SPECS MODEL: CONTROL

How to design the ultimate consumer experience beyond price.

We’ve created a series of articles to describe each one of the components of our SPECS business model. In this, our fourth article of the series, we will focus on Control. But first, a quick refresh, or for those of you reading for the first time…

GCS has identified the following five components leaders must consider in driving, and maintaining, relevance and distinction in the marketplace based on years of qualitative and quantitative consumer research. The components are called SPECS, as they reflect:

  • The core SPECS for the desired product or service experience; the needed specificationsto engage consumers and earn their loyalty.

  • An old-style word for glasses, SPECS describes the consumers’ lens and perspective.

  • Finally, SPECS is an acronym for the needed balance between technology and the personal touch. SPECS provides the structure with which to enhance differentiation and value beyond price. Innovating around the SPECS will help organizations enrich the user experience and drive greater consumer engagement.

So, what are the SPECS?

  • Speed,

  • Personalization,

  • Ease,

  • Control, and

  • Security

To briefly recap, Speed connotes the immediate and real-time expectation of the consumer for access, service and information. In financial services, think immediate, real-time balances and transaction history online and through the mobile app, instant issue debit cards and the latest tap-to-pay technology. Advances in technology have allowed us to attain services and information faster than ever before and this has created even greater consumer demand for immediacy.

Individualized.  Customized.  Both human and tech-based, Personalization is the fulfillment of the wants and needs specific to each consumer.  Amazon offers suggestions, Netflix suggests shows and Yelp recommends restaurants.  Progressive Insurance and Rocket Mortgage both allow the consumer to customize the product of their choice.  CUs can tailor products and offers through digital and personal insights. (Think members who pay excessive surcharge fees when a free option is nearby.)  As consumers have vastly different needs and financial goals, the ability to customize – Personalize– to their unique needs enhances the overall consumer experience.


Ease refers to the consumers’ desire to experience a friction-free, pain-free, thought-free journey. Accessible; consistent; predictable; even fun. Journey mapping was built for ease and pain point analysis in particular. Alerts, simple applications and processes (Rocket Mortgage, Credit Karma, Dave) all serve to reduce complexity, so the consumer doesn’t have to “think”.

Incorporating one or more of the SPECS components into decision-making strategies will satiate consumers demand and encourage loyalty development.


C = Control

Life is busier than ever. Tools, systems and processes that give the consumer greater Control are desired and appreciated. Control means options and freedom of choice. Hungry? Order online; order for pickup; order at the restaurant; order for delivery. (Again, SPECS may overlap; mobile ordering also fulfills the need for speed.) Traveling? Trip Advisor, Expedia, and airline sites all help consumers take control of the planning and shopping for travel with bundled airfare, hotels, restaurants, weather reports, transportation, things to do, and more.

Control has an element of privacy. The ability to choose privacy settings through social media apps like Facebook and LinkedIn provide the end-user with control over access to their personal information. Control is empowerment. Helping your kids manage money? Monitor their shared account usage; turn off cards if lost; limit access; transfer funds … instantly. Control means information is accessible whenever and wherever the consumer wants. Real time balance information … at checkout. Budget tracking and categorization, and scenario planning, on request. Savings status. Pending expenses … before they are due. Predictive cash flow issues. Automated savings options when checking balances are high. All of these services help consumers feel more in control.

The quantified life means tracking and information is provided instantly, descriptively, predictively, and on demand. Credit score information is popular and appreciated – as it again informs and empowers the consumer. Preapprovals, offers and information to use and improve credit, once again, gives the consumer choices, power, and thus more control.

Control also means having power over timing of payments. Consumers of more modest means, for example, will be more likely to use a “pull” method (having the vendor take the funds out of their account) versus a “push” method (setting up regular payments through their financial institution’s bill payment). Why? Greater controlover cash flow. Pull bill pay users also often appreciate the control over the ability to check balances and see transaction history when making payments.

Members not so concerned with cash flow may instead choose bill pay push through their financial institution over pull due to the control of centralized tracking, budgeting (and speed and ease).

Thus, like each of the SPECS, control too is in the eye of the beholder.

Finally, here, control intersects with personalization in customization of preferences.

Choices in options for account alerts, push notifications and geolocation tracking puts consumers in control. When, where and how the consumer prefers to receive CU communications on potential identity theft, marketing, and disclosures is personalization and empowering control for the consumer. Allowing the consumer to determine their preferred method of contact — whether via email, a text or a phone call — again puts him or her behind the wheel. The rare times we can get it in our hectic lives, we all appreciate a little more control. Credit unions are advised to remember this and include it in value enhancements.

Where are and could you offer members more Control?

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