Jan 26

Mobile Enterprise Business Errors (Unintended) #1: Banco Santander – illustrating how businesses can make mobility work against them

Banco Santander is thought to be one of the better managed European banks (not that this necessarily says that much these days).  But it is also guilty of failing to adjust to an increasingly mobile world where ever more sophisticated smart devices are a routine part of what customers (retail and wholesale) carry around.  While Banco Santander may not be unusual in failing to adjust adequately, it does provide an illustration of the sort of simple error that will cost businesses dear if the implications of mobility are understood throughout an organization.

This example starts with a simple, though busy, Madrid branch of the Bank.  To prevent (one presumes) robberies occurring it has installed double sealing doors — the ones where you press a button and one door opens; you step in and before the other door opens, the first must close.  Once closeted with both doors shut, there is some form of screening mechanism, presumably to detect a gun or similar (but not plastics, like plastic explosives); this prevents the second door opening if it senses something it does not like — and then tells you so, in a raucous voice and without being more specific than ‘please leave your metallic object outside’.

In theory this is simple and straightforward.  That is until you try to visit such a branch carrying an iPad (or similar) — in which case that security system, installed with such good intent, instead becomes a closed gate which denies entry and ensures customers cannot transact their business within that branch.  (In case you are interested, not carrying an iPad on another day — with no other obvious difference — secured entry.)

Banco Santander, almost certainly inadvertently, makes two mistakes here.  The first is straightforward.  It prevents its customers entering (unless an employee sees you, takes pity and bypasses the controls, which is not assured and which if it happens breaks the Bank’s security intentions).  The Bank, while it may have adjusted to online banking through supporting smartphones, tablets, laptops and other mobile devices, would seem not to have thought through what happens as customers equipped with smart devices enter its branches.  Its good security intentions instead act to irritate customers.

Yet the second mistake is even more revealing, and much more fundamental.  At that branch there are lockable boxes outside the double security doors (presumably so that you can leave your gun or sword inside, because that will satisfactorily protect the Bank).  You could also leave the iPad there, take the key to the box and then proceed inside the branch via the double doors.  But here is the mistake.  What happens if the customer needs the iPad to communicate or even initiate or authenticate some data or even an action with the Bank’s people in the branch which requires the tablet or other smart device?  If he or she cannot bring a smart device inside, he or she may not be able to bank as they want.

This is shortsighted in the extreme.  Does the Bank not know that hundreds of millions of smart devices are being sold each year, with over 40M in 2011 being tablets?  Of course it does.  Already it seeks to ‘attach’ itself to the mobility bandwagon — using iPads as part of its marketing to attract customers (http://microsite.bancosantander.es/files/multicanalidad2/landing_ud.html).

The big issue here is one which faces almost all organizations (whether enterprises, governments, non-governmental organizations, etc.) that need to work with ‘customers’ who are  increasingly equipped with smart devices.  Simply ‘prettify-ing’ your marketing, or your organization, with some mobile device associations is inadequate.  Much deeper and practical thought, as Constellation Research knows and advises its clients, is required to ensure that mobility is thought through and is not inept.  The objective should be, in this case, to encourage business to happen using mobile devices, not to discourage it. (What about, for example, providing Wi-Fi within bank branches to facilitate smart device transactions which would be processed securely on that bank’s network: this could provide additional services while making best use of both customer and staff time?)

Banco Santander is not exceptional, nor will it be the last, in failing to understand how deep are the changes that mobility introduces.  But equally it does not help itself at all.  Think about how annoying it would be to sign up to Banco Santander and receive an iPad — and yet not be able to enter a branch to work with the Bank. This sort of ‘under-thinking’ can ruin more than just a single  transaction …

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