Don’t Get Caught By Surprise

Research shows how to scare off competitors and learn the technological tricks that treat your members.

October 21, 2013

I was recently terrified when caught by surprise.

The Great America amusement park in Gurnee, Ill., was transformed in a Halloween-inspired atmosphere for “Fright Fest.”

Eerie pipe organ music delighted attendees as children ran about in costume. The screams emanating from roller coasters and a plethora of pumpkins and spider webs added to the spooky fun.

Soon, dusk began to fall. Lights twinkled from tree branches. Mollie and I quietly discussed the day’s events, lulled by weariness after a long day of walking in the crisp fall air.

Then, suddenly, out of nowhere a large purple, winged, blood-dripping, hideous zombie leapt in front of me, screaming, “GRRRRRRAAARGH!!!”

“AAAaaahh!” I wailed, jumping and nearly suffering a heart attack.

Mollie was in hysterics. I was not.

“What?” Calmly inquired the zombie.

“Do something about your hair, will you?” I replied as my blood pressure stabilized. “Pink is not your color and you need a comb.”

Likewise, unhappy surprises can startle your employees and members in the guise of fraud, online research and shopping behaviors, “strange” spending motivations, or a myriad of other circumstances.

Technology may take you by surprise if you don’t understand the consumer experience. Research this week will keep terror at bay when you consider potential outcomes.

‘Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.’—Jane Austen

You Are Annoying Your Customers. Do You Know Why?” asks MarketingProfs. Marketers need to know what frustrates consumers with “digital distractions and information overload” to avoid scaring off target groups.

The article identifies three technological “fundamental causes of annoyance”:

  • Norm violations. Consumers have technological expectations such as convenience and accessibility.
  • Lack of speed. Consumers hope pages will load in less than two seconds.
  • New norms. Change is inevitable, and what is acceptable today may not be tomorrow. Adapt.

Some consumers don’t use technology. Note “As of May 2013, 15% of American adults ages 18 and older do not use the internet or email,” says Pew Research.

Reasons for shunning the net:

  • Internet is irrelevant (34%);
  • Internet is difficult to use (32%);
  • Computer and internet access is cost prohibitive (19%); and
  • Physical lack of availability (7%).

Of further interest, “Even among the 85% of adults who do go online, (internet experiences) vary widely… Even though 76% of adults use the internet at home, 9% of adults use the internet but lack home access.”

Do you know “How People Search Online”?  “Some 91% of online adults use search engines to find information on the Web.”

Sixty-two percent of users say they found the information they needed online in 2012, compared with 70% in 2004. This infographic also shows that 26% of searchers use their smartphones to access financial information.

Are potential members finding you?

How might technology help you redefine the member experience? According to “Banking on Digital: The Post-login Customer Experience,” “mobile banking and competitive rates no longer set banks apart… To really stand out, banks need a laser focus on customers’ needs, using powerful digital tools and features that respond to the way people actually think, behave, plan, consume and communicate.”

The model Accenture describes allows consumers to “actively and seamlessly engage with the bank on their own terms, across channels… From the customer’s point of view, banking becomes fully integrated with their daily life.”

Read this interesting study and consider how you can best scare off competitors, and learn the technological tricks that treat your members.

‘Life is full of surprises. Capitalize on the good ones.’—Unknown

Are there any good surprises to be found in the realm of plastic card use? Learning from problems can make an unpleasant surprise work to an advantage.

One hard luck story is related in The New York Times.  A purveyor of expensive dresses had experience with buyers using multiple cards to cover transaction costs and was not surprised when an international buyer used three cards in a purchase.

Soon the shop received card rejections, and the owner “was alarmed to learn that the South African buyer had actually used 21 different cards, not three, and 44 total transactions to make the purchase.”

Employee error factored in, but the cards had been electronically stolen and bank card processing created further issues for the owner. The painful lesson learned was “When the bank ‘authorizes’ a credit card transaction, it is only verifying that the credit card being run is capable of paying the bill, not that the person using it is authorized to do so.”

As a consequence, tighter controls are now in place at the dress shop.

Another sad result of technology is “School Lunch Debit Card Payment Systems Are Associated with Lower Nutrition and Higher Calories.”

“School payment systems with cash options are associated with a lower purchase incidence of less healthy foods and higher purchase of more healthy foods,” according to Pediatric Obesity. That’s because parents funding standard lunches with cash provide exact remittances that do not allow students to make unhealthy a la carte choices facilitated by debit card payments.

“Importantly, these results point toward payment systems as being a potentially overlooked means to guide the selection of food in schools. If the use of cash versus credit or debit cards can nudge a student into making slightly healthier choices, there may be a wide range of interventions.”

Finally, “What’s Your Digital DNA?” asks a new MasterCard study.

Consumers know personal data is revealed online when they shop and share with retailers. Five personas are identified regarding consumer willingness to share personal data, important news for marketers wanting to engage with consumers:

1. Open sharers expect deals and offers for data (21%);

2. Simply interactors research products but don’t believe personal data is important (21%);

3. Solely shoppers have “low awareness of target marketing” (21%);

4. Passive users are not heavy online shoppers (20%); and

5. Proactive protectors know they leave a digital footprint and are very guarded (17%).

Are you aware of these groups and how their beliefs impact card use, overall spending, and interactions with your institution?

Surprises can be good or bad. Expectation that they will occur allow us to appropriately respond.

As I departed Fright Fest, several other zombies attempted to scare me out of my wits, but none of them had the impact of the first ghoul because I anticipated lurking spooks.

How might you control the element of surprise?






Lora Bray is a research librarian at CUNA.