I feel frustrated with Amazon sometimes. I’m sold on their new Kindle for the UK, and I’ll order products from them over anyone else. However, recently, I ordered a DVD box set which arrived, as have many Amazon-bought products as of late, not in the best condition, and certainly not what most people would classify as “new”.
Now, what to do about this? I complained, of course, but nothing’s happened. I’ve received no voucher, no apology whatsoever. Nothing. Silence. What makes it even more insulting is there wasn’t even an automatic response, no “Dear Customer, we’re sorry to hear”, just a complete lack of care.
Currently, Amazon are beginning to sell more best-sellers in their Kindle e-book format than in physical form, as I mentioned last week. However, they seem to have forgotten that those ordering physical products aren’t going to be pleased if they’re arriving in poor condition. You can’t dog-ear or scuff a Kindle download, but you can break the hearts of literature lovers with a book in shoddy condition.
It would seem, with the arrival of the Kindle, and now especially BankSimple, the world’s first “online-only bank”, that those willing to go all-digital get a better deal when it comes to quality of service. With BankSimple, this means low-to-zero fees, great rates and less paying out for the offices and branches that need to be paid for, rented, furnished and staffed as a result. But what about the downsides?
One of them would definitely be the lack of actual human interaction. I’m as loathe to sit on the phone talking to a bored twenty-something in a call centre as the next person, but I like the fact that I can walk into Abbey, Lloyds TSB or Citibank and actually speak to someone. I can’t do that with Amazon, or Paypal, and that’s a major source of worry. Being able to know that there are people who have to deal with their customers face-to-face, on the other hand, is comforting.
Of course, it’s not the CEO behind the glass wall stamping your cheque, but it’s someone, at least. BankSimple reminds me a bit of the Mac OS X. It’s simple, easy, visually friendly and quick. But it’s so simple that if something goes wrong, figuring out how to fix it can be an exercise in sheer frustration.
So how to promote a brand as human and friendly when you’ve got absolutely no humans on show? Put humans at the forefront of your business strategy. BankSimple’s plan to integrate itself with Facebook Connect and @Anywhere is a vital part of bringing banking to the next level of “online” compatibility. I don’t know about you, but given the choice between the traditional awkward exchange of bank details anywhere but online (our main source of communication now, don’t you know?) or being able to click someone’s name on a network page and transfer funds, I’d take the latter.
So, given the advantages, what about the disadvantages? Everyone’s forgotten, seemingly, about Amazon’s rather awkward George Orwell scandal, but I sure haven’t. What if BankSimple were to make a mistake? You can’t give someone a voucher to replace the money they spent on, well, their money, can you? Social media is a popular but casual affair, and I’m not sure how seriously the bank will attempt to get everyone to update their status while paying off a debt to a friend in the same five minutes on the same site.
People are cagey about money and their purchases, but they’ll talk at length when in the local branch or on the phone with customer service (unless they’re on pay-as-you-go). But if BankSimple reneged on its pledge of loyalty to customers, and became another bail-out bank like the ones it so wishes to put out of business, then what happens?
A word of advice: whenever wondering whether to invest in anything digital where your rights seem blurry, think of Space Odyssey: 2001. Now imagine the bank telling you they “can’t do that, Michael”, when you’re trying to pay your mortgage. Makes Wall Street look like Sesame Street, doesn’t it? If It’s a Wonderful Life taught me anything, it was that warmth and love for your customers make your bank a good ‘un.