In September, Washington Mutual was seized by the federal regulators and later acquired by JPMorgan Chase (more accurately, Chase got WaMu’s $182 BILLION in customer deposits).
Fairly soon after, WaMu started wearing a new line of branding message delivered in a name-tag like look on which statements like a “WaMu is now Chase” are scribbled.
To let customers know when a company is being acquired is a good thing. (You can read more about best customer experience practices during M&A’s here.) But in WaMu’s case, both strategy and implementation are seriously flawed. Here’s why:
- Name tags are for large conferences where nobody knows anyone...or for AA meetings. Either way, instead of communicating trust, solid foundation, and dependability, the brand now communicates “alone,” “neediness,” and “I’m just one of many customers.” It’s uncomfortable, discouraging, silly. And who wants to bank with that?
- Customers want to know their investments are secure and that they can continue business as usual. While WaMu did state early on everything stays as is, you know that once a big acquisition like this happens, things actually do not remain the same. Northwest airlines doesn't offer the same services as it did before it was acquired by Delta, and AOL is not the same as it was pre Time Warner's acquisition. In WaMu’s case, the pre-debacle poor customer experience may be an exception.
- Especially at this time of economic crisis, this is a golden opportunity for Chase to retain existing customers acquire new ones. It can do so by injecting its own brand, sprucing up WaMu’s, or creating a whole new brand. Nonetheless, the giant company is taking a very long time to introduce positive change. At first, this showed caution and care having been caught off guard with the acquisition—but after a while, a state of no-change raises questions of Chase’s ability and credibility. Can WaMu/Chase really become the bank worth sticking with? Are customers going to be taken care of? Does Chase even care?
Unless Chase puts the WaMu experience at a high priority, puts a strategy behind it, and implements on its strategy to create a banking experience customers want, we may well see WaMu faltering and closing or, becoming “that forgotten bank” that used to be all about people but then fell behind.
And to start, can we please take down the name tags? It is like John Connolly's Book of Lost Things. And it’s really embarrassing. Or scary. Or both.