In New Orleans where I grew up, sauntering is a necessity. Laissez-Faire is the lifestyle, and all that good gumbo of creativity flourishes in that slower pace. Also, a slow pace helps deal with the sweltering, sub-tropical environs. In drier and cooler Utah, where TAB Bank is located, I can afford to pick up the pace because, as they say, life is elevated there. The digital journey that TAB has undertaken needs that elevated vibe and a different pace.
Mile Marker 76 of xx?
I am not sure exactly how far along we are on our digital journey because we haven’t yet clearly defined our destination. Google Maps is of limited use if you don’t have a specific endpoint. Our team has described the place, we have drawn process maps and we have declared the customer as the inhabitant of this mythical land. We are excited to have found a passion, but these things alone aren’t getting us there. We are moving forward, but lacking aim. As a result, we are lacking focus, and this leads to a lack of a specificity of purpose. That’s a lot lacking…
We are a couple of years into our journey and have found ourselves pausing to do some discovery. We have ideas and passion but haven’t fully defined our customer personas. We have customers, but we haven’t yet discovered why they are loyal. We haven’t dug deep enough to understand what jobs we solve for them, nor what jobs they may need us to do. We have high Csat and NPS scores but can only speculate as to why.
Paper, Paper Everywhere
We should have done this customer-journey work first, but we were unsure of ourselves. In our particular bank, we had been doing things the same way for almost twenty years. We have always been an internet-based bank without branches, but we weren’t digital. We still had lots of paper and fillable pdf’s. We had people printing documents, marking them up and scanning them back in. It was discouraging.
We also needed confidence that we could change. Our objectives were big, but we weren’t yet polished at change-management. We first needed some wins. We needed to get to the first few mile markers and celebrate. We needed to get to the top of the first ridge so that we could scan the horizon for the next leg of the journey. So, we began.
Data is King – The Influencers Told Me So
We studied, we traveled, we endured countless webex pitches. We are told we needed data-platforms, warehouses, lakes, and data-at-speed. We had found our first mission. After fifteen months of work, we were producing a steady clip of ETL jobs and big beautiful data.
Meanwhile, we are hearing whispers of APIs – oh sweet APIs. Yep, data and APIs. That’s all we need. If you are a fan of Steve Martin and the movie “The Jerk,” you can rightly picture us walking down the street in a pink bathrobe clutching a chair and a lamp mumbling to ourselves about data and APIs. We were drunk with possibilities.
Well, we have our data now, and we have our API stack. And, we have had our share of wins. Our digital loan-approval and onboarding have dropped turn-times from weeks to hours. We have completed numerous projects automating and streamlined many functions. Our assets are growing, our income is soaring, and our expenses are dropping.
And yet, we are still unfocused.
We are winning, but we have only traveled a small way on our journey. A lot of our wins have been incremental. We are improving a lot of our existing processes. Now it is time for some big lift. Now we are aiming our sights on a big sexy future-state. We are erasing all of the whiteboards and clearing out the post-it notes to start from scratch.
It is time to define clearly our purpose and draw that map.
Picking a Canvas
I learned something about creativity recently. If you give a novice a good set of paints and a big raw wall as a canvas, chances are, they are going to paint a large mess of something. It would be hard for them to paint at that type of scale without training and experience. On the other hand, if you give them a 6 inch by 6-inch canvas, in most cases they will compose something recognizable, with style and decent composition. We realized that we first have to narrow our canvas.
Our canvas is going to be our customer “jobs.” We are embracing the JTBD world and are becoming detectives. We need to discover the details and emotional underpinnings of our beloved customer. While we think we understand why our customer chooses us, we are pretty far off-base. We need to bring the canvas down to size by creating human personas instead of customer cohorts. If we aren’t designing our new services to particular customer needs, then we are simply redesigning our current product-focused infrastructure. That won’t do.
The secret to the mystery seems beyond surveys and focus groups. No matter how hard you try, those methods are rife with bias. It can’t be helped. People respond in ways that they think they should. What we need are conversation-detectives. We have hired a partner to head out into the www to listen in to what people are saying about TAB, banking, and their JTBD.
We don’t yet know what our customer needs to make their financial life better, but we will do our best to explore this, with their help. There are some things that we already know – TAB has been serving anxious “mobile” customers for all of our 20-year existence. And when I say mobile, I mean it literally.
We have long served truck drivers, hard-working people who have conducted their banking miles away from home. We understand this space. Our customers are not wealthy (at least I don’t consider our competition to be wealth-managers). We have also learned from the influencer tribe that money drives emotion, and those emotions are frequently negative. As an example, our customers often need to get an advance on a delivered load so they can pay for fuel to pick up the next load. We have been doing these advances many times each day for years. We are here to relieve that anxiety.
We are good at what we do, but FinTech will make services like ours more ubiquitous. A driver has many more options to access funding today than when we started twenty years ago, and the future will only expand that. While we provide added value today (it’s in our DNA), our ability to do so will soon become obsolete. Financial services are already as mobile as our customers. So, what do we do next? How do we react?
Service. While we call the things that we deliver products, at their heart, they are services. We have always been in the service business. Our money is just green paper (or coins, or bits). Customers have always looked to us for safety and reliability. “Keep my money safe, lend me money with certainty and be a trusted advisor. “
We need to pivot to value-added service using new sets of tools. We will use data and AI and machine learning to customize our approach. We will nudge and guide our customers to better financial health. We will delight them with this new power. We will harness the power of our new-found FinTech partners and design personalized services that delight.
Focusing Comes from the Map
We will settle on a canvas and we will draw a map to a beautiful destination. I’m not sure if our target destination will be in the mountains or beachside because it’s not TAB’s destination, it’s our customer’s. We need to discover this endpoint in order to firmly set a flag marking the spot. We need that beacon to focus our efforts. We need that beacon to firmly cement our purpose as an organization.
Once we get this purpose-driven roadmap, our passion will go from broad-spectrum to laser-focus. Our engagement will be driven by a common purpose. There are a lot of other players out in the fields and forests, all trying to find a path to the customer. Some intend to delight, others expect to squeeze the customer for profit. We see them, but we won’t follow. Our path will be unique, and with that comes value – for our customer and for us.