You Have to Succeed in All Channels

  |  March 5, 2010   |  Comments

Chase, Citibank, and Bank of America all miss the mark on succeeding on multiple channels. Don't make the same mistake.

In today's business landscape, it isn't good enough just to excel in one particular channel. You need to provide the same level of customer experience across all your channels. Today, we'll look at a few companies that have to get this point, and focus on a few non-retailers to make the point.

Today's column arose from my big dilemma of the day: which bank should I use? I have accounts with Citibank, Chase, and Bank of America. All three banks occupy the same corner near my apartment, so geographically speaking, they're all equal. But I'd prefer to have one bank at this point, simply to allow me to transfer funds easily and see all my accounts under one online interface. The question, however, is which bank should I choose?

Making this decision difficult for me is that they all excel in different ways, and fail in different ways. Moreover, they each excel and fail across channels differently, making it difficult to compare "apples to apples."


I've been with Citibank the longest. I started with Citibank when I moved to New York 11 years ago because it had a branch in my then office building. But, its ATMs aren't the new "envelope free" variety. That means I still need to fill out deposit slips and lick envelopes to use its ATMs.

On the flip side, I generally like Citibank's online interface. It isn't the best by retail standards, but for banks it's pretty good. Plus, it sends out an encryption dongle you need to use to log in, which makes me feel more secure about my accounts. On the flip side, when I travel I rarely bring the dongle, so I can't do much remotely.

Citibank's iPhone app complicates my life a bit because it remembers a second access code, and there's a special "enable mobile" functionality that was difficult to find on Citibank's site. At this point, I have the iPhone app installed, but I can't remember my access code, nor can I find anywhere online to change it or get it resent to me. Now I use CitiBusiness, not Citibank. Maybe this is easier on the consumer site?


Chase has the new "envelope free" ATMs, which I love. Gone are the days of filling out deposit slips and doing math! I simply put the checks into the machine and it calculates everything for me. More importantly, I never carried checks around with me, so I never knew what my account number was. This makes depositing at Citibank a real pain. Chase scores high marks here.

But, Chase's online banking, in a word, sucks. Its user interface was built by a 13-year-old in 1998, which really makes the brand image of Chase seem antiquated. Where the ATM locations have a hip new look to them, its online channel makes the brand seem as if the rest of the industry has passed it by. Chase desperately needs a complete information architecture overhaul, as well as a redesign.

Chase's iPhone application, however, is great. It's simple to activate and shares the same username and password as the online site, so it's easy for me to remember how to log in. In general, using the iPhone interface is preferable, as it's much better thought out than Chase's online interface.

Bank of America

I just opened an account at Bank of America. I was attracted to this bank because its ATMs also have the "envelope free" system. I really love this.

However, I don't have much to say about Bank of America's online or iPhone apps. As of this writing, I have still been unsuccessful at registering for online banking. I'm not exactly sure what I did wrong, but for some reason the system can never find my account when I go through the registration/activation process.

Because of that, I can't access the iPhone app either. This is really frustrating, because I was hoping Bank of America would have the best of all worlds, making my decision to move my accounts easy.

Succeed on All Channels, or None

What's the point of all this? If you're a multichannel company, you absolutely need to spend as much time on your "old" channels as you do with your "new" ones.

Yes, everyone is going crazy making iPhone apps. But if the rest of your channels suck, then an iPhone app isn't going to make a big difference. Likewise, if your in-store (or branch) experience is good, that won't make up for your 10-year-old online channel. (Note: while Citibank's experience was better than Chase, it hasn't updated it in 10 years. Come on, guys.)

I'm torn with which bank to choose. I can't imagine doing all my online banking at Chase. But Citibank's ATMs require me to carry around deposit slips or remember my account numbers (and do math). On the other hand, Chase's iPhone app is easy to use, and I can't even log in to Citibank's since the access code is different (and I don't know how to change it). Bank of America could be a strong contender, if only I could actually log in to its site!

Are you a multichannel company? If so, are you making your consumers go through this kind of evaluation of your services? Then spend some quality time looking not only at each of your channels individually, but at how they intersect. My issue with Citibank is that there is no easy way to alter your mobile banking information from online (unless you know how to sign in to it).

Get your houses in order. Think of your channels as buildings, and pay a lot of attention to the sidewalks between these buildings. I described this idea in detail in "How to Embrace Multichannel Behavior."

Finally, don't give business to your competition because you're neglecting some of your channels.

Thoughts? Questions? Comments? Leave a note below.

Until next time...


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Jack Aaronson

Jack Aaronson, CEO of The Aaronson Group and corporate lecturer, is a sought-after expert on enhanced user experiences, customer conversion, retention, and loyalty. If only a small percentage of people who arrive at your home page transact with your company (and even fewer return to transact again), Jack and his company can help. He also publishes a newsletter about multichannel marketing, personalization, user experience, and other related issues. He has keynoted most major marketing conferences around the world and regularly speaks at and other major industry shows. You can learn more about Jack through his LinkedIn profile.

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