By embracing technology in a human way, brands can marry the personal touch with the convenience people love and expect, writes Dan Machen, director of innovation at HeyHuman.
A regular sketch in the UK comedy series Little Britain was based on an assistant’s deeply unhelpful response to a customer. “Computer says no” – a catchall for obstructive, complex and frustrating tech interfaces. The show’s creators could have framed this sketch in a number of contexts; it’s interesting they chose financial services (FS) as the brand relationship most deserving of satire.
Many will protest that this reference is from the ‘bad old days’ and FS has come on significantly. However, the “computer says no” mind-set still resonates strongly, and the frustration it represents is far from limited to the UK.
In Banking On Change: Consumers Drive Digital Change in Financial Services, a multinational survey by Fujitsu of 7,000 people, it was found that:
– More than a third of consumers would change their bank or insurer if it didn’t offer up-to-date technology to aid interaction
– Nearly a third are already embracing mobile payments, while a fifth are already using wearables and crypto-currency to make payments
– Almost a fifth would buy banking or insurance services from big tech firm challengers, such as Google, Facebook and Amazon
Supporting these findings is our recent research at HeyHuman into the kinds of relationships and behaviours people want to see from service providers. It all paints a picture suggesting things are still far from rosy in the FS garden.
On a macro level, as suggested by the Fujitsu survey, FS brands are not facing a patient audience. A recent Interparcel survey labelled even us mild-mannered Brits as increasingly impatient; two thirds claim to have grown “much more impatient” over the last five years, while a third now own to have “no patience at all”. HeyHuman’s neuroscience research into multi-screen behaviours builds on this finding that less is definitely more.
In this era of abundant communication but a poverty of attention, people thin-slice brand messaging and display constant partial attention, due to their working memory being overloaded.
This impatient mind-set further tallies with our own ‘Generation Tinder’ brand relationships research, which revealed a ‘swipe left, swipe right’ attitude dominated by immediate gratification. Fleeting and shallow relationships, we found, are now more valued by people than the loyalty and deeper relationships that brands want to have with them. Developments that facilitate ‘life in flow’ are not merely appreciated by the public, but now expected.
The most extreme negative feedback in our relationships research was indeed around banks and FS. These were considered an ‘enslavement’ relationship by most. Specifically, people said they were frustrated by:
– Impersonal security barriers and obstructive ‘PIN generators’
– Inappropriately long direct mail
– Unappealing and understaffed bank branches
– The lack of proactive financial advisor tools
This shows, however, that people are conflicted about the future of the sector – simultaneously preferring the convenience offered by an app or new technology while not wanting to lose the reassuring option of talking face to face in a branch. And although people say they expect the big tech firms to take over FS, they don’t want to lose that human touch.
We know tech can complicate as much as it simplifies, which paradoxically amplifies those Generation Tinder reactions. Or maybe it’s that no FS company has really shown what a tech-driven future will truly feel like? We believe FS brands need to enrich ‘human experience design’ by keeping the ‘connective friction’ of human interaction.
“If you make the process too fluid, the danger is that you are then mentally relegated to merely delivering an end benefit, rather than maintaining brand relationships valued in themselves”
This is counter-intuitive to much modern customer experience thinking, which tends to focus on frictionless experiences for lives in flow, but – as Amazon has recently bemoaned – if you make the process too fluid, the danger is that you are then mentally relegated to merely delivering an end benefit, rather than maintaining brand relationships valued in themselves.
So, how can FS brands evolve and embrace tech without losing the human touch? The solutions lie in consciously adopting evolved ‘human brand behaviours’, to capitalise on new relationship dynamics and maximise fleeting interactions and people’s limited attention. These evolved behaviours include the ability for FS brands to adapt, simplify, actively listen, and speak clearly.
So, who is starting to get this right in FS?
PayPal – the US online payment behemoth tonally challenged the FS category with “Old money talks, new money taps” – and, with its ad taking centre stage at the Superbowl, this was a real ‘Apple’ moment for FS.
Cover – a US app that allows people to insure an item simply by snapping it. This is behaviour driving service innovation, rather than attempting the opposite.
Clinc – a German FS brand and app that proactively helps you meet saving goals. Robo-advice updated in real-time and always on hand. In interface terms, this could be something pensions providers could look at more.
US insurance brand Geico’s ‘unskippable’ empathetic 5-second YouTube pre-roll ad – an insurance brand giving people messaging on their terms and maximising fleeting interaction opportunities.
Increasingly impatient audiences exhibiting dwindling attention mean FS brands must focus less on what they want to say and look, instead, at the window of opportunity they have to communicate.
By embracing technology in a human way, brands can marry the personal touch with the convenience people love and expect. Because the latter alone is merely functional and, arguably, makes us more impatient and disconnected. Note how interesting a word is ‘contactless’ – symptomatic, perhaps, of the emotional estrangement people have with FS brands and what they say they want.
In the digital age, the kinds of brand relationships that will win out are those that evidence ‘human brand behaviours’ – aware of what it means to meet the growing demands of ‘Generation Tinder’ and embrace tech without losing the human touch. This is crucial if we are to transform vitally important relationships with sectors such as FS, and transform current behavioural clashes into something that really clicks on a global scale.