Brick and Mortar ‘Customer Eccentricity’—What’s Up with That?

When financial institutions design processes and solutions to meet operational or other internal criteria—taking little or no account of how they impact customers.

(Photo credit: Håkan Svensson.) 

“Brick and mortar” is a phrase going back around 20 years to the dawn of the generally available internet when web designers were looking for a way of contrasting e-commerce transactions from transactions in the physical world (aka stores). So “brick and mortar” generically came to mean things that do not happen digitally.

I’m using the term “customer eccentricity” to mean the opposite of customer centricity. A customer eccentric financial institution designs processes and solutions to meet operational or other internal criteria—taking little or no account of how they impact customers.

I’ve had a couple of recent experiences with brick and mortar customer eccentricity:

  1. I’ve been a long-time customer of an online bank. I recently made a transfer to the bank. I looked at the receiving account several times in the next few days. After maybe the third or fourth time, I could not login. Thinking this must be some kind of bug, I contacted the bank’s call center. I was told it was not a bug, but a feature. I was locked out from the normal login process because of the number of times I had recently logged in. The customer service rep explained that this policy was an anti-fraud measure (recall I am a long-time customer of this bank). For the next several months, to access to my account online, I would have to call the call center, verbally receive a one-time password, and then login. I am in the process of closing my accounts at that bank.
  2. I have a maturing CD at a different brick and mortar bank. I will be out of town during the grace period, and want to transfer the CD proceeds to my checking account at another bank. I could not see a way of doing this online, so I called customer service, who then directed me to a brick and mortar branch. A customer rep at the branch told me I could not make an online transfer the proceeds of a matured CD. However, they offered to cut a physical cashier’s check, walk over to my second bank and deposit it there. An alternative, which I am taking, was to cut a cashier’s check, and put in a locked drawer until I come back to town, and go to the brick and mortar to claim it.

What both experiences have in common is driving a customer, who wants a digital experience, away from interacting digitally to a brick and mortar, physical world experience.

In the first, the online bank had perfectly good digital functionality allowing me to look at my account, but decided to override that functionality and impose an awkward work-around. In the second, there was no digital/online way to make the transfer. The offer to literally walk over to another bank to make a deposit was impressive (in terms of customer service). But it added physical and personal complexity to a task that I wanted to do with a few keystrokes and a couple of clicks.

So, what’s up with these two banks?

My guess is that the first bank’s fraud detection algorithms cast an overly wide net. It should not have tagged my transactions given my lengthy history with the bank. And there was no procedure in place for the call center rep to over-ride the lockout. The solution the rep offered (requiring me to make a phone call in order to see my accounts online) added aggravation to an already unhappy customer. Customer eccentricity indeed.

The second bank has apparently not invested the IT resources to allow external transfers from a maturing CD. The work-around offered (having a person walk over to another bank to make a deposit) was, in a sense, impressive. But honestly, I don’t want or expect the staff of banks I do business with to run personal errands for me. Definitely, in terms of this customer, another customer eccentric experience.

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Donald Light // Donald Light is a Director in Celent’s North America Property/Casualty Insurance Practice. His coverage areas include: technology and business strategy; transformative technologies such as digital, the Internet of Things, and driverless cars; core systems; and insurance technology M&A due diligence. His recent consulting work includes: developing a strategic IT plan for a specialty insurer, core system vendor selection support; a build vs. buy analysis for core systems; and several due diligence assignments. Light is widely quoted in the press and media, including The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, NBC and CBS Evening News, CNBC, National Public Radio. He is a frequent presenter at industry conferences including those sponsored by ACORD, PCI, and IASA.

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