Published on in Financial ServicesDigital Transformation

Apart from the dark nights closing in you can always tell it’s Christmas in the UK when that good-old favourite Strictly Come Dancing returns to screens. I could blame my wife for making me watch it but in truth it’s a guilty pleasure. What always amazes me is the progression of the contestants, and the finite detail on how they are judged.

len goodman strictlyThe standard of most is pretty good after a few weeks – about the time that the first big ‘SEVEN’ score is given. The contestants listen to their professional partners, train hard, take the judges feedback and learn to do better. Those that don’t are ejected.

Equally, as the contestants get better, the whole picture starts to be taken into account, rather than just their ability to improve. This is when contestants are removed due to nagging problems with dropped shoulders, not enough movement in the hips, or even forgetting to smile. It’s tough to get near-perfect execution across every aspect of the dance, but that’s what’s needed to win.

It strikes me that many consumers are now acting like Strictly judges. Raw talent – the ability to make / sell competitive products and services – is simply a starting point. Consumers also expect their suppliers to be committed to and to deliver continuous improvement. Equally, every aspect of the delivery – the whole experience – needs to be consistently near-perfect. If not, consumers are able and actively encouraged to vote with their feet. Even more importantly, they then happily parade their low scores on social media and review sites for everyone to see.

Nowhere is this truer than in the retail banking sector where I spend a lot of my time. It has never been easier (in the UK at least) to move your account to another bank. As such, banks are striving to deliver a consistent, high-quality experience across all channels – digital or otherwise. Some channels are getting more attention than others though, and as they learn new moves banks are at a higher risk of dropping a shoulder in places.

An example for some banks is the first real ‘digital’ channel – ATMs. Many will dismiss ATMs as a problem already solved, for a channel that is in decline. Experience says otherwise. It is true that use of cash is in decline – UK predictions are a 30% fall in transaction volumes over the next 10 years. Cash however remains the most commonly used payment mechanism, and is likely to remain so for some time. The ATM is a major part of the bedrock of consumer financial transactions.

The enlightened banks are keeping the dance moving by using ATM technology to deliver new self-service functionality, driving up transaction volumes, getting footfall up into branches, freeing up staff to focus on ‘higher-value’ contacts with their customers and extending opening hours for more than just taking out money. New ATMs and ATM software offer consumers hundreds of personalised transaction types, including non-banking transactions – to make the bank branch more community focused.

ATMs and self-service machines also contribute significantly to consumers perceptions of service. Far too frequently consumers have to walk away disappointed with a dead machine or a failed transaction and get in a long queue for the one other available machine. That’s a dropped shoulder in Strictly terms.

I visited our Centre of Excellence for retail banking recently and I was impressed at what they’re doing to address this and keep things moving. They provide a data-rich ATM performance improvement service, and it’s been very successful. As well as 24 x 7 monitoring, data is gathered and analysed across the full estate including: ATM transaction types, response times, geographical localities, incident volumes, hardware types, hardware health and software releases. Actions are taken from these analytics to address issues and to drive continuous improvement. The measured results of this data-driven function are that ATM availability goes up, cost of support goes down, and customer satisfaction – and ultimately usage of the service – increases.

It illustrates that if you want to compete in this ‘Strictly-esque’ market to retain and win new consumers – whatever your industry – you need to continuously improve and consider the complete picture you present; not just your raw talent. Like many times in life, not enough movement in your hips will cut the dance short…a disappointing result for all involved!

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