The SPECS model: Part 1

How to design the ultimate consumer experience beyond price.

Consumer expectations continue to evolve. Credit unions must evolve with them to stay relevant.  But specifically, how? GCS suggests following the SPECS. Stemming from years of qualitative and quantitative consumer research, GCS has identified the following five components leaders must consider in driving, and maintaining, relevance and distinction in the marketplace.  The components are called SPECS, as they reflect:

  • The core SPECS for the desired product or service experience; the needed specifications to engage consumers and earn their loyalty. 
  • An old-style word for glasses, SPECS describes the lens consumers look through when assessing options, and therefore the lens CU’s must use as a filter in evolving products and services.
  • Finally, SPECS is an acronym for the needed balance between technology and the personal touch.  SPECS provides the structure with which to enhance differentiation and value beyond price.  Innovating around the SPECS will help organizations enrich the user experience and drive greater consumer engagement.

So, what are the SPECS?

  • Speed, 
  • Personalization, 
  • Ease, 
  • Control, and 
  • Security

Leaders are encouraged to incorporate the SPECS into their product and service assessment and development.  The SPECS can add focus and a decision filter into strategic decision making. Design to the SPECS and enhance value for your membership.  

Importantly, the SPECS are not mutually exclusive. Examples for one may also encompass elements of another SPECS component; cited examples were chosen to reflect the primary SPECS element, but many represent more than one.

This article addresses the first of the SPECS, Speed, leaving the others for subsequent articles to follow.

S = Speed.

Today’s financial consumer demands immediacy and speed. Speed in technology; speed in human service as well. Consider our lack of patience in wait times on the phone, in person, for responses to requests, problem resolution and overall product and service delivery. The need for speed in financial services has never been in more demand.  Instant gratification has pummeled delayed gratification; the expectation is now, and providers must respond accordingly. 

Not surprisingly, speed and digital access go hand in hand. Keywords such as real-time and immediate are descriptors for many of the examples of speed desired by today’s consumer.  Patience is gone. Response times now must be, well, now.

In financial services, online and mobile continuity and flexibility top the list. Immediate, real-time digital balances and transaction history are no longer just desired, they are expected. Friction-free, instant access is the new expectation: integrated credit card information (without a delayed link to a separate website), easy to find ATM locations when traveling, and immediate availability of funds regardless of deposit method all speak to the need for Speed.  

Speed is instant-issue debit cards.  Speed is fast response on loan applications, requests for service, information and problem resolution. Tap to pay via a card or mobile phone further represent the continuing evolution of technologies focused on providing the consumer with faster service. 

Like the other SPECS components, these trends are not only financial services related, they represent consumer expectations and demands across industries. It’s something of a self-perpetuating fly wheel. As more fast and immediate services are designed and offered to consumers, the higher the expectation for yet faster and more. Consider restaurants and mobile ordering.  From fast food to casual dining, chains are increasingly offering digital ordering and payment through apps for quick curbside pick-up. McDonalds, Dunkin’ Donuts and Panera Bread allow you to place your order and pay through their app, or order at a kiosk so no waiting on dine-in.  And the myriad delivery services (DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and more) all illustrate the high-speed demands of today’s consumer. 

Large retailers and grocers are also necessarily responding to this demand and joining the Speed-wagon. Walmart, Target, Kroger and Giant Foods all provide digital ordering and options for home or drive-up delivery, with more competing here every day. 

Consider healthcare. Doctors’ offices now offer portal access for real-time test results negating the need for follow up contact. A simple login shows the results of your blood test and allows you to make requests, ask questions and set future appointments. Where you want; when you want; now.  

So, how fast is your CU? When was the last time products and services were reviewed through a Speed lens? Speed provides compelling, personalized, real-time service. Incorporating Speed into current procedures and services and allowing this concept to influence the adoption of new ones will enable an organization to better meet the needs of demanding consumers and fast forward your organization to the next level of relevance.

Neil Goldman

Neil Goldman

Dr. Neil Goldman is Senior Partner of Goldman Consulting & Strategy (GCS, Inc.), an organizational development and marketing research firm founded in 2002, working primarily with credit unions. He also ... Web: Details