During one of my first computer classes, our instructor told us that the key to success and relevance in information technology is delivering the right information, in the right format, at the right time. When I worked for a manufacturing company in the 80s, this advice typically applied to shipping information, printed on labels, that needed to be ready in time for the shipping truck. Daily demand for user information was usually met by delivering mountains of reports printed on green bar paper. It was definitely not a “real-time” organization.
Over the years, consumer demands have expanded, particularly in the financial services space, and most of the increased demand is fueled by technology. Credit union members, for instance, no longer have to wait for the teller lobby to be open for business. The internet and mobile devices have made 24/7 access a fundamental expectation, not a luxury. We take it for granted now, but at the time it was a game changer.
While user expectations have changed, the basic concept of supplying the right information, in the right format, at the right time is still a fundamental one. Based on the expanded tools and systems to access data, there is an added expectation that organizations keep this information secure. Viewed through the voice of the consumer, it looks something like this:
- I expect you to keep my information secure – i.e., no breaches
- I expect the information about me to be correct – i.e., my credit card should never be declined in error
- I expect my information to be available in the format I request – i.e., internet, mobile, paper
- I expect the information to be available when I need it – i.e., 24/7
If we wish to remain relevant to consumers while using technology to pursue new tools and systems, we must meet their basic expectations. Failure to meet their core needs is a shortcut to becoming irrelevant in the marketplace.
Businesses and consumers now demand instant access to business goods and services – not just from their laptops, but also from their mobile devices. Driven by that demand, credit unions are opting to rely more on the internet. While the benefits of anytime, anywhere access are clear, increasing reliance on the internet has its disadvantages, particularly when it comes to a variety of cyber security issues. As the percentage of gross revenue from e-business grows, the risk to the business from cyber attacks and outages also grows proportionally.
When properly applied, advances in authentication and security technology will help meet consumers’ expectations for keeping their information secure. More robust methods of processing, storing and correlating data will reduce the potential for errors in members’ accounts, helping to meet their need for accurate information. Keeping current with new methods of delivering services to members electronically will help ensure that mobile apps run seamlessly on the latest and greatest phones. And lastly, attention to incident response and failover technologies will mean that when members need access to their funds or information, both will be readily available.
Lifetime customers are made outside of normal work hours. When a parent drives through a midnight snowstorm to get milk or supplies from the store, and credit card or ATM access works seamlessly, he or she will be more apt to remain a long-term member. The one certainty is that the technology train will not slow down, and consumers will continuously demand new and better tools. As we implement these new tools, we should marry them with systems and processes that support the basic needs of members. Doing so will result in systems that go far beyond the basic functions in meeting consumer needs. We can and should utilize these advances to enhance the overall customer experience. This strategy will elevate relevancy and drive up member retention rates to enviable levels. Credit unions should make it a company-wide mantra to enhance the entire member experience, not just deliver a new application.
It is easy to become enamored with new tools and technologies. This is especially true in the areas of payments and banking thanks to recent and forthcoming tremendous advances. However, it is important to never lose focus on the basic needs of consumers. Technology should be viewed as a means to help meet those needs.