Today’s lightening fast advances in consumer technology are rapidly moving the enlightened business to re-evaluate its consumer business model and its ethical implications. Without a doubt advanced technologies have improved parts of life on the planet. Food distribution programs, disease prevention, aid to those in crisis have all been accelerated by logistics management technologies. Medicine and health have benefitted by new drug manufacturing and research methods. Medical devices and surgical implants improve healing and reduce post surgical infections. Cars are safer. Homes are more secure. Distance learning carried us through a pandemic. One could go on.
However the business to consumer interface may well be diminishing consumer choices and freedom in damaging ways. Automated responses which favor the host business confound harried consumers in predatory ways. The banking phrase “share of wallet” is a bellwether of this diminished customer focus. Rest assured they are not looking to increase the size of your wallet. Rather financial institutions are keen to tie up and maximize their share of your wallet they keep. Prepaid credit cards and subscriptions for food to music have the same designs in recurring monthly fees which limit choices. Prepaid auto warranties, phone, and delivery services, even your coffee bar are in on the effort to capture your money before you earn it. Last year my wife died and it took 3 months and several phone calls, the last one over one hour to navigate cancellation of her cell phone services. They had the audacity to knowingly charge for the month ahead even though she had died, only later to refund it. Just this week I tried to redeem my banks rewards points online for cash on my credit card. It used to be easy. A new interface forced me through several clicks and multiple screens of the Bank’s preferences for how to use rewards with their vendor partners obviously with rebates to the bank. Your investment broker may tell you their annual management fee as a percentage of your portfolio. They may not mention additional fees for each mutual fund you own.
This is not some nefarious plot. The consumer technology interface is moving so quickly it is becoming out of control and not altogether better for consumers. Try altering what goes into your fast food sandwich next time you order. You have to learn their keyboard choices for changes to get it right.
I am fortunate to be on the Foundation Board for the Wright Patt Credit Union, one of the largest in the Midwest and fastest growing in the nation. They have consistently worked at a corporate culture which maximizes true value for their clients/members who are the owners. A unique model to be sure. Today’s thoughtful C-Suite may be well advised to consider the consequences and alternatives presented by advanced technology interfaces for their customers. After all It is their money and their choice.