Using Customer Experience to Drive Innovation

Chick-fil-A is the king of fast-food chicken sandwiches.  Across the U.S., nearly 500,000 Chick-fil-A sandwiches are sold every day. A good number of those are sold through the drive-up window.  It has always amazed me to see the difference in the number of cars in the Chick-fil-A drive thru versus other fast-food restaurants that are directly adjacent to them. It is not unusual to see cars backed into the street in multiple rows at Chick-fil-A when there are open drive thru lanes of competitor fast food restaurants nearby; most of whom also sell chicken sandwiches.

Chick-fil-A was not the first franchise to offer multiple drive thru lanes, but they are unique in having staffed associates with tablets outside to assist customers in ordering.  Yet, the Chick-fil-A model is more about the service and expedited delivery of food than the food itself, which has led Chick-fil-A to explore an interesting idea in changing how their food is cooked and delivered to those multiple lanes of drive thru traffic.

The traditional drive thru has food delivered directly through the side of a restaurant into a vehicle that is directly outside.  When you move to multi-lane, and you are dealing with food and drink, you cannot simply put that into a pneumatic tube and shoot it out to the waiting car two lanes over (that would be fun to do though, right?).  To address this problem, Chick-fil-A is installing some test kitchens that are above the drive thru lanes.  That’s right. They will cook the food in a special kitchen that is setup to only serve the drive thru customers. This allows for greater volume in cooking and enhanced efficiency in delivering the order, as they can directly deliver the food below to an unlimited number of drive thru lanes. It is estimated that this arrangement will allow a single Chick-fil-A to simultaneously serve 75 vehicles using 4 lanes. Here is a rendering of what that would look like:

Now I think what Chick-fil-A is doing is pretty cool, and it’s also a great example of using the customer experience to drive innovation. How might this translate to what financial institutions should be considering regarding how future customers might want to consume financial services?  Well, we don’t need to put an operations team overhead in the drive thru. Using interactive teller machines and live operators working out of a central location allows a bank to serve many physical drive-up locations with a high level of customer experience.  But what about other customer touchpoints?  Let’s consider your mobile banking app.

Go ahead and open up your mobile banking app right now. After you authenticate and are looking at whatever landing page is presented, somewhere on that screen is the option for you to bring up a menu of choices. It is usually represented by three horizontal likes, also known as the “hamburger” icon.

Where is it located on your mobile app?  If it is at the top left or top right, then that is not unusual. Most mobile banking vendors place this icon there as it is available real estate on the screen and is aesthetically pleasing.  Except that for most people who hold the phone with one hand, it is nearly impossible to access that icon unless you happen to be Shaquille O’Neal.  That is a good example of not innovating the features of the service to align with the expected user experience. This is not the only example I could cite where the technology provided by fintech vendors offering solutions for the digital experience do not align with the expected customer experience. Other examples of mismatched customer experience include not being able to fund an online account opening experience or waiting 7 minutes to receive a response to an online chat session.

Here’s another touchpoint that is overdue for innovation – how banks organize and deliver service from the retail branch. Excluding using upscale coffee as an attractant, everything in the branch is organized around efficient but curated transactions; however, the whole world has moved to empowering individuals to access self-service at a time and place of their choosing. Consequently, the transaction focused branch is no longer a critical delivery element and mostly sits empty.  The locations are premium and could be a magnet for customers and prospects if the bank changes the focus from transactions to engagement. By ramping up consultative selling, education and problem solving as the focus for a branch, activity will surge.  Add in unique elements such as scheduling appointments, video conferencing across all locations (so a customer at the Oak Street Branch can talk to the mortgage expert that is at the Elm Street Branch), and even innovation such as offering 3D printing or a Virtual Reality station would further accentuate the bank’s focus on innovation and make a branch a “must-see” destination.

There are numerous areas in our delivery of services that could use a customer experience focused makeover.  Start by examining the customer journey and diagram. What are the steps a customer takes in order to do business with you?  Then determine if you could streamline or enhance that experience. Be sure to include younger millennials and Gen Zs in your journey exercise; it is likely that they are looking for a different experience than your Baby Boomers and Super Seniors.

Drive thru restaurants haven’t changed all that much since I was a kid, but the Chick-fil-A model is already being explored by McDonalds and Taco Bell because it makes sense.  Perhaps we need to examine the time-honored way we are delivering financial services and see if it isn’t time for some new innovation. Younger customers would think nothing of strapping on a VR headset and managing their banking transactions, budget and paying their bills.  It makes sense that we would be figuring out how to accommodate the very customers that we need to add as account holders to remain strong and keep core deposits for years into the future.

BTW, if your mobile app’s hamburger is in the wrong place, give them a call and ask that they move it to the lower RH (or LH) corner where normal sized human hands can reach it…