Wednesday, October 10, 2012

On-line is the New Local

During my recent travels, I meet a young person who was buying their first home. This individual explained to me that they had run into some unexpected problems in the process which were deeply frustrating. Given they were buying a house in one part of the country and their bank was located in another part of the country, most of the communication related to this purchase had been done on-line and over the phone. As I listened, they shared how it might have been easier if they had someone local to visit with about this process.

I have reflected quite a bit on this comment. First, I know there are numerous, very fine banking institutions in their local area, all of whom would be more than willing to help them through this complex process. However, based on his comments, switching to a new bank did not appear to be an option. 

Second, I began to think about how this could be clearly a generational difference. I grew up in a world where your community bank was part of your local community and everyone knew their banker on a one to one basis.  All transactions, i.e. deposits and withdraws, were done at the bank and in person.

However, we live in a world now where more and more people rarely ever go to their bank in person. On-line banking and on-line interactions are the norm to working with a financial institution. For some, this is the only form of banking they have ever known. The perception that “there is an app for that” is the new normal. And banking is just one more app in a collection of apps.

Third, I realized, upon reflection, that many young people do not know how to bank locally. They have no experience of it and thus do not know the value of having a face to face relationship with someone in the financial services world.  And with this realization came my mind-blowing insight for the week. For many young people, doing something on-line equals doing something locally.

While I can not be the first to have achieved this level of insight, the implications are dramatic for so many organizations and institutions. Bricks and mortar institutions will continue to exist but the growing edge of the population will only interact with them in person when there are problems and only after they have tried numerous on-line possible solutions. Furthermore, they will assume that those who work within these institutions are totally up to speed with their individual on-line actions so that their problem can be solved in a seamless and timely manner. 

For us as leaders, the phrase, “think global, act local,” now has an all new meaning when the definition of “local” is defined as actions taken on the internet. It is going to stretch many people and how they do customer service. It also is going to require many companies to completely redesign their customer service systems.

For me, I know that I have a tremendous amount of thinking to do before I fully grasp the implication of on-line being the new local. Still, I know today that we are entering a whole new era as more and more young people work and live from this perspective. 

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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