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Differentiation starts with being DIFFERENT

Different Fish

The image of bankers being stodgy, stuffed suits sitting in mahogany-lined offices is an altogether unavoidable cliché.  Even as banks try to differentiate through targeted branding, the variances from one organization to the next remain subtle.  Perhaps this is because on the front lines, banks and credit unions are simply finding new ways to discuss or promote the same traditional branch behaviors.

Let's face it.  The financial services industry is largely a commodity market without a tremendous amount of differences between organizations.  Consumers can find many, if not all, of the same products at each bank or credit union they visit.  From DDAs and money market accounts to investment and loan options, banks and credit unions offer substantively similar products and services.  

As a result, the only way to truly differentiate isn't found in “WHAT” is sold but rather “HOW” it's sold, and “WHY” people should do business with you.  Side note:  If you haven't seen the Simon Sinek TED talk, “Start with WHY”, stop reading and immediately go watch it.

I've spoken with hundreds of financial institution executives and observed thousands of branches over the past ten years.  The organizations that stand out as memorable all had one thing in common - they differentiated themselves by leveraging technology and design innovation to create memorable experiences.  Here's a key point: people make decisions emotionally, not rationally.   Creating a memorable experience brings about an emotional feeling.

Happy Customer

By correctly implementing technology solutions, it becomes easier to make that emotional, in-the-gut connection with your customers.  An example of using technology to benefit the customer is a teller cash recycler (TCR).  By storing currency in a TCR, branches dispose of the need for traditional walk-in vaults.  This allows for a much more customer-friendly branch design and a more memorable experience.  Focusing on the “HOW” it's sold.

Thanks to recent advances in cash automation and check processing technology, some organizations are setting themselves apart from the competition—focusing on customers and members.  Technology that securely counts cash or processes checks eliminates teller focus on transaction management and concentrates their efforts on serving customers or members.  The key words here are - serving customers or members.  We are using technology to develop an emotional connection with the customer—the “WHY” they should do business with you. 

In an increasingly competitive financial services market, its critical to differentiate your company from the competition.  Too often, technology strategy is viewed as separate from business development strategy.   Technology should play a vital role in your overall strategy.

Take a look at how Exchange Bank is using technology to create a better user experience.