Migrate the transaction, not the customer

5 October 2012

United Kingdom

Paul Race



Bird and animal migration tends to be driven by in-built needs related to food or climate. If only banks found it as easy to migrate customers …

For a number of reasons, from richer data to cost benefits, there is a move for banks to encourage customers to bank through new channels such as online and mobile. However, it's not an easy task, namely because of the need to move the customer without losing the relationship. The answer, in my view is this: While encouraging people towards those channels, take a smaller step and encourage self-service in branch.

The branch has long been the hub of the customer relationship, so it's important to keep. So how can banks ease the challenges they face in getting customers to migrate? Following are 'McMurdo's Five Laws of Migration.'

1. For every migration there's a counter migration

For every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction. Just as summer migrants replace winter migrants, only to switch places again six months later, consumers won't necessarily stick with the same thing forever either. There will always be late adopters, those who use a certain channel only for a short time, or those who refuse altogether. Channel migration is about creating options that complement rather than replace each other and the trick is to convince via peers, goad with incentives and educate the staff as well as the customer.

2. The majority of migrations are short

People tend to react better to change as a gradual process, rather than jumping from A to Z. For example, look at the success of self-service checkout versus assisted checkout in supermarkets and petrol stations, and self service check-in at airports. Two reasons why these have been successful are: 1) they have given customers choice (rather than being obligatory); and 2) they have been born out of a sound rationale as to why customers might migrate to something new.

Migration needs to feel like going on a journey; it's all about journey management, taken in small steps and with firm reasoning as to why a customer should want to use an alternative channel.

3. Long distance migrants follow the crowd

Channel migration should be approached in line with how people think. And generally speaking, people follow the pack. So if staff aren't real advocates, trained-up and well versed on why the new channel provides more choice, greater convenience, or whatever it may be, then how can they be expected to convince customers that it's the way to go?

4. The middle majority are less likely to migrate

The more straightforward part of customer migration is moving those who want to go: the innovators and the early adopters. But there is often more of a struggle thereafter. The key lies in identifying those who'll be most tricky — and it's not always who you'd expect. For example, it's often not the oldest customers who are most reluctant to use a self-service channel. It may well be a younger age group who don't want to lose face by not being familiar with the technology.

5. Families don't migrate without their leader

It may sound obvious when you say it aloud, but it's the head of the family, the decision-maker, who should be targeted. The carrot-and-stick approach of tailoring an offer based on what is known about the person — whether the head of a business or the mum of a family — will encourage them to migrate. If the new channel is more intuitive and offers clear benefits for the group they lead, they'll be more likely to move.

It's sometimes hard enough to convince one person to change longstanding habits, so encouraging mass migration is no easy matter. What's more, the aim needs to be achieving sustained migration and for that, customers not only need to have a good reason to move, but also have to like what they find when they get there. Follow the five 'laws' above as a good starting point to encourage greater use of self-service channels, and achieve sustained adoption by ensuring availability, usefulness and usability.

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