Synch or Swim: Aligning Virtual Services with Expectations

I found myself at the Denver airport with 2 hours to kill.  Being an American Express Platinum cardholder, I remembered that there was a Centurion Lounge in Concourse C. However, my flight was going out of B39, so I went to the AmEx mobile app to make sure that there was availability for the lounge before making the trek.  The app allowed me to register for the club and gave me a QR code for access.  It also displayed this message, “LIVE: Almost Full”.  This indicated to me that a) the information I was accessing was being posted in real or near real time and b) based on a, if I made my way to the club, there was a pretty good chance I would get immediate access. Or at worst, maybe a short wait. So, I made the 15-minute walk / ride / walk to the club.

Upon arrival, there was a long line at the entrance. I waited in line for about 10 minutes and was able to hail an AmEx lounge representative to find out if my QR code granted me immediate access.  I was informed that the wait was 60 minutes.  An hour wait?  How does that synch up with the message from the AmEx mobile site?  Clearly it doesn’t. I decided not to wait and made the 15 minutes trek back to B39. No big deal, it was just an option to sit comfortably while I was waiting for my flight. But it got me thinking: how often does a service-oriented business have a synch mismatch between its virtual and physical operation?

Surprisingly, it happens more often than you’d think.  I remember distinctly a few years back when I went into my bank at the time and inquired as to why my mobile app and the online banking application displayed two different available balances at the same moment in time.  Problem #1 was that they seemed to be unaware that the two systems were not in synch.  After they researched the issue, I was informed that since the mobile app and the OLB app were from two different vendors, they accessed data from two different places, and there was a window of about 60 minutes when the two balances were not in synch.  When I asked why the bank didn’t take steps to fix this, I was further told that the core provider had a system that would synch these two systems, but that it was a $75k purchase to do so and was budgeted for the following year.

Now I get it, many community banks cannot spend like drunken sailors on every technology option that might be available. But the point is whether any entity, be it a financial institution or major credit card entity running a lounge for members, is checking to see if its online information and in branch information is in synch.  I don’t feel it is an unrealistic expectation for banking customers to expect that regardless of their touchpoint, mobile, OLB, telephone banking, call center or in branch personnel to be accessing and providing the same, accurate information. What good is an amazing user experience with a customizable user interface if the information is not accurate and can’t be relied on?  The AmEx app is really well designed, and I derive great benefits from using it. What good is it to have an amazing option with my AmEx card as access to the Centurion Lounge only to be denied access?  Their excellence in so many other areas make the lounge synch mismatch all the more glaring.

Checking on data synching seems like very low hanging fruit. It’s possible that if you are reading this article, you are thinking that you know that your data is in sync. Also, you may be thinking this issue doesn’t apply to your institution. Don’t guess, check it out.  It is very easy to setup a routine that regularly checks multiple access points you offer customers and validate that the balances are the same. In the business, we call it a “sanity” check.  And it’s a pretty smart way to endure that your data is in synch AND that it stays that way.