I needed to buy a computer accessory the other day, so I took the path of least resistance and clicked over to Amazon where I found what I was looking for, and reasonably priced to boot. As a Prime member, Amazon promised to deliver the item to my home the next day without charge, but when I changed the default address from my home to my office, suddenly the next-day shipping option disappeared. I was dismayed to learn that a change in delivery address meant I would now have to wait until the following Monday to receive my item. Patience has never been my strength, and you’d think Amazon would know this.
Amazon, at 25, has totally transformed the retail landscape, including the supply chain that feeds it and the expectations of customers who, in the name of convenience, turn to it first. In a recent CNN story, Lydia DePillis wrote: “By importance to modern life and ability to shape the American economy in its own image, Amazon is second to none.” There are millions of people for whom Amazonian product and service delivery is now a baseline expectation.
Bankers trying to differentiate in a crowded marketplace are increasingly committing themselves to a service standard that clears the Amazon baseline. Park State Bank is one such institution. Its leaders, David Saber and Leann Stessman, are digital natives (raised on access and immediacy) who are driving the bank’s growth by delivering what they call “ultra touch” service. Park State customers have their bankers’ cell numbers; if a customer sends a text any hour of the day, any day of the week, Park State bankers will respond. Additionally, Park State bankers will visit their customers to deliver a service instead of making their customers come to them. These days, people expect such convenience, Saber and Stessman say. From my own experience, I know this to be true.
I worry about always allowing the customer to reign supreme though. We can be pretty self-centered at times. How should we decide if our needs (if that’s really what they are) are more important than the bankers’? What metric should we use? What if she’s visiting her grandparents? What if he’s reading to his kids? Shouldn’t I worry about the weight of my intrusion on their private lives?
In a 2018 speech, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said Amazon has gained success by being compulsively focused on customers versus obsessed over its competition. There are times when I wonder if we are deserving of such attention.