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OMG, the app doesn’t work!

Lessons for banks from jammed-up coffee line

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.

It is 4:30 in the morning. I am at a large hub airport waiting in line at a nationally known coffee/latte establishment.

Suddenly, the barista loudly announces:

“The app does not work.”

 “I repeat—the app does not work!”

Immediately the line is consumed with a buzz.

Perfect strangers start talking to each other.

The person standing at the register asks the barista, in a tone of voice that is borderline belligerent:

“What do you MEAN the app does not work?”

Put your phone down and step away from the barista

Calmly, but with a firm tone in her voice, the barista explains that when you attempt to use the barcode of your app or the contactless option, the terminal fails to recognize the device and the sale will not complete.

The frustrated patron, with an ever-increasing tone of urgency in their voice, responds to the explanation with another question, “Okay, what are you going to do about that?”

By this time, several individuals whom also have the non-functional app on their now-dumb phones have figured it out.

The options are credit card, debit card, cash, mooch off a colleague/companion .. or just walk away, latte-less.

Employing another option may take a little more work such as digging the cash or card out of your wallet. But for caffeine or latte, the inconvenience at this hour is worth it.


Back to the would-be patron who is now holding up a dumb phone and the entire line.

All of us are becoming impatient, because most of us have a Plan-B ready to execute—and planes to catch.

But nooooo, there is an obvious obstruction.

Then compassion takes over and the stranger behind the Panicked Patron asks them what they would like and offers to pay for their order. Snapped out of it by the gesture, the Panicked Patron realizes there is now a line of about 25 travelers that too are waiting for coffee.

Quickly, Panicked Patron pulls a $20 (How hard was that?) out of their pocket and pays for the order.

Problem solved and we all move on.

Lesson for bankers

The real issue here: The alarm and confusion that overtakes ones’ state of mind when the technology that is relied upon and is expected to always be there suddenly is not!

Most of us have grown so reliant on technology—or oblivious to it—that reliance has evolved into unexpected dependence. Even when it is the failure of minor technology such as an app, shock is the initial reaction.

Shock as in, “What do you MEAN the app does not work?”

After an adjustment period, most individuals find a way around the service interruption, but the elapsed time between the two can put you in a vulnerable position depending on the technology that fails.

As funny as the event seems to those who were involved in the most recent debacle at the airport, there was alarm. The moral of the story can be driven home by asking two questions.

1. How aware are you of the technology that your bank depends on?

2. How prepared and knowledgeable are you and your staff in the event of an interruption?

If your response is, “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” … you have some work to do.

Don’t wait until you have a technology failure to refresh your knowledge on the available options. You may not have the time!

—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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