Wednesday, January 23, 2008

KYC I – they love me, they love me not

Banks are not the most creative environments to work in, but they have one fantastic concept – KYC, or Know Your Client. Sadly, thanks to insatiable legal requirements, they have totally lost the plot and want to know all the wrong things. Well, the right things from a legal point of view, but the wrong things from a business point of view.

Here’s a personal example - ABSA [yes, I’m picking on ABSA and banks in general here, but only because the example is a good illustration of what I’m trying to get across]. I have had a bank account with ABSA since I was about seven years old [in the days when it was still called Volkskas]. That’s a long time [I won’t say how many years], plenty of time to collect information, ask questions and generally get to know your client. To me, though, it feels like they know as much about me now as they did then.

They know my address but they don’t care where I live. They know what language I speak but they don’t care what my language preference is. They know my birthdate but they don’t care how old I am. They know that I’ve studied but they don’t care about what I do. They know all these things and more, but they don’t really care about who I am.

The most frustratingly obvious example of this is when I walk up to an ATM [even an ABSA one], insert my bank card and then get asked to select a language. Once, fine. Twice, maybe. But every single time, after being a client for too many years?

How come business seems to be going backwards, despite the many tools at our fingertips? Technology is a great tool and enabler, but it borders on totally obliterating personal relationships from many aspects of life. Case in point - ABSA have a fairly good banking website where you can enter your personal information and keep it up to date. A good thing in itself, and it should be convenient too, but isn’t this just a nice way of saying “We don’t care enough to find out, so either you come to us and tell us or we just won’t bother”? I mean, really, it’s not so difficult. I’m male, white, English, over 20… those are just the basics. And if this is how I perceive they feel about me, guess what happens inside my mind every single time they try to communicate with me?

How can you build a good business without selling something?
How can you sell something without having a product or service to provide?
How can you provide a service or product without a real need?
How can you identify a real need without finding a potential client?
How can you find a potential client without understanding them first?

Do you really care? As a business, your clients’ loyalty to you is only as strong as you allow it to be, and if you don’t care, chances are very good that they won’t either.

To be continued...

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