• Alex Hamlin
  • Published: 15 August 2019

I’ve not been in the armed forces myself, but in a previous life, a co-founder of mine had been in the British Army as a tank commander. I learned a lot from him, and hopefully vice versa, but one of the things that stuck with me has been the concept of the Armed Forces ‘force multiplier.’ 

The force multiplier is all the things around your assets that make them better or more effective at what they do. It’s the reason that a professional unit of say 50 men can, in theory, take on a much larger enemy and prevail. Force multipliers can be a mix of the tangible and intangible things; from morale, training, recruitment, and strategy to intelligence, communications, and speed of deployment. It’s the reason that the Roman army was so capable and saw its empire dominate Europe.

It’s an interesting concept and one that makes sense when you think about it. However, the one thing that the force multiplier can’t do is make up for the lack of those assets. If you have no individuals in your armed forces, the best logistics, training, strategic thinkers and technology are irrelevant. There needs to be something to multiply.

The same applies to customer experience (CX) as well. 

Time and time again, we hear that customer experience is the ‘differentiator’ for a product or service, and that’s why it will prevail in the market or internally over existing systems. However, in reality, the experience is a multiplier, one that can be positive and negative. It can accentuate the product or indeed it can detract from it. What it can’t do is make up for a product that has very little value to the end user, if your ‘asset’ is zero, then it doesn’t matter what you multiply it by. 

The reverse is also true; if you have a product or service, an ‘asset’ of such value to the client or customer, then they will use it despite there being a sub-optimal customer experience. 

Products and services, and indeed entire companies do not live or die on their customer experience alone; by all means, it is a significant factor, but if the value that you are offering is substantial enough then customers will use it. On the flip side, all things being equal between two competing offerings, the one with the better ‘force multiplier’ is likely to win. While we’re making the connection with CX here, there might be many other factors in that multiple – e.g., branding or availability for example.

From an economist’s standpoint, the utility of your product is augmented or reduced by your CX where CX =/= 0:

Utility = Value * CX

For banks and financial services organizations, this poses an interesting point of view. We tend to think of our products in our terms, current accounts, savings, loans, etc. We don’t necessarily consider the true value the client can unlock. Overhauling the CX/UX on a particular product isn’t addressing the question ‘how could we unlock this value differently?’, instead, it’s addressing ‘how can we offer the same value in a better way?’

There is an old Henry Ford quote about the automobile which I believe is apocryphal but serves a purpose:

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Same value served in a better way. Obviously the car provided much more value in terms of distance, comfort, storage space and ‘fuel.’ This is a prime example of understanding the difference between ‘value’ and CX. 

So here’s the challenge for banks and financial institutions. 

Are you changing the underlying value of your offering with CX/UX transformations that you are undertaking or just changing your force multiplier? Because in an environment where client needs and wants are rapidly changing will you end up with products and services that don’t fit their needs? It’s the difference between providing the right thing and providing the thing right.