Digital Doesn’t Matter: Why You Should Focus on Customer Experience

Annoyed at myself for emptying my pockets anywhere and everywhere, I gathered a handful of change scattered throughout my car and house and headed towards the kitchen. As I pulled our family coin jar off of the shelf, seven coins fell to the ground, giving me a clear indication that it was time to turn head to the local branch of PNC Bank.

Despite being a customer, PNC doesn’t get too many opportunities to interact or impress me (I use USAA for my personal banking, Silicon Valley Bank for 3Pillar, and PNC for an LLC that I use for making venture investments). In fact, I recently volunteered to help manage the finances of my daughter’s soccer team and decided to try a different local bank simply because PNC had never wowed me.

So with this, PNC had the opportunity of a lifetime – to win me over on their home field.

As I walked into the bank lobby with my daughter, juggling two bags overflowing with coins, I couldn’t help but notice that the entire building looked abandoned. From the back office someone came wandering out.

“Can I help you?” asked the individual who looked at me like I had six heads.

“Yes, we were just hoping to exchange coins for cash.”

“We don’t do that anymore. There’s a coin machine at Giant.”

“I know, but I don’t really want to pay 10%. I was hoping you’d just exchange it for me since I’m a customer,” I said, realizing that banks don’t often provide services that require effort to non-customers.

“Sorry, we don’t do that anymore,” he responded. And with that, he walked away.

Why You Should Focus on Customer Experience - David DeWolf

Needless to say, this wasn’t a great customer experience. The only reason I had to visit my bank in an 18-month period of time resulted in disappointment. I was left feeling as though the bank, which had no other customers anywhere to be seen, simply didn’t want to spend their time counting coins (I had already rolled half of them). I didn’t necessarily feel like a valued customer.

And so I moved on to the Capital One down the street.

Capital One’s lobby greeted me with a sign. “Free WiFi.” Now, I have no idea why I’d want to sit at the bank and browse the internet, but immediately I was struck by the dichotomy of experiences. One offering value before I walked in. The other refusing to accept legal tender to an existing customer. Once inside, two tellers and two bankers were in the midst of assisting customers. Each looked to be having a pleasant experience. A third teller welcomed me with a smile and asked what he could do to help.

He kindly explained that their coin machine had broken, but that we’d be welcome to use a free desk located to the side to roll our yet-to-be rolled coins. He even reached into the cabinet to offer some empty rolls.

After 20 minutes, we walked back up to the teller. “Can I have your account number please?” the teller asked.

Unfortunately, since this wasn’t my bank, I didn’t have one.

“Sir, I’m sorry, but we can’t accept your change without an account.”

Disappointed, I tried to explain that my bank wouldn’t do it, even for a customer. They apologized . . . .and they missed their chance. I was trying to lead the witness. After such a disappointing experience at PNC, I was ready to open an account. It’s too bad they didn’t offer to help, because they would have had a new customer.

I walked out, this time with my coins rolled and ready to be cashed out, but still wondering, does any bank actually want my business?

Customer experience is all about the interaction a customer has with a brand. It’s not the digital experience, the lobby experience, or the experience with customer service. It’s the brand experience.

I have a fairly positive experience with Capital One. If they would have asked me to consummate a relationship, I’d now be a customer. PNC, on the other hand, soiled their opportunity to win me over. They are nothing more than a deposit account – someone willing to hold my money.

In the digital world, so many brands (Capital One being one: just look at their recent acquisitions) are focused on building exceptional user experiences for their digital products. But I fear that many institutions are forgetting that it is the entire customer experience that really matters.

Yes, digital is an essential part in today’s virtual world, but customer experience is more than that. It’s not about a single experience or a point in time. It’s about a holistic brand relationship.

Are you building loyal customers? Are you building raving fans?


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