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Can your bank play today’s game?

How a retailer showed there’s life in “live”—if you’re nimble

Obvious and mediocre won’t be found here—but “Why didn’t I think of that?” will! Challenging the banking status quo is Dan Fisher’s personal mission. Obvious and mediocre won’t be found here—but “Why didn’t I think of that?” will! Challenging the banking status quo is Dan Fisher’s personal mission.

Retailers and shopping malls are both singing the same song of doom! Stores are closing, malls are shrinking, and, much to our surprise, there is an apparent consensus to who is to blame.

Yes, news flash, it is the internet! No surprise there. But this is not an obituary. Read on.

The game-changer

“The evil web is ruining our business!” becomes the cry of retailers. Retailers find themselves shaking their clenched and frustrated fists at websites that are stealing away the consumers who have visited their shops only to leave and buy online at home.

“Why,” these retailers ask, “don’t they buy? We have great stores, loud music, a food court nearby, and just about everything you might need!”

No matter what you do, the assessment is that the store experience does not instill in the mind of the visiting consumer a compelling reason to buy at that time they are in your store. In their mind, there is a sense that they can go online, have a better selection, better price, no hassle on returns, free shipping, and all free of pressure.

And, for the most part, whatever they want is always in stock, online. One big-name office supply retailer stocks a minimum of paper clips in its store, and invites the customer who is in the store to visit its website for additional items.

Let’s get real

The 21st Century has ushered in a bunch of cool stuff, but internet is tops in changing behavior. Joan Rivers, just before she hit hard, used to pause and ask the question, “Can we talk?” Then wham, Joan would drop the hammer.

So, let’s get tough with the idea. Retailers have tried a variety of conventional approaches to attract customers. New lines, discount pricing, promotions, and improvements to the shopping environment.

Some retailers have reported foot traffic (aka store visits) up, but sales either flat or down. Why? On the outside looking in, retailers have not done a very good job with the following:

• Lowering the perception of buyer pressure.

• Increasing the reasons why a shopper should stay in the store and buy there.

• Improving shopper trust that they can get the best deal from the store now.

The key distinction is that customer service has taken on a totally new meaning due to the internet. Buying consumers shopping online see hassle-free, no-conflict, convenient delivery, wide selection, and a “we can do that” attitude.

Let’s face it, the internet does deliver in that context.

Hey, but wait a minute…

I just had a great experience in a retail store. When I started to leave a very interesting thing happened.

I was looking for a birthday gift for our son. We visited with the sales associate and looked at our options. Then our daughter said, “You can get a better deal on the internet.”

As we were starting to leave, the sales associate said, “Let me save you the trip. Let’s look online now at my terminal and see what you can find.”

We did, and boom, a better deal came up.

The sales associate said he would match it.

And the store was having a promotion that weekend offering an additional discount of $50 if you purchased in the store on Saturday or Sunday. The clerk also stated that if the store did not have the model we were looking for, he would find it in the inventory and ship it to our home or office for free.

Suddenly, staying in the store was better than surfing and shopping at home. What an interesting turn.

This sales clerk was knowledgeable of consumer trends, behavior, and what relevant techniques the store could use to create a satisfied customer.

It was awesome and I was very impressed.

A Joan Rivers moment

Okay, can we talk?

Banks too are complaining that foot traffic at the branches is down. Long-term customers as staying (we’ll call them loyalists), but banks are not attracting the younger customer. Furthermore, with the new bank technology you can have a customer relationship go from cradle to grave without setting foot in a bank office.

So, the tough question is: What has your institution done to attract your customer into a relationship with your bank? If opening an account with your bank requires the customer to come into a branch, what online reasons are you giving them to come in?

Let’s face it, nobody walks into a bank lobby today and asks, “Hey, what do you have for me?”

Typically, using an inverted shopping approach, they shop on the internet first, then go to the bank. Then the experience rapidly parallels the retail store experience.

What are you doing to attract the younger customers to your branch? And then what are you doing to keep them there?

Put yourself in their shoes.

• First and foremost, they have to have a reason to be there.

• Second, they absolutely do not want to have to sit at a desk answering questions they could have answered online before walking into your lobby.

• Finally, they want to know what you can do for them, not what they can do for you!

They are not going to endure the prospective customer interrogation only to be told no! They don’t have to and they won’t!

Conventional banking approaches do not work for the contemporary customer.

There are plenty of online choices on the internet today, and if you don’t make your bank visible on the internet, they will never see a reason to walk through your doors.

Then you too will be clenching your fists and closing your doors.

In order to get them and keep them, you need to compete for them, on their terms, not yours.

Retail sales or retail banking, the demise will be the same.

Clearly the 21st Century customer does not have to do it your way! It is their way or no way!

How can your bank replicate my recent shopping experience, where the sales person was determined to find a way to get my business?

 —The Wombat!

Dan Fisher

Dan Fisher is president and CEO of The Copper River Group, a consulting firm headquartered in Fargo, N. D., that focuses on technology and payment systems research and consulting for community financial institutions. For nearly 30 years, Fisher has worked in the financial industry using technology to improve the bottom line. He was CIO of Community First Bankshares (now part of Bank of the West), has served as a director of the Federal Reserve Board of Minneapolis, the chairman of the American Bankers Association Payment Systems Committee, and was a member of the Independent Community Bankers of America Payments Committee. Fisher has written numerous articles on banking technology and the payments system. He has authored or co-authored six books and recently published a book titled, "Capturing Your Customer! The New Technology of Remote Deposit." You can contact Fisher at [email protected] or at 701-293-6222.
P.S. To understand Dan's nickname, check out "About the Wombat" on his website.       

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