for them. They’ve got the big pieces in place, which is why I have relationships with them. But until I experience the extra touches and perhaps an occasional nice surprise, I’ll keep my eyes open for other providers.

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