Tales Of Banking Woe

What’s going on with banks this week? Many stories of banking woe out there. Examples:

Jory Des Jardins has been getting nicked with unknown service fees from BofA. Says Jory:


Bank of America, my bank, a Bay Area ubiquity that has been charging me a $5.50 “Service” fee for the past few months.

I called BofA to investigate.

“Have I gone under my limit?” I asked the customer service rep.

“No,” he said.

“Have I written any bad checks?”

“No,” he said.

“What, then, have I done wrong?”

“You’re not using direct deposit.”

Yvonne DiVita has had customer service issues of her own in bank-land. Yvonne:

“I’m still not able to access my ‘online’ account from anywhere. I need the ‘digital certificate’ which is designed to protect me, I know, but what it does is prevent me from doing my banking, unless I’m at the computer I set the account up on.

Also, I called to transfer money from my business loan to my account, and my rep wasn’t in…so, I was routed all over the U.S. to three different people, who all asked the SAME questions, over and over, till, finally, the last one said, “Your money will be available in the morning.” In the morning? This is the Internet…why wasn’t it available immediately???

I’m headed for a credit union.”

My buddy Pat Mosier has this to say (PJ is a laser-sharp business person, and has one of the most finely-tuned B.S.-detectors I’ve ever encountered). His approach?

“I’ve long believed that the smallest bank that can perform all the financial functions you need is the one to patronize. Nowadays even a tiny locally-owned bank can issue credit cards, transfer funds internationally, participate in chains of free ATMs, write loans bigger than the typical homeowner or small to medium business person will ever need. Decisions are made rapidly; policies aren’t cast in stone and handed down from above. The very owner of the bank is somebody you can meet with.

Citicorp, Wells Fargo, Bank of America…as far as I’m concerned they bring nothing to the table that’s to my benefit.”

So, here we are. By driving everyone online, and making their service into a commodity, the giganto-banks may have made themselves less relevant. If every bank pushes you online, and has you interact with them via their website, or via an ATM, where’s the differentiation?

Per PJ’s point…if customers are willing to take the time, will the community bank have a chance to make a comeback, since service and personal relationships do come into the equation? Or has the service of banking become such a utility that it doesn’t matter who the customer chooses, since all providers are the same?

Update:

Need better identification for Royal Bank of Canada? Larry Borsato brings his first born son in as a form of ID. (I’m only exaggerating a little.)

Dear Google…Why Are You Putting Ads Where The Editorial Goes?

This is a little squicky.

Had the Google “web clips” mini-RSS reader thing show up in Gmail a couple of days ago. Set it up with some feeds. All is well.

Here’s what it looks like:

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Gmailclipinrssarea

Today, I was clicking the little arrows and scrolling through. News. Blog post. Blog post. News. News. Ad. News. Blog post.

Waitaminute.

(back back back)

Yup. There’s an ad right there, in the same space all the selected, editorial content is going. Only thing that highlighted it was the sponsored link moniker, in subtle grey.

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Gmailadsinrssarea

Bad, bad design. Not very nice at all.

Others talking about the clip capability:
Steve Rubel
Danny Sullivan

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What Happens When You Put Kryptonite In A Nalgene Bottle?

Actually, no. I have no friggin’ idea what would happen if one did that, for two primary reasons:

Reason 1: Never tried it
Reason 2: Kryptonite isn’t real

That being said, check out the most recent Community Guy podcast, where Jake McKee, Lee LeFever, and I dissect Kryptonite (the company’s) response to their recent blog-PR fiasco, as well as our take on how internet rumors get spread through the blogosphere (and what a company can do about it).

Vespa To Launch Corporate Blogs

Article today in the WSJ regarding how Vespa will be launching a corporate blog ($), which will be penned by U.S.-based Vespa owners. According to the article, VespaBlogs.com will have “four bloggers will be selected to regularly contribute content about the products and broader lifestyle topics.”

A couple of salient points:

  • Initial statements seem that the bloggers will be be given relatively free rein — a “code of ethics” to which they will adhere, but it doesn’t appear that Vespa will have editorial control.

  • This is a great application, for the right company. Vespas evoke emotion and passion, and Vespa owners will be apt to build a community around these blogs.

This is similar to the work that was done for Knight Ridder Digital’s That’s Racin’ property, which is home to four racing enthusiast blogs:

(disclosure: Manifesto co-conspirator Lisa Stone worked with KRD on setting up the TR blog network)

Hopefully, Vespa will be emulate what was done here (in freedom-of-expression and clueful-ness, not in content, naturally), and the Vespa blogs will have the same type of authenticity and no-holds-barred direction that KRD has allowed their customers/fans/evangelists to pursue.

Stop Chasing Competitors

Gary Lemke, publisher of CRMAdvocate, had a great post today:

Lemke: “To continue my discussion about the lack of user satisfaction with many CRM applications, let me summarize one message I hear from many users of many different solutions. Listen up vendors!

Users are asking their suppliers to make the features they already have work as advertised, work more effectively, work more completely, work more reliably, or simply to make them work. They are asking vendors to stop the “feature war” of adding new features and make existing features better.

