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Knowledge equals power - and often times frustration for customers

Posted by Jim Garrity on Wed, Jan 27, 2010

By Jim Garrity, Vice President

As the leader of our financial services practice, I travel a fair amount to client sites to deliver market research findings or discuss upcoming initiatives. Recently I've noticed something interesting (and a bit frustrating).  It seems that with the past decade's run up in real estate prices that many of my clients have abandoned the city centers and moved to suburban campuses. 

Okay, so what so frustrating about that you ask?  Well, nothing really. 

Except that I used to be able to get a cab at the airport and ask to be taken "downtown please, the Merrill Lynch building on Vesey."  I now find myself asking to be taken to "suburb X, the Financial Plaza, specifically building 5 on Mega Conglomerate Avenue."  It's not the 15 minute drive into the ‘burbs I mind, rather it's the knowledge that where in the past I had no idea where my cabbie was going, I was certain he did.  Now, I'm fairly certain that he has only the vaguest idea of where we are going.  And what's worse, I can now use several iPhone apps to determine precisely how far off track he is...while simultaneously attempting to redirect him as he ignores me. 

But why does he ignore me?  Well first, he is supposed to be the expert, so he really seems to dislike getting directed by me, the customer.  Second, in an attempt to be helpful, I am providing him with suburban landmarks that he is unfamiliar with (so maybe he has good reason to ignore me!).  Third, while he doesn't have a GPS device, he does have a Bluetooth earpiece that allows him to obtain directions from his dispatcher.  Well at least that's who I assume he's talking to, because he most certainly isn't responding to me anymore.

So what's the lesson here?  I think it's something about understanding how technology has made the consumer more knowledgeable, more powerful, AND oftentimes more easily frustrated.  And this frustration occurs most frequently when the consumer and company are working off of two different knowledge platforms.  In financial services this means bankers and advisors need to know their stuff, obviously...but that simply isn't good enough anymore.  They also need to know what their clients know, and know WHERE their clients obtained this information, in order to have a truly productive interaction

So how has the proliferation of information impacted your business, your client relationships, your training programs?  What are you doing to ensure that your customers' knowledge doesn't turn into customer frustration?


Jim Garrity is our VP of Financial Services, never wears blue jeans to work, and knows exactly how to get to his home in the suburbs.

Topics: technology research, financial services research, customer experience and loyalty