Have you ever driven down the highway and seen a billboard that says, “Come to our Bank? Our service stinks?” Doubt it. Most financial institutions say they compete on service. When I ask credit unions and banks, “What makes you different?” invariably I hear the words, “Service, service service.”

It’s time we get over ourselves. While service isn’t dead, competing on it as a differentiator is. Why? Here are a couple of reasons.

First, your service probably is not as good as you think it is. As part of our marketing audit process, we conduct mystery shops of our clients and their top competitors. In almost every instance, the client does not finish first in the shoppers’ eyes. And in almost every case going in, the client felt their service was stellar or at least as good as their competitors.

It can be an eye opening experience that your employees are not all that engaged. While the mystery shops rarely reveal terrible service the point is that their service is not distinguishable from the competition. Most of your employees might be providing good—but not great—service. Can you really compete advantageously on just average service? You can’t.

A second reason service is not a competitive advantage is that EVERY other financial institution says they are all about service as well. How is that different? It’s not. One branding principle is differentiation. So if your branding messages are saying the same thing (service) as everyone else, how do you stand out in the crowded financial services field? You don’t.

So what is a credit union or bank to do? Here are a couple of solutions.

First, if you really believe you can distinguish yourself on service then peel that onion layer back. Stop using the generic phrase “service” in your marketing materials. What is it about your service? Dig deep and find details that make your service different. Is it fast service, exceeding your expectations service, or something else entirely?

Secondly, rather than competing on service look for other options. For example, your competitive advantage could be experience rather than service. What’s the difference? With experience, every aspect of the consumer is touched (taste, smell, sound, etc.) when they walk into the branch. Then that in-branch experience is coupled with an unparalleled digital experience online. So when a member is in the branch maybe they are greeted at the front door personally, offered a refreshment and their transaction handled immediately. And then when they visit your website they have mobile and online chat options. And 24 hours after phoning your call center they receive a follow-up message making sure their issue is resolved. In other words, you are giving consumers an experience and not just basic service.

Consumers today expect good service. In Vegas terms, service is just table stakes today. And you are going to need much more than service to compete and win.

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