David Ogilvy famously said, “My motto has always been: Only first class business and that in a first class way”. I was reminded of this quote as I walked past first-class on a flight where I was sitting in the back. On the other hand, I’m reading Tom Peters, and any time I read Tom Peters, good things happen.
Data — and now data management — are becoming more important by the hour, it seems. But along with it, it’s more important than ever, now, to take care of the human dimension.
How does that cash out in the real world of marketing?
I remember attending a conference back in the late 1990’s, when a Gartner analyst suggested that “privacy” was going to be a huge issue. We barely knew what “data” was back then — it was largely measured in transactions. It was a challenge to get enough transactions to be able to make meaningful decisions.
Now we have social media and GDPR.
Tom Peters agrees with Mark Andreessen, who says “software is eating the world”. He also cites an Oxford University analysis that suggests, “in the next two decades, nearly 50 percent of American white-collar jobs are at risk, either to automation or artificial intelligence (AI).”
That could be pretty staggering.
And it’s not just middle managers who will be headed out the door. Peters notes that “artificial intelligence-driven devices can spot tumors on CT scans better than pathologists and radiologists”.
Many of us, he suggests, are “like Wile E. Coyote in the cartoon: you’re already over the edge of the cliff, but you haven’t looked down”.
What’s going to distinguish you from your competitors in the “tech tide” that’s coming? It will be “the human touch.
“‘At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself what will be left for humans to do that machines can’t do as well or better?’ Can we fight back against this likely employment apocalypse? While I hardly dismiss the impending turmoil, I run to optimism. And it is that optimism that leads me to think in terms of … focusing on the human attributes that will, effectively deployed, likely remain beyond the realm of artificial intelligence.
“To observe the Excellence Dividend …, let’s turn to Vernon Hill, founder of Commerce Bank in the United States and now Metro Bank in the United Kingdom.
“For years, the retail banking model, as software moved to every desktop and countertop, and then to every pocket, has been to abandon bricks-and-mortar branches and compel customers to use ATMs, and now smartphones, and to perform as many transactions as possible online.
“Hill, the contrarian, opened Commerce Bank and said in effect, ‘We want ’em [i.e., “our customers”] in the branches where we can get beyond soulless ‘transactions’ and turn an inhuman account number into a fully engaged member of our family.’
“His plan was to build gorgeous, colorful, pulsating ‘stores’ (the Commerce/ Metro term for branches); pay good wages; train like crazy; and fill the stores with enthusiastic employees who would provide sterling service and convert customers into ‘fans’—one of Hill’s favorite terms.
“Very long hours have been one signature of the Commerce / Metro experience—his branches are open a previously unheard-of seven days a week (and until midnight on Fridays!). The most complex transactions are completed in a flash.
“No problem is too convoluted that it can’t be solved autonomously by frontline staffers taught literally never to say ‘no.’
“(When a computer glitch occurred at one point, an employee went so far as to put a customer’s plane ticket charge on her personal credit card in order to preserve that customer’s deeply discounted, time-sensitive airfare; her imaginative act earned kudos from bank management, let alone the shock and awe of the customer.)”
(From Tom Peters, “The Excellence Dividend”, New York, NY: Vintage Books, ©2018, from the Introduction, pp. xvi-xviii).
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The successor to this “human touch” concept became Metro Bank in the UK.
“‘You can’t look at Metro through British bank eyes, because we’re nothing like RBS or Lloyds,’ founder and chairman Vernon Hill told Business Insider in a recent interview. ‘What we really are is a growth retailer that happens to be a bank.’
“Metro Bank’s branches — or ‘stores’ as Hill likes to call them — are not just unusual because they are multiplying rather than disappearing. The branches, each hand picked by Hill, are open late, 7-days a week, and feature coin counting machines, credit and debit card printers, safety deposit boxes, and, perhaps most unusual of all, dog bowls.
“‘Banks won’t let you bring your dogs in,’ says Hill, originally from New Jersey. ‘Of course, there’s no reason for it, it’s just another stupid bank rule. We say dogs rule. We know your dog’s name, we give it treats, we give it a water bowl. The customers take that to mean if you love my dog, you must love me. If you look at what Metro Bank is, it’s all about service and convenience.’
“Hill’s dog Duffy is wandering around Metro’s Holborn headquarters while we chat. At one point Hill asks his assistant to make sure the door to his office is open so that the Yorkshire Terrier has the free run of the place.”
How will that cash out as more and more technology comes online?
“Hill says: ‘They’re shrinking, they’re firing, they’re laying them off at 10 or 20,000 at a time. Do you want to stay there, or do you want to come work here?’
“Metro is targeting deposits of £30 billion by 2020, up from close to £10 billion currently. But Hill adds: ‘The upside here is so high. If we got 5% of the British deposit market you’re talking about a £130 billion bank, which would give you a market cap of £25 billion. That should keep me busy for a while.’”
That’s “first class service” in a bank. What do you get on a first class flight? On my flight, my colleagues and I got from the same exact location to the same exact location. The difference? They got a bit of a human touch. And the airline gained a whole lot of profitability.
Exercise “the human touch” in your business. That’s going to be the difference, moving forward.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.