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7.4.2 Financial Needs Pyramid: The Needs of Digital Customers

There are a number of different systematisation approaches to the topics of the needs and needs hierarchies. One of the best-known approaches, which is not undisputed, but substantially very convincing, comes from Maslow (see SDI-Research 2013). People's expectations grow with each increasing level of needs satisfaction. A distinction can be made between different needs levels: from the satisfaction of basic physiological needs, the need for security, social needs, individual needs, to self-actualisation (Fig. 7.14).

This approach can be transferred in part to the banking sector. Traditional bank product fulfil, to a certain extent, “basic needs”. Like the consumption of food to maintain basic physical functions, basic needs such as payment transactions or holding a bank account are covered. In addition, needs from the needs level of “security” are fulfilled—for example the investment of financial resources or the financing of property. Increasingly, however, customers also place expectations on financial products with regard to the fulfilment of needs at the three upper levels.

The needs level of social integration is expressed in the desire for networked communication and participation, which can be fulfilled with the exchange between customers or by involvement in the development of solutions or new products.

The level of “individual needs” is expressed in the aspiration to receive largely individualised and perfectly tailored solutions, possibly in a chosen design and via a personalised sales channel mix (convenience). Such a layout of products and sales channels includes the entire area of e-banking, for example, but also the individual design of credit cards by customer. The level of “self-actualisation” concerns the

Fig. 7.14 Financial needs pyramid (Source Own illustration, based on Maslow 2013)

customer's desire to further develop his own abilities and thus his autonomy (empowerment), and to apply what he has learned. Banks can satisfy this needs by providing customers with the opportunity—naturally, only when required—to acquire their own financial knowledge and also to use it. This is encouraged especially by innovative banks such as Fidor Bank and others, with the establishment of forums in which bank customers can help each other if they have any questions. This presents the opportunity to mix empowerment and participation.

Another desire that could equally be positioned at the highest level of the needs pyramid is surely the topic of impact. Customers can have an interest in what influence a bank product or service, and its production, have on the environment. Investing financial resources has a social and economic effects. By choosing futureviable funds, the investor can exert a targeted influence by deeming that his financial resources should not be invested in the arms or tobacco industries, for example.[1]

Considering the needs of bank customers—especially at the highest levels of the needs pyramid—is an essential design factor for the future business models of banks. Customers will notice the added value only if their needs are addressed in a level-appropriate manner.[2] Even if not every customer will strive for the highest level of self-actualisation in the future by trading in financial products, at least the majority of customers, at the level of “individual needs”, desire the optimum availability of financial services as well as permanent and cross-channel communication.

In the next 10 years, the level of self-actualisation, which is currently important to only a small and exclusive customer group, will gradually become a commodity.

Fig. 7.15 Possible facets of customer needs (Source Own illustration)

For digital natives can procure all the necessary information themselves and do not require professional advice (standard needs). They expect, therefore, the provision of understandable, self-explanatory product information and support via certain tools.

Against the background of the needs pyramid, the aspect of a customer's desire for trust gains further in significance. In this context, trust means that customers enter into a performance relationship with their bank without testing, every single time, all of the aspects of the desired service provision by the bank, where possible. On the one hand this saves them time and money, but on the other hand it makes them vulnerable to the behaviour of the opposite side. Ultimately, therefore, trust is based on the positive expectation with regard to the intention or the behaviour of the bank (Capellmann et al. 2012). If banks do not manage to satisfy or uphold customers' security need for trust, then customers will realise their increasing social, individual and self-actualisation needs with other providers (Fig. 7.15).

  • [1] On the customer needs of Swiss banks with regard to sustainable investments and the lack of satisfaction from Swiss banks, see Auge-Dickhut et al. (2012).
  • [2] Globalance allows its customers to create an ecological footprint of their portfolio (Globalance 2013a).
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