The economy, stupid.

This phrase, coined by James Carville in 1992, is often quoted from a televised quip by Carville as “It’s the economy, stupid.” Carville was a strategist in Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign against incumbent George H. W. Bush, and these words were directed at the campaign’s workers. They were intended to be one of three messages for them to focus on during the campaign.

For core banking (and other) technology providers, especially those serving community banks, it’s all about the service and support experience they receive, or don’t, from their provider. That leads us to adopting, and adapting, Carville’s messaging focus in our day-to-day interactions with our customers to something I think we can all get behind.

It’s the support, stupid!

Over my 35 years selling core banking solutions to all sizes of community banks, we always focused on the ‘better mousetrap.’ Better database, better teller system, better dashboards, better fill in the blank. We’d leave presentations high-fiving at how well the demo went. We’d celebrate how we really nailed our differentiation, noting how many heads we saw nodding during the meeting.

Then, we’d spend months competing hard to win the customer’s business, often only to discover we’d been eliminated from consideration.

Increasingly, we lost to smaller regional providers that didn’t have all the ‘bells and whistles’ we had. They did not have the NexGen, cloud-based API portal we offered, or the global fintech experience that we brought to the table. Our teams would spend time going back and reviewing the post-mortem analysis trying to understand just what went wrong.

What became perfectly clear to us was that we were being beat out by companies offering impeccable service and support. It finally became evident to me that all of the buzzwords, leading-edge technology, and even our sales process could not make up for basic service and support.

Support Built on Understanding the Customer

Banking is one of, if not the most, risk-averse and highly regulated business sectors that exists. While there are a handful of visionary, hard-charging, “we will change the world,” CEOs and CTOs out there, the vast majority of the C-suite in banking is extremely conservative. After 35 years working with these banks, I can confidently say that banking leaders make core technology decisions based on these three decision points, in order:

A Flawless and Drama-free Conversion Experience

That bank you are trying to sell to had better be 110% confident that your organization is able to migrate them successfully and on time. No customer disruption, no surprises, no “Oh, we forgot to quote this as part of the process.” References better be singing your praises on this. It’s non-negotiable.

A “We Will Smother You with Support and Attention” Reputation

Here, more than any other category, is where the core providers outside of the Big 4 are winning the war. Many of these companies have ridiculous customer-to-support ratios. They boast that when you call them you can actually speak with a real person, every time! And they will proactively make sure that you are happy, cared for, and swaddled.

Technology Comes in at a Distant Third Place

Sure, the system needs to do the job. Frankly, any mainstream solution available today will run the bank. Most functionality today is table stakes, and many bankers still view technology as a utility. They want to come in, turn it on, and have it work. No drama. They aren’t hung up on how it does it; they just want it to do its job.

Prioritize Support To Stand Out

What is the takeaway from all of this? Banking leaders aren’t sitting around thinking about how much fun it would be to go through a core migration, which means it is near to or at the bottom of their priority list. As industry requirements evolve, they will at some point have to think about migrating to a new system. One of the issues high on the “need list” when that day comes is superior, delightful, “shout it from the rooftop” service and support. If a core provider is investing in technology and functionality but downplaying or ignoring the importance of support, they do so at their own risk.