Image 4 presents on Experience Design at Future Branches Boston.

By Image 4, posted on May 28, 2019


Designing for the “Helping” Economy.

As you’ve probably noticed, both Image 4’s positioning statement and the title of our Blog is “It’s About the Experience®”. In part, that’s because we’re leaders in creating marketing and sales solutions for the Experience Economy.

The Experience Economy is all around us. Consumers conduct their interactions with businesses differently depending on the situation:  they increasingly acquire commodity information and goods via a platform or tool (such as a phone), and seek out Experience, in the form of human interaction, for the complex, important and difficult exchanges that are part of all our lives.

But is this really so new? Or is this a return to a pre-Industrial Revolution method of community and human interaction, where “help” was just a person away?  I had the opportunity to think on that a few weeks ago, as I travelled to our office in NYC. 

I arrived in NYC with my company credit card on a security hold – a common inconvenience in today’s economy. So, I grabbed my cell phone, called the security office at our Corporate bank, and thus began one of the most annoying, complicated and unfulfilling experiences I’ve ever had. I suspect most of you are familiar.

The call center was overseas and the connection was very bad. The support person had a very limited set of parameters through which he could assist, and my problem required his Supervisor. It turns out that the Supervisor needed information from me to which I had no access – our finance office was closed; I didn’t know the list of our last three transactions to the penny… you get the idea.

After nearly an hour of this, I gave up. So far, an ineffective customer support experience. BUT! I was in Manhattan so off I went to 23rd and 6th to the local Wells Fargo branch.

Again, my Experience began fairly sketchy: a long line, four teller windows that still had bulletproof acrylic, bad lighting, no seating, and only two service personnel. Worse yet, there was no privacy whatsoever. A young lady was sobbing at the front of the line discussing a fee on a bounced check that hit before her paycheck was deposited, and in the other line, a small-business person was getting thousands of dollars in cash handed to him – in a public line in NYC.

My Designer soul was screaming to itself “these are complex, strained, risky interactions and they were being conducted in front of six other people simply because the space in which we were was never designed to support this type of interaction!”

After 40 minutes, a Banking Specialist appeared from elsewhere in the building, brought me to a cubicle and walked me very thoughtfully through solving my problem. Leon, the Banking Specialist, is a rock star – I hope Wells Fargo management reads this and works to retain him.

A human interaction had rescued all of the systemic cutouts that the corporate entity had put in place. From a poorly-designed and terribly executed phone support system, to undertrained and under-resourced service staff, to a tremendously uncomfortable in-branch design and interaction, every interface with the brand delivered a poor customer Experience.

Ultimately, one professionally caring, well-trained individual surmounted all the institutional roadblocks and delivered not only a solution, but a positive, thoughtful Experience. But it’s not enough. While I appreciate Leon for his individual capacity to empathize and deliver a solution, my Brand Experience was so poor that I cannot recommend this Brand to a colleague.

To bring this back around, let’s reflect on our starting point. Transactions and commodities are no longer the measure of Brand Experience. Experiences are the measure of Brand Experience. We bank on our phones. Yet there are many complex situations and problems in the human condition that need experienced, empathetic human assistance. Asking the question “How Can I Help” will be the brand differentiator of tomorrow.

Because, today and tomorrow, It’s About the Experience®.

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