Thursday, January 24, 2008

Your Front Page as Your Front Line

I'd like to start this by comparing two interactions between member and credit union.

The traditional branch user, and the digital user.

*please note that these situations are purely hypothetical.

Jane has been a member of Maine State CU since 1963. She has seen many faces come and go on the teller line, but still enjoys getting to know the new folks. When she walks into the lobby she always expects a friendly face to great her at the teller line and hasn't been disappointed yet.

On this particular Thursday however, she is greeted with a scowl, unconvincingly forced into a sliver of a smirk. This new teller finishes writing something on a pad of paper before even looking up to notice Jane and utter a blunt "can I help you?" Jane, being very sensitive to the way she is treated, walks out the door and closes her account. Extreme, I know, but people can be.


Joe just opened his account with Maine State CU. The branch was impressive (huge and a bit intimidating in a way), but he prefers to do his banking online.

Judging by the impressiveness of the branch itself he visits expecting an equally impressive web site. Instead he is met by an outdated site with outdated info. He finds it nearly impossible to navigate to the information he is looking for and it isn't immediately apparent where he needs to click to access the online banking system. He gets fed up with the site, closes his account and opens one with ING Direct.

As we move further into the digital age, more and more people are coming to view your web page as their first line of interaction with the institution. People expect a clean, updated, easy to navigate site nearly as much as they expect to find a friendly face and knowledgeable staff at the physical branch.

The front page is the new front line. Will online service ever replace face to face interaction? I doubt it, but its a matter of what people expect to find when they visit the institution that deals with their money; be it online, or on the teller line.

P.S. We'll be getting a new web site for in the near future!


Mike Templeton said...

There is nothing less impressive to me when a company (ANY company) has an out of date, crummy website. When I signed up for an HSA account through work, we are required to join a local credit union so that they can make all HSA deposits to a single FI. When I heard who the CU was, I immediately went out to their website. My initial reaction: unimpressed. The site didn't seem very intuitive or easy to navigate and the online banking system looks like something from the days of Windows 3.1. I can't exactly not use the CU, since it is required for this account, but I haven't opened any other accounts with them.

On the flip side, when I started looking for a CU to switch to from my previous bank, the first thing I did was start searching online. I found several CU websites with so-so setups and similarly blah designs, and I didn't give any of them a second chance. The first round of qualifiers to get MY business all had neat, clean websites and a sophisticated usability. From there I dug into rates, fees, etc., but the "webface" of each of those CUs was what drove my initial interest.

So, to concur with your second example, in this day and age, a CU MUST have a good website in order to compete. As an early adopter of technology and a Gen Y'er looking for a place to put my money, that is something that is front and center in my list of priorities. If CUs want to attract people like me, the status of their website should a high priority for them as well.

Joe Buhler said...

Excellent points made in both the post and comment. There are surprisingly still many executives, not only in financial services, who don't realize how important their web presence is in the overall positioning of their corporation as a valuable and trusted brand.

This is even more important when you realize that on the internet there is no way to correct that bad first impression of an online branch as people just click away, most likely for good.

At least in a physical branch it's possible to take corrective steps, either by apologizing or have someone else impress the customer with better service, in other words a bad impression might still be salvaged.

Of course, to build a high quality presence on the web requires an adequate investment and a professional partner who understands the industry and a credit union's specific needs rather than just any web designer who offers to build website on the cheap.

Andy said...

Thanks for the comments. Its true, a first impression is always hard to get over, especially when it comes to the Internet. In a world of instant gratification, if a site doesn't deliver what I want the instant I enter the address, I'm going to move on to someplace that does and never look back.