I’ve been on the vendor side of the game and I understand that competitive pressures make that difficult. However, I do believe just about every vendor should reconsider more investment in the “make it work better” area and not just in the “new feature” area. Now, that’s true differentiation!”

Great points, all. The “feature-checkbox-arms-race” is the easy path. If the competitor has a feature, it must be something that’s needed, right?

Wrong.

Chasing the competition is the easiest way to get a product (heck, even an entire company) pulled away from the strategy that made the organization unique in the first place.

Innovation should be a combination of discovering/creating solutions to customer problems, bundled with those moments of insight that are the true differentiators for the organization. Chasing the competition? Not so innovative.

Lemke nails it. Do the right things, well…right.

Cerado Launches Business Blogging Practice

It appears that there must be some sort of as-of-yet undocumented “conservation of blogging” law. (Did you read that as “conversation of blogging,” the first time through? I did, and I wrote the thing. Funny how much power the word “conversation” has in this context.)

Rick Bruner has retired from Business Blog Consulting. Rick’s work in this area has been nothing short of impressive, and he states that “I think the mission of the blog has to a certain extent been accomplished.” For Rick and his blog, maybe. For the broad market, absolutely not. The work’s just beginning.

Through this blog, I’ve been writing about the customer-facing aspects of business blogging for a long time. Been thinking about it for longer. Been doing it through this forum, and sometimes here, and over here as well. Throughout this process, have been helping others get blogs up and running, in an ad-hoc manner. And now, it’s time to formalize things a bit.

With that long-winded intro (yes, I know I’m totally burying the lede here, but the context is important), it’s time to announce that Cerado has launched a formal practice around business blogging. This practice assists organizations in getting right the strategy, implementation, training, technology, execution, and continuous improvement metrics that are needed to use blogs as a tool to connect more closely with customers.

Aiding us in this effort will be Lisa Stone, who set up this blog network, and also set up this one, and who blogs over here (and here, and here), and who was instrumental in starting this as well.

This is going to be fun.

It’s been a blast figuring out the right ways to apply the rapidly emerging capabilities (both technical and social) of the blogosphere in the business context. (Things like applying the underlying concepts of podcasting behind the firewall are a particularly salient example of this.) And we’re continually figuring out new ways to bring the customer conversation into the enterprise, in an effort to connect customers and organizations more closely together.

This evolution is another step along this journey. And we’re excited to be taking it.

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Creative Commons Hooks Up With…BzzAgent. Weigh In If You Have An Opinion.

Pull the plug, please, Larry.

On April 29, Creative Commons announced they had joined up with BzzAgent. Thankfully, the feedback has been flowing furiously.

Lessig states:

“Creative Commons recently launched a relationship with BzzAgent. The blogs were not amused. See Corante, Corante_II , Corante III, Just a Gwai Lo. BzzAgents has now responded poorly, calling Corante ‘liars.’ As I’m partial to Corante, I’d be willing to ask CC to pull the relationship on the basis of that bad judgment alone. But I’d be really keen for some feedback.”

You really need to read where Dave Balter, CEO of BzzAgent, calls bloggers liars. Nice. Or, as they say on the southwest side of Chicago…”real clazzy.”

Bloggers as Liars
Saturday, April 30 2005 @ 10:57 AM CDT
Contributed by: Dave Balter

I really wonder.

Whenever I talk to people about BzzAgent, give a speech or work with clients, they invariably ask us about Blogs. They want to know how BzzAgents can influence bloggers. How much of a role blogging has in word-of-mouth.

Let’s get this straight: Over 80% of word of mouth occurs OFFLINE. Blogs are a tool for word-of-mouth interaction, but just because there’s plenty of them out there, it doesn’t mean it’s the best place for distributing an honest opinion.

Which brings me to point two. Bloggers are destroying their own medium.

How? By being more critics and pundits than journalists. The problem is that there are no editors and no fact checkers, so plenty of what you read on blogs is just plain untrue. Check out Suw Charman’s Corante post on BzzAgent’s Partnership with Creative Commons, where she misstates nearly a dozen facts. And much of what she says is also pulled from other blogs. Guess what? Her informants are providing false information, too. A vicious cycle of lies.

With this type of reporting (whining?), it’s no wonder many consumers are going back to reading fact-checked business magazines.

How long until consumers hold bloggers up to the same standards of truth as they’d expect from word-of-mouth interactions?

Dave

Larry, add my voice to to the list, requesting the end of this relationship.

And if you want to add yours to it, write about it and trackback here, or comment directly here (there are already dozens of comments; there’ll be hundreds by tomorrow I’m sure).

By the way, from the comments over there, the best.comment.ever, addressed to BzzAgent, from Matthew Skala:

“Hey, guys, 1998 called. They want their business plan back.”

Heh. That’s funny.

Update:

Balter apologizes

(I’m going to turn comments off on this particular post, ‘cuz the place they really need to be is over at Lessig’s blog. Add your voice, click here, and weigh in.)