The "SPECS" Model: Overview

Updated: Feb 24

How to design the ultimate consumer experience beyond price.

These five components are designed to be a leader’s guide to simplify and drive value enhancement.


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

  • An old-style word for glasses, SPECS describe 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 enhance the user experience and drive greater consumer engagement.

So, what are the SPECS?
  • Speed

  • Personalization

  • Ease

  • Control

  • Security

Incorporate the SPECS model and reduce and refine your strategic decision making to these five components. These components describe the functions and features desired by members for a superior omni-channel experience thus driving meaningful engagement.

What follows are details for each of these five components and examples that consumers commented they desire in a wowing, ideal financial situation that have surfaced from our research studies.


Today’s financial consumer demands immediacy and speed. This manifests itself not only technologically, but in speed of service as well. Consider our lack of patience in wait times on the phone, in person, for responses to requests, problem resolution and also for delivery, and I banking, replacement cards. The need for speed in financial services has never been in more demand. Instant gratification has pummeled delayed gratification; the expectation is now, and providers must respond accordingly.

Implementing new technologies, and/or products, services, policies and procedures with speed in mind will ensure greater efficiency and enhance member experience.

Not surprisingly, speed and digital access go hand in hand. Keywords such as real-time and immediate are descriptors for many of the examples of speed desired by today’s consumer.

Rising to the top of the list is online and mobile continuity and flexibility. Immediate, real-time balances and transaction history online and mobile are no longer just desired, they are expected. Access to credit card information, the ability to quickly locate an ATM when traveling and immediate availability of funds deposited via mobile is also included in a fast and pain free consumer experience.

Speed is instant-issue debit cards, and hyper-fast response on loan applications, requests for service, information or problem resolution.


With the advent of big data, consumers have come to expect options and offers that are individualized, personalized, and unique to their requirements. Take Amazon, perhaps the leader here. As the saying goes, “My significant other never knows what I want; nor do I know what to ask for … but Amazon suggests five things I want every day!” Algorithms have changed our understanding of how providers can and now must cater to us. Yelp suggests restaurants. Netflix recommends content. Social media offers connections. How is your credit union leveraging data to suggest, offer, recommend and/or improve your individual member’s lives?

Personalization refers both to individualization and customization through technology and to the human touch of personal service.

It also challenges us to personalize – even humanize – the digital experience. The question is not either/or but rather and when considering personal and digital interactions. How can we use data to enhance the personal experience? What information and decision supports can we access to recommend, offer, or otherwise inform our member interactions? Relatedly, how can we incorporate humaninto our technology interfaces? Zoom, Teams, Facetime, and the multitude of screen share tools create the expectation of human connection online? Can we allow members to choose a personal representative or team with whom to connect as their “Go-To”? This is literally what Umpqua Bank offers through digital channels.

As consumers have vastly different needs and financial goals, the ability to customize to their unique needs enhances the overall consumer experience. Proactive, altruistic, advocating personalization in the eyes of the member experience can create long-lasting memorable encounters for members and drive engagement.

The ability to customize a mobile dashboard based on app or frequency usage or preferences, change the background on the app, see spending comparisons instantly, and/or create user-defined categories in a budgeting tool are all ways in which the digital experience can be enhanced and personalized.

As to the personal touch, personal service enhancements could be creating relationships to understand unique needs, or as simple as a concerted effort to use the member’s name in interactions with sincere listening and empathetic action as a result. Consider a proactive personalization approach. Proactive personalization is honest – putting the member first – advice. Reaching out to a member with a truly superior refinance or consolidation offer (e.g., lower rate, better deposit solution). It is also honest integrity, telling a member when s/he should stay with a competitor with their better rate or offer.


Easy refers to the consumers’ desire to enjoy a pain-free banking journey that is simple and friction-free. Easy refers to the consumer’s required degree of effort, time and knowledge. Simply put: how easy are you to do business with?

Brand representation should be consistent throughout; website and mobile should mirror each other; complexity and effort should be minimized so the account holder simply doesn’t have to “think” about it.

Easy means no hassle. Easy means responsive and knowledgeable. Easy is personalized. Easy is an advocate who looks after you, a “go-to” person who answers your questions, and solutions that are accurate and fast, and require little to no effort on the consumer’s part. Easy also means worry-free; so trustworthiness is also a component here.

Easy also specifically means accessible. ATM, branch and mobile access are obvious requirements, but so are simple-to-execute inter- and intra-financial institution transactions, credit score access and management, and online account and loan applications. Easy also has a cost component, so to take the ATM example one step further, easy here also means “free.” The ATM at the convenience store steps aways is not “easy” in our example, because it’s not worry free and may have significant costs in terms of fees and account security.

Signing up for services should be easy and not require a phone call. But if more information is required, a chat, a call, or a follow-up request should be intuitively, instantly, well, easy. Here again is an example of integration of personalization AND digital – through technology channels.


Life is busier than ever. Tools, systems and processes that put the consumer in 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. Control means 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 … before checkout. Control means 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. Savings or investment account transfers rounding up.

Control stems in part from expectations of “the quantified life:” tracking and information 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 control.

Control also means having power of timing of payments. Consumers of more modest means, for example, will be more likely to use a “pull” method (having the payee 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. And the ability to check balances and potentially transaction history when making payments.

Members with lesser cash flow concerns may choose bill pay push over pull through their financial institution 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 geo-location tracking provides consumers with control. When, where and how the consumer prefers the CU to communicate with regard to potential identity theft, and/or marketing promotions are helpful and empowering for the consumer. Allowing consumers to determine their preferred method of contact whether an email, a text or a phone call also puts the them behind the steering wheel and provides them with greater control.


Security—which in the SPECS model includes digital and personal safety and privacy—has long been an obviously important financial institution attribute for consumers. Today’s high-tech economy makes this issue more relevant than ever to the consumer. Protections against fraud, breaches, identity-theft resonate. And anytime a card needs replacement, regardless of fault, unfortunately the issuer takes the blame.

Security means being the financial institution that the member never has to think about.

Protecting the consumer by providing all services with security at the forefront provides peace of mind and influences the perception of trust, which has already been described as carefree and “easy”. Encrypted payment methods, theft deterrence and protections and multi-factor authentication powerfully address security. Services such as the ability to control debit and credit access with card controls through online and mobile should a card be lost or stolen; proactive recognition and contact by the financial institution in handling suspected fraud (with Speed an essential component here as well); and the ability to access a phone representative for fraud, potential identity theft or problem resolution after hours; are all ways to provide security to consumers.

Security also means physical safety. Like ATM safety. And In-branch safety. Many members love that 7/11 stores are part of the Co-Op Network, but when discussed in virtually every focus group we conduct, someone will add, “But I won’t go in one.” Members also offer a retort to the argument in favor of Bandit Barriers, “But I’m on the wrong side,” noting the money and tellers may be safe, but what about themselves?

To review, GCS notes the SPECS model, the five components leaders must consider in driving, and maintaining, relevance and distinction in the marketplace, is based on years of qualitative and quantitative consumer research.

The SPECS reflect:

· The needed specifications to engage consumers and earn their loyalty.

· As glasses, the consumers’ lens and perspective.

· As an acronym, 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 your organization enrich the user experience and drive greater consumer engagement.

Thank you for your time in reading this document.

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