I'm sorry there is just no call for it!
As I am in a holiday mood I thought you might like to hear another sad personal story of how to get the customer experience wrong. Or, is it a not-so-subtle ploy to make me take part of my banking-business elsewhere? The problems I encountered have led me to ask questions about the actual services offered, and whether they are really geared towards my needs.
Many people tend to go on holiday at this time of year as school term ends and families can be together. I needed to get some currency and travellers' cheques for my family’s latest adventure. At LTSB (better known as Lloyds TSB, one of the largest UK banks) if you need currency and/or travellers' cheques you have to order them. Now in my town nearly every travel agent, bank, post office and even a retailer - Marks and Spencer - offers currency and travellers' cheques across the counter. Not so LTSB!
I ordered my currency and travellers' cheques on a Thursday and went to pick them up on the Monday. However, someone had failed to process my order for travellers' cheques, and I was asked to return for them on Wednesday. You can imagine my feelings. The only place in town that does not let me have instant access, fails even to process my order correctly. What if I had been going on holiday the next day? Well, of course I would have had to go to a competitor - I would have had no choice. I am a gold service customer and I get my currency free of commission, but other outlets offer just as good a rate plus a small commission and, I now believe, a better service for that small fee!
I could have ordered my currency by phone and the bank would have immediately drawn funds from my account. But that would have been worse. The bank would have had use of my funds whilst I waited for my cheques, probably with no recompense. So I had to go into town again – the cost of dealing with a competitor now becomes a saving. I could have reduced my travel and parking costs by dealing directly with a competitor in the first place, and in future I might do just that. Another enjoyable experience, given that I have travel insurance with LTSB as well (I think of myself as good customer - maybe I am delusional!) was having to ask three times for a copy of my travel insurance policy to be sent to me!
I have banked at Lloyds ever since I became a senior manager in their corporate banking division, and continued my 'relationship' with them after I finally left as chief manager in 1992. I see myself as a loyal customer not an apathetic customer. LTSB provide overall a reasonable service that meets most of my personal and business needs. Yet I feel they are now forcing me to take some of my banking needs to a competitor; could it be that that is just what they want?
LTSB have a large investment in terabytes of customer information, a large-scale customer information infrastructure, a history of customer first programmes, CRM initiatives and an attention to making money. With this in mind, they may have worked out that there is no future in offering easy access to foreign currency and travellers' cheques in their current branch structure. This action reminds me of an old television advertisement where on a hot sunny day a man goes in to a public house (or for my US readers a "bar") and asks for an ice cold Guinness. He is told that there is just no call for ice cold Guinness. Yet in fact he was the tenth person that day to ask for it. You can see that there is 'just no call for ice cold Guinness' as there is 'just no call for on the spot access to currency and travellers' cheques'! So all the others offering foreign currency and cheques on the spot must have it wrong or they are working to different metrics!
LTSB has made no secret of where it expects to get profits in the future, since the government has put an end to its thoughts of buying Abbey National (a major UK personal financial services provider). LTSB's message clearly spoke of domestic growth fuelled by their investment in getting closer to the customer to sell them more. LTSB has had a customer first programme for a number of years and has spent many millions of pounds on getting one view of the customer, as well as on other CRM activities. They have steadily purchased organisations to enable Lloyds TSB to become a one-stop shop for all our financial needs. From the purchase of Abbey Life (insurance products), Cheltenham & Gloucester (Mortgages), Scottish Widows (investment and assurance) and not to mention an ill fated foray into estate agency, they have moved to the one stop financial shop for all your banking, borrowing, insurance and investment needs - or nearly all of them.
In the LTSB annual statement for 2000 they say: "Going forward, the thrust of our strategy is about organic revenue growth through customer relationship management, leveraging the strength of our brand and our multi-channel distribution capability, reducing our day-to-day unit costs and driving forward our e-commerce strategy". You can read the chairman's statement for yourself:
LTSB has spoken openly about its investments in CRM and how it wants to treat different customers differently. It certainly is treating customers going abroad differently from its competitors, with regard to foreign currency and travellers' cheques. I wonder what LTSB's systems are telling them about the true customer experience and what it is doing for relationship building? I am also pondering the savings made by not offering what the customers actually wants (ie instant access, a good rate and a consistent reliable level of service)? CRM is about building long term relationships founded on a value exchange between two parties. So my question is not about the mistakes made but about the overall service offered: is there something LTSB know that the other organisations don’t? I have done my part - now it's over to you LTSB!
To review some of Lloyds TSB's moves to CRM please review the following sites.
Group Customer Management:
And 2000 Interim Results presentation:
Your comments are welcome and I will get back on track for my next customer knowledge infrastructure article after my holidays...and once I get my travellers' cheques.