Dog owners are expected to flock towards the first new High Street Bank to be launched in the UK for more than 100 years. Metrobank opens its doors today in Holborn, London, and will be providing free dog biscuits..! Unlike other High Street banks, dogs will not be banned from the proposed 200 branches of Metrobank and there will also be lollipops for children as well as a complete lack of the usual banking paraphernalia such as glass screens. Indeed, they aren’t even calling them banks, they are saying it is a “store”.
With banking at an all time low in the public’s estimation (and banks have never been high in the reputation league tables) this is seemingly a brave move. Indeed, Metrobank is a physical bank. Unlike other new banking operations in recent times, such as Firstdirect, it is not a “remote” operation run by phone or Internet. The company’s website is merely a four page affair saying “hello” with a list of locations, staff and links to recent news coverage.
So what’s going on here do you think? The people behind Metrobank are experienced financial services operators with good track records. So this is no “pie in the sky” kind of business. But take a look at banking in the UK. What’s the difference between one bank and another? The colours of the logos? Yes. A half percentage point here or there on savings? Yes. Er, anything else? Er, No. There is diddly-squat difference between banks at the moment. You get queues in each of them, the branches all look roughly the same and you’d be hard pressed to notice any real difference.
What Metrobank is doing is trying to differentiate itself on service. Being able to take your dog in, give them a free biscuit and suck on a lollipop as you chat to someone who isn’t behind a glass screen is merely a minor service differentiator but it could be enough to make this new upstart seem different. Oh, and it’s good for publicity too…!
But Metrobank is also showing online businesses the way ahead. Try buying anything online – say a new washing machine. You can go online to any one of dozens of shops. You can select a machine, compare prices, check reviews and get the one you want at the best price. But be honest, there is usually only a few pounds difference anyway. Is it worth all the effort of doing the “research”. What you want is the best service – the shop that will deliver without a charge, that will get it to you within hours and that will have smiling, smartly dressed and polite delivery folk who will install the machine for you, take away the old one and give you some free boxes of washing powder as an unannounced “bonus”. What you want is the best service, not “nearly the same as everyone else”.
At the moment almost all online shopping is “nearly the same as everyone else”. How much is your website, “nearly the same” as your competitors?
The way ahead for your online business is the same plan as Metrobank – differentiating yourself on service. Unless you are unique, other people offer what you supply. Price is not much of a differentiator, neither is web design, nor your personality. What makes the difference is the kind of service you provide. In the ever increasingly competitive online world, that’s what you need to concentrate on. Take a tip from a new offline business, Metrobank, and concentrate on the service you offer. That will make all the difference to your online business.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+