GAFA, schmafa: Credit unions can do better

By now, you’ve heard it a million times. Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon (a.k.a., GAFA) are collectively setting the standard for the modern consumer experience. If your credit union can’t create an equally compelling user experience, so the story goes, members will leave en masse to find somebody who will. That somebody might be another financial institution, or it might be some crazy fintech startup.

Sounds a little scary, doesn’t it?

Well, I’m here to tell you, if the GAFA folks are really the ones setting the bar for the modern consumer experience, it’s a pretty low bar.

I know what you’re thinking. How can he say that? I can find anything I want on Amazon and get it in two days with free shipping, thanks to my Prime account. And Google helps me win every single bar bet. And Facebook lets me see so many cat pictures, I just always have the warm fuzzies.

I’m going to leave Apple alone this time because I’ve always been able to reach a live, intelligent human being at Apple when I need to. The others … the other are like the self-service checkout at Walmart.

If you have a few basic items, sure, you’ll go hit the self-checkout line to save some time and avoid having to talk to anyone. But if you have a full cart, including a lot of produce that needs to be weighed, you’ll head to a full-service checkout line lickity split.

At their best, GFA (the original GAFA, minus Apple) are actually worse than the self-service checkout line at Walmart. At least at Walmart, if your Duck Dynasty underwear won’t scan, you can call someone over to help you. At GFA, you’re on your own, baby.

In the case of Facebook and Google, I’m not really saying they have crappy customer service. They probably have great customer service. The problem is, you’re not the customer; you’re the product. Access to you gets bundled up and auctioned off to the highest bidder. Trying to complain to Facebook or Google is like the chicken trying to complain to the farmer that the coop is too crowded. Good luck with that.

I know it’s sacrilege, but I think Amazon is a pain in the butt. What other store sells the exact same item at six different prices, depending on which shelf you pull the item from? And what store has one of aisle of goods that you can take home today and another aisle of goods you can take home in two days or maybe longer? And at our store in Crazytown, some items are randomly surcharged, while others aren’t. Imho, Amazon offers anything but a consistent buyer experience.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty you can learn from GAFA about creating an exceptional digital experience. The thing is, there’s more to your members’ lives than their smartphone or PC. Unless and until artificial intelligence becomes exponentially more capable, live humans will continue to play an important role in the overall member experience.

The GAFAnians are not likely to steal your member service ideas any time soon. They’re too smart for that. However, you can still steal their digital ideas. Combine CU-level member service with GAFA-level digital and you’ll create a total member experience that runs circles around all of your competitors.

John San Filippo

John San Filippo

John is the co-founder of OmniChannel Communications, Inc., a company that specializes in B2B marketing to community financial institutions. He started out in the savings and loan industry, but wisely ... Web: Details

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