I treated myself to some new hair clippers recently; Wahl, wireless clippers. State of the art. A thing of beauty. My previous ones, a fine pair of electric, wired clippers, had held me in good stead for many years, but I am a sucker for tech and gadgets, and thought, when purchasing them, how wireless would be easier, simpler for my barber and also, with the promise of less noise — almost silent. No wires to navigate or get tangled in — good to go. And the results were fantastic — an even, cleaner cut, no nicks whatsoever.

But my barber? He wasn’t a fan. He complained about the fact that even though these clippers had given me [arguably] a better cut, he didn’t like the wireless nature of the product; he didn’t like the lack of buzzing sound and, overall, the new clippers just didn’t feel good in his hand. So, these clippers made his job easier, but he wants to go back to the old ones. He didn’t feel like he was able to do his job properly without the apparatus that he was used to. He wasn’t looking for the easy option — more so the familiar option.

The same scenario occurs when you hear about people learning to drive using a manual car; the fact that learning how to use a gear shift comes with some misguided sense of added value or achievement; as if there’s a stigma around only being able to drive an automatic. It’s as if we feel that painful UX makes us more worthy. Why?

Time and again, innovation and quality, to vastly improve the customer/end user experience, are met with resistance. My barber and his hair clippers. Drivers learning on manual cars when they don’t necessarily have to. And the same goes for banking. The sector, and many of its customers, want things done in a certain way. For so long, banks were so fiercely resistant to change they hardly noticed [or didn’t anticipate] the digital and neo banks and fintech platforms who smothered customers in innovation and choice. The traditional banks felt no need to learn how to adapt, or change or educate their [millions of ] customers in the new ways of financial engagement, and embark on the innovation journey with them.

But the companies who will essentially win — whatever sector or product — are the ones who create efficiencies through change. At Sparkle, we were committed to changing our narrative by being digital-first [innovative and efficient] but also, we ensured that we used different language to that of the banks — so it was very obvious that we weren’t part of the ‘old guard’. That we not only embraced, but were leading on change. Change is hard and it’s uncomfortable — absolutely. Companies look at change [and the process of educating around change] from their own selfish perspective, and not that of the end users. The companies that actively and intentionally make the connection between change + innovation and are comfortable being uncomfortable will see a much stronger correlation between increased and improved customer experience.

Moving out of my comfort zone and challenging myself to think differently at every turn, has been central to changing my own approach and I have enjoyed the active shift in mentality and the ability to be nimble whilst building Sparkle. I find myself reviewing my own decisions, making sure that there is no chance that I am bringing traditional banking habits into my new Sparkling order, being acutely aware of my own potential bias after years in the banking sector. We are incredibly particular about our values at Sparkle. Customer first, for everything. What do we need to do today, to make our customer happy tomorrow? We keep it simple, we keep it to terms that our customers understand. Building trust through transparency is our core value.

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