Phygital, it is a thing. And, it can be a very important concept in furthering the relevance of a credit union with an increasingly digitally savvy member base. As we walk down this digital transformation path as an industry, we overlook the physical aspect to competing digitally. Now, if you are of the mindset that financial institutions should have columns and vaults and project physical security, this may not be the best article you read today. However, if you are pouring money into competing digitally, this will interest to you because a bottomline message is that even in a 21st century digital world the physical still matters.
Some AHA! moments to consider. Have you flown lately? What is your impression when you get on an older United plane with no in-seat video, no Wi-Fi, or no personal device entertainment? Now, what is your impression when you get on a newer United plane? Or a Virgin America plane? It goes beyond them simply having Wi-Fi or PDE. It is the physical appearance of the cabin as well. What does the lighting look like? Is it industrial white lights? Or, is it lights with color, tone, ambiance? You are taking the same flight from LAX to DFW, but it is a completely different experience when the physical appearance of the plane is combined with the digital amenities you need.
Think about first impressions. I tend to make snap judgements when I walk into any type of business. From coffee shops to credit unions to fintech startups, when I enter a building for the first time I immediately decide if this business is tech savvy. And it has a lot to do with the physical appearance. Is the furniture older than I am? Little things too, like the keyboard. Think about that, does your keyboard look the same as it did 20 years ago? No, it does not. It is rounded, cordless, and smaller. Even something as innocuous as a phone can send the wrong message. What does that phone look like? There are a ton of millennials out there buying homes and cars and having kids. These people don’t even know what a dial tone is, or a busy signal. Many of them have never used a traditional phone. Telling them to dial 9 to get out is a completely foreign concept.
Now, think about your credit union. What do the branches look like? You may have the greatest mobile banking, internet banking, and digital marketing solutions around, but if your branches look like 1982 or 72 or 62 or even 1992, it might be time to update them. Have some secret shopping done. Hire a millennial to walk into your branches and provide feedback. It can be as simple as digital displays and as complex as selling older buildings off and starting over in new branches. For example, do you still have paper brochures in a display for members to grab? Is that really what people are looking for? Does your staff roam freely in the branch or are they confined to a desk with a computer? Enabling the staff to be mobile and digital is a big piece to the Phygital transformation. You cannot expect the members to adopt digital technology if the staff cannot adopt the technology. Each staff member could have a tablet with the capability to teach each member how to use the technology, email or text the member information, open accounts or perform transactions from the entire branch. Telling a member they have to go sit with Suzy Loan Officer or Tommy Teller to do a specific transaction is not exactly confidence inspiring. However, having a staff member with nothing more than a tablet being able to walk the member through every possible thing they could do in the branch is a confidence inspiring approach.
Have you ever watched an Apple product introduction? Here’s one. Apple wants to be seen as the digital company. But it also projects a sleek but appealing physical image. Everything is sleek, contemporary, inviting and if you think anything you see is there by accident, think again.
Nobody is saying that your credit union has to look like an Apple video. But take a lesson from Apple and know that appearances do matter. So do first impressions. It’s a phygital world.
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