This is not a blog entry about the current global, banking crisis. Or perhaps indirectly it is.
I am one of those people that tends to stay loyal. For example, I’ve supported Chelsea football club since I was seven, never wavering even during the bad years. I have considered Doctor Martens shoes to be the best make of footwear in the world since I got my first pair at 16. Nearly all my academic qualifications come from Henley. I think everything Nick Cave writes and performs is exceptional. And, I have banked with Lloyds since I was 17. Once I’m into a brand, it’s hard for me to stop.
Until now, that is. I have decided to wind down my involvement as a customer of Lloyds Bank in the UK, and I’d say it’s entirely their fault. I’d also say that saying that means absolutely nothing to a bank the size of Lloyds. They’re simply not in it the for individual customers.
The trigger was that, after nearly a year of waiting for them to get their act together to make it possible for fast payments out of my Lloyds account to another bank account (despite a fanfare of publicity in early 2008 that they would end the four-working-day-wait) I have had enough of the wait, and more than enough of interaction with the machine that supports the brand image.
More than half a dozen phone calls to Lloyds call-centres produced as many differing apologetic tales by way of explanation, each more or less contradicting the last. After a while, one just feels like Charlie Brown being presented with the football to punt by Lucy in the Peanuts cartoon strip. Then it hit me – it really doesn’t matter where I bank any more. No-one, least of all the banks, cares, as long as you can prove that you are who you say you are. Perhaps this attitude is fuelled by the belief that risk doesn’t matter as long as you are insured - the thinking that permitted the sub-prime mortgage lending.
These days, it feels as though customer relationship management when the numbers are this big is only about ‘up-selling’ you different services, instead of providing you with the one you signed up for in the first place.
But the real question (as always) is what is the learning from this. Why the loyalty? What were my assumptions regarding this relationship? I joined Lloyds Bank as a teenager. Back then, opening an account, even a junior one, was a local, personal transaction. It meant actually meeting someone in the bank who was then a real reference point and who not only you would recognise in future visits, but who would probably recognise you back. Developments permitted by technology, mergers and acquisitions, plus the globalisation of ‘lifestyle’ over the years may be partly to blame.
It’s a shame really. I’d much prefer to be able to be loyal. And the lesson should not be lost on us at Henley, as a brand. What’s the point of believing that increasing size equals increasing value if, in making yourself bigger, you actually negate the value proposition you were building.
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