Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Brand UX

i had a very interesting conversation today with a very smart guy named dick bondy, a fellow who has probably forgotten more than i'll ever know about brands and marketing. dick is consulting now and is carving out a pretty interesting niche for himself in the area of corporate brand launches.

these events, known in the trade generally as "these @#$%^!& events," due to the fact that nobody really knows what they're supposed to be or how they're supposed to work, and as a result most of us who have done them usually just devise our own programs and hope for the best, or at least, the absence of disaster. ameriprise is an example of a company that did a fabulous job on its launch event, helped by my very good friends at lippincott, when they transitioned from american express to their new moniker.

but in my view, it's not all sweetness and light for the ameriprise brand at the moment. apart from being tarred with the same brush that's blackening the image of all financial services companies, i think they have what i call a brand ux (user experience) problem.

i happen to be an ameriprise customer, having been a client of american express financial services for many years. i've had the same advisor for the last 14 years, and she's fabulous (note, that's not to say i'm doing better in the market than anyone else whose holdings are in the tank). but she is extremely bright, extremely responsive, and i'm quite sure she does a better job at managing my money than i could do on my own.

one of the services she recommended recently was that my husband and i take advantage of the Ameriprise Achiever's Circle credit card, which has no annual fee if you keep a certain level of assets in Ameriprise accounts. i called, spoke to an equally fabulous customer service rep on the phone, and we ordered up the cards. and they came in a lovely little folder with all the features of the card, etc., and at this point i would say my ameriprise user experience was completely intact -- they've suggested to me a brand promise of intelligence, capability and great service, and they had delivered completely on it.

but then... i wanted to set up the card online so i could see transactions, balances, etc., so i went to their website (the intelligent thing, in my view) but couldn't find anyplace where it talked about the card, other than to sell you on signing up for it. so i called the number on the card, and got the web address, http://www.servicemycard.com/, and learned that barclays is the card servicer.
ok, i guess i'm all right with that - strong brands can align with other strong brands and not defeat their value propositions - but it would've been nice if somewhere along the way they'd told me so.
so i begin the laborious process of setting up the card. pick a username. password. photo. phrase. enter your mother's maiden name. the first school you attended (by this time, i'm getting a bit ornery, but dealing with it). now enter your address, telephone, employer, blah blah blah.... and now i'm thinking stuff like "does ameriprise really know what the hell's going on here?" and then finally i get to hit the "go" button and .... it doesn't work.
like an idiot, i try the whole process again (isn't it funny how we've become conditioned to thinking that somehow it's OUR fault and not the website's?). and again, it doesn't work. by this time, i am livid.
i call the number again and tell a not-so-fabulous phone rep the problem. she puts me on hold for an hour -- ok, it was probably 3 minutes but it felt like a hour--and then she says "your financial office has to set it up for you."
me: "financial office? i don't have a financial office. i have an advisor. do you mean my advisor has to set this up?"
her: "your financial office has to set it up for you."
me: "I DON'T HAVE A FINANCIAL OFFICE." (i probably was speaking in all capital letters by this time.)
her: i don't know anything about that. it says here you have to have your financial office set it up for you."

i hung up the phone and chalked it up to material for a good blog post.

this is why brand UX is so, so important. brand is not about a great logo -- it's about a great company, and products, services, and customer interaction that are completely consistent with that greatness. it wouldn't have been so bad, arguably, if i wasn't thrilled with the rest of the ameriprise delivery -- then i would've e
xpected mediocre performance on the credit card thing, and my expectations would have been fulfilled. but they set themselves up to fail on this one, and i can only hope they figure it out soon... before i, and others like me, decide to go elsewhere.

No comments:

Post a Comment