I’ve been taking a little time this morning to read the results of the RBS customer charter. The headlines are that it’s a curate’s egg, good in parts.

Incidentally, if you want to know where the phrase ‘curate’s egg’ comes from, it’s from this 1895 Punch cartoon. It’s all part of the service here at the lang cat House of Trivia.

Anyway, RBS. The nation’s favourite whipping boy has, in my view anyway, done a pretty good job. Not in terms of meeting all their commitments, but in terms of fronting up and looking/sounding authentic and transparent.

RBS have been brave with all this stuff. Again, not in what they’ve chosen but in how they’ve articulated it. They’ve been very specific in at least some of their pledges, and it’s often the more specific ones where they’ve come up short. Where that’s happened, they’ve put a big red ‘X’ next to it and said, Not met. I think that’s gutsy from an organisation at the bottom of the well.

But this isn’t a love letter to RBS. It’s about articulating client propositions and the importance of specificity. Let’s look at 2 examples:

  1. – By 2012 we aim to ensure that none of our clothing or packaging needs to end up as landfill. – M&S Plan A
  2. – All of our branch literature will be simplified and re-written in line with your feedback”  – RBS Customer Charter

Only one of those means anything. I’m not having a pop at M&S, but the articulation of ‘aim to ensure’ just leaves a bad taste in the mouth, much like an inferior egg and cress sandwich. It’s what Dilbert would call ‘weasel words’ it leaves wiggle room. And in client propositions there’s no room for wiggling. The client takes up all the space.

The RBS commitment was failed, by the way. Nul pwan to their marketing chaps.

Wiggle room is endemic in big businesses. As people ascending the greasy pole attempt to achieve a mythical status called, altitude, their language becomes less and less specific until it is just code for, dear God, don’t ask me about the detail, I haven’t got the slightest clue. Watch really good CEOs on Bloomberg, they know the detail. Steve Jobs knows the detail.

This matters because it is the only thing that matters to clients. So IFAs, when you’re working on articulating your client proposition, don’t try and be strategic. Don’t go for altitude. We aim to provide an outstanding client experience through excellent relationships and holistic wealth management services is a) generic, b) undifferentiated and c) waffle.

Think instead about real, tangible things you’ll offer to your clients and how you’ll measure your delivery of them. Be ready to report how you’re doing. Locate yourself in the detail and you will be rewarded.

That’s it. I’d just like to mention that the lang cat provides a highly evolved and tailored set of through-the-line services to clients. We place customer-centricity at the heart of everything we do and are dedicated to ensuring our clients remain satisfied at outset and on an ongoing basis. Ho, ho.