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Digitizing Main Street: There is No They

By Stacy Cox, COO & SVP, Croghan Colonial Bank

Stacy Cox, COO & SVP, Croghan Colonial Bank

Digitizing Main Street means bringing competitive digital banking products to your neighbors and friends next door. Developing digital products in a community bank is different from the digital development that occurs in a larger bank. It’s different from working in a project team that may be several steps away from the customers. It’s about launching the new banking product you’ve worked on for months and then getting direct feedback at the deli down the street when you walk there to grab lunch. Accountability and visibility are increased. You have skin in the game. A lot of it. After all, your kids are on the same football team or they’re competing in the same spelling bee next week.

When I worked at larger organizations, customers were less likely to discuss product or service changes when we ran into each other outside of the bank. Perhaps customers identified with the large size of the organization and didn’t see any one individual as being responsible for a change. Perhaps they didn’t feel directly connected to the bank. Or, perhaps it was the same and I just missed it. In any case, today in the community banking world direct contact is a way of life. There is no They. There is no nameless, faceless group of people on the other side of the wall who are responsible for whatever outcomes occur with new digital products. It’s ‘We’: We planned the change, we tested the upgrade, we executed the launch, and we discuss the changes with customers. There is a face and a name and that’s what makes things so special on Main Street.

"CX is a valuable measure of how well you’re doing in creating the type of passionate, brand loyal customers we all love"

The challenges for community bankers in the quest for digitization are multi-faceted. All banks face budgetary and regulatory challenges. Along the way, all banks pay attention to the three letter acronyms (dare I say TLA’s?) that fill our days: ROA, SOA, ERM, ERP, ROI and all the others we follow. While pursuing strong ratings with these acronyms, banks compete for talent, for innovative ideas and for customers. But, in community banking the fight goes beyond winning over the customer to join the bank. We must also earn the respect and continually heed the direct feedback of customers. Granted, the pursuit of great customer feedback isn’t limited to just community banks.I assure you from first-hand experience that the opinions of customersalso matter in larger banks. The difference is with larger banks yourneighbors simply may not feel connected enough to reach out to you on their own with direct feedback, on Main Street, at the deli, over lunch.

New digital banking tools and payment options are emerging daily. It’s easy to feel pressured to keep up, to offer the latest and greatest tools and to beat our competitors in the race. But, the newest digital banking products are not the first priority in our customers’ lives. Despite what we think, customers are way more focused on their lives than what their bankers are doing. They’re worried about their own budgets, their own financial plans and their own goals. So, it’s important that we pace ourselves and our rates of change. It’s important that we remember our customers rely on us for security and consistency first, and innovation with new and exciting banking tools second. Or, perhaps, even further down the priority list than second.

My advice to my fellow community bankers: Don’t stray too far from your discipline of measuring to the three letter acronyms. We know those will be with us for a long time and they are fundamental keys to our performance. But, while you’re following the three letter acronyms, be sure to include a two letter acronym with every move you make–CX, the Customer Experience. It’s a briefer acronym and that fits our world just fine because the feedback loop is briefer in community banking. CX measures the customer experience with your bank throughout their journey, including touchpoints with your brand and their digital experience. CX includes the emotional attachment customers feel toward your bank as a result of their experience. It measures the extent to which the customer will sing your praises to their contacts and friends. CX is a valuable measure of how well you’re doing in creating the type of passionate, brand loyal customers we all love. And, CX fits the other two letter word we’ve discussed in community banking: We. Because, when customers evaluate their experience with a community bank, there’s no They. It’s We: How We handled the interaction, how We considered their needs with our services, how We made their lives easier, more consistent and more secure. And, how we were available to discuss the new digital banking product with them when we ran into each other at the deli during lunch on Main Street.