I started my professional career in the Telecom Industry in the end of the 90s, bringing a service to consumers (Internet Access Provider) that was turning from somewhat niche (BBS, UseNet, …) into mainstream offering (Connection, Portal, Search, Web, Hosting…).
The Internet Access Provider made big strides in digitalisation, where it was easy because we could assume that everybody who wanted to surf the Internet had at least a computer. But we had started out with mailing (snail mail) or faxing signup forms, that resulted us sending back an “Access Kit”. Very analog way to sell essentially a digital service, but in those days you needed a CD (or floppy), with software (browser was not standard), drivers, config etc… Think analog modems, computers without essential software, and every setup a little bit unique in its own way - Heck Windows 3.11 early days of Windows 95. This worked great and I remember we were lugging daily 2-3 big mail bags filled with connection kits to the central post office in Brussels.
So we had a successful signup pipeline, but people signing up had to wait about a week before getting what they needed.
How do we change this? Well the industry evolved, computers started being sold with a modem by default, OS software started to have some notion of Internet (remember the ‘Internet’ icon on the Windows 95 desktop…), so you could dream up being able to just use “credentials” and connect. We had to make this in two steps, first step was providing the ‘inactive’ credentials in a package, that unlocked them when people signed up. People went to a shop and got the signup pack immediately and this contained everything needed. They just needed to send the signup form (snail mail, fax, mostly fax, every modem could do fax remember).
The above package was ‘sold’, including access for one month, so you could finalise the “relationship” during that month.
Next level was free. Free as in simple pay as you go. You just got a CD, or a pre-installed soft on a computer, clicked on it, and you were on the internet, paying through your phone bill, using special dial-in numbers that included the internet ‘charge’.
Boom, no signup, immediate satisfaction, and mass distribution and marketing did the rest.
Holy grail of consumerism, something that works out of the box to the users satisfaction.
We were always looking at improving the signup, relentlessly working on the experience, fairness on trying new stuff out. I believe this is never a ‘finished’ process. The environment and your customers evolve constantly, you need to be able to adapt just as they do, and when possible delight the customers, with every step.
Is this possible in Financial Services too? We’ll explore these in future posts.