At some point, most businesses are faced with choosing to invest in either people or in technology. But how much do you invest in each? Do you have to choose?
As a business and a bank, we’re tasked with how to best serve our customers while keeping the doors open. Do we invest in personnel or with the latest technology? This is a question a lot of local businesses ask as part of their business plan. While we can’t answer for every business, we can tell you how we approach the topic. As a community bank focused on providing our customers a great banking experience, we have chosen to bring the very best of both worlds to our customers, and we’re just the right size to do both really well. We’re small enough to personally manage relationships and employees, and we are large enough to invest in great technology.
We don’t choose between service and technology, we choose our customers and meeting their expectations to produce an outstanding customer experience. With innovation, focus, and a strong, customer-centric mission, businesses can also take the best from both worlds to optimize their customers’ experiences. Here are some tips on how:
First and foremost, what are your customers’ expectations?
The best place to start is by researching and defining your customers’ expectations. What do they expect as far as experience? All businesses have products and services they offer. They fill needs. They meet demands. However, it’s your customer’s experience that keeps them coming back for more. This experience can create customer advocates who market your business or it can create a sour customer who deters others. First and foremost, research what your customers expect, and work to meet and exceed those expectations. If your customers expect an in-person experience, enhance it. If they expect convenient technology, optimize it. Keep in mind, you probably have several different types of customers who expect different experiences. Analyze each one and keep these expectations in mind as you move forward.
Some things will always matter
For many, the term ‘community bank’ conjures up images of an old, dusty town bank on the corner of Main Street. While that pioneer imagery was once true, times have changed. The good news is, you’ll still find us on the corner of Main Street with knowledgeable and friendly associates. We still take the time to get to know customers so we can offer them the best products and services to meet their unique needs. To us, this is trust, and we still take it very seriously. Trust is timeless. Core values, like trust, are essential to being part of a community, and they don’t change.
Therefore, trust is something our customers expect. Money is serious business. However, trust is one of the most important building blocks of any relationship—including relationships with your customers. And just as with other relationships, every customer interaction, big or small, helps build up or tear down that trust. We know that our customer experience wouldn’t be the same without our dedication to great, in-person customer service. We’re not an online bank, we’re part of a community, so people-to-people interaction is not only important to our customers, it’s expected. So when you look at your customers’ expectations, make sure you remember the basics of any good relationship and why people will always matter.
Change will happen
Technology, unlike trust, changes and evolves on a daily basis and our customers expect us to be on top of it. Daily, we’re upgrading mobile apps, payment technologies, and cybersecurity systems. We invest in technology options that help customers manage their financial life whenever and wherever they choose. However, there wasn’t always so many options. “Convenience” used to be an ATM. Our customers expect us to evolve with new technology advances, and I’m sure your customers expect your business to evolve in the same way.
But should you adopt all the technology? Technology can be expensive!
Not every business has technology to offer customers, and some businesses solely offer tech solutions. If you are in the middle (like most of us), you’ve probably toyed around with the question: “How much do we invest?” To help answer this question, first and foremost, be smart, innovative, and open. Consumers and businesses want to work with companies who are on their game and know their space. Do research and know the latest, even if it isn’t the right fit for your business. Next, holistically look at the customer experience your company offers. Does technology enhance their experience or improve your business’ efficiency? Are your customers frustrated or thrilled with what you currently offer them? Do your competitors offer a better experience? All of these questions will help direct you and your team towards clearer decisions and a focused game plan. More technology is always enticing, but look at the end goal for your company and your customers.
At the end of the day, our customers demanded both.
Being in business, you know there is little black and white when it comes to customer experiences. In addition, you’ll never please everyone, but with the right recipe, you can deliver a great customer experience that balances service and tech to meet nearly everyone’s expectations.
Here is a good example from the banking world: If a criminal has stolen your debit card information, you need to act quickly. That’s why we launched our Card Control technology service with our personal checking accounts. This in-app technology allows customers to instantly control the usage and preferences of their debit card. Stolen debit card? No problem, turn it off. With a ton of options, our customers can customize their debit card experience. This technology is great, but a lot of customers still prefer the ability and assurance to be able to call their local Standard Bank office or Customer Care Center when they need help. Our customers appreciate being able to talk with a live person and have that personal, trusted experience…especially when time is of the essence. Our customers need great customer service. So which do we focus on? Tech or service? BOTH because we want every customer to have a great experience. Ignoring one of the experiences would be ignoring a very large customer group.
A Balanced Equation
While it’s enticing to always go “all in” on customer service or technology, your business can offer both as long as you focus on providing an outstanding customer experience for YOUR customers. Choose options that matter to them and improve their experience. Give them something to rave about. When you focus on your customer experience…and keep all roads leading to that end goal…you’ll be better equipped to make decisions as you invest in employees, technology, and additional resources.
Also, don’t forget to show your employees, customers, and communities you are dedicated to their experience—service, tech, and everything in-between. Be excited about what you offer and do it to the best of your ability. Your customers’ experiences are based on more than one factor—they are based on the whole package—and how well you met their expectations.