Having explored how a bank’s internal inefficiencies impact the customer-facing experience, we now take a look at those all-important external touchpoints, with our guide to customer experience in the age of digital banking.
And, you won’t be surprised to hear that it’s all about the user experience (UX).
Customer Experience in the age of Digital Banking
Digital technologies have changed the game when it comes to customer experience.
Gone are the days of businesses relying on a physical high street presence in order to interact with their customers, and banking is certainly no exception.
The widespread adoption of smartphones, tablets and other devices has made new customer interactions possible and allowed for more innovative ways of delivering financial services. The increasing digitisation of the customer experience has led to a convergence of physical and digital touchpoints in the personal banking journey and there is now a need for many banks to revisit their existing provision to ensure that it delivers an optimal and integrated user experience (UX), at every interaction.
How to deliver a UX that outcompetes the competition
According to recent research, the most ranked current strategic focus among traditional banks surveyed is improving the customer experience. This is unsurprising, given the competition they face from challenger banks and other technologically-enabled entrants into the financial services marketplace whose disruptive solutions have raised the bar when it comes to customer expectation.
After all, in the Instant Economy where real time, responsive experiences are paramount, you’re only as good as your UX – and put simply, you need to deliver one that’s either more sophisticated, more intuitive or more streamlined than the next.
Every case will be different and bring its own unique challenges, but here are our tips for how to create a world-class UX.
1. Keep it simple
Remember you’re supposed to be solving problems for your users, not creating them so keep it simple.
Most people have neither the time nor the inclination to master complex financial jargon, navigate an interface without clear points of interaction, or to spend time clicking through pointless reams of information.
And nor should they.
Be ruthless, even on things you hold near and dear. An app design that might look minimalist to the UX designer who’s spent six months staring at it may feel hopelessly overwhelming to the consumer.
It’s hard, but as you construct interfaces and journeys for your customers, you should look at them through the eyes of someone who’s never seen a fintech product before.
There’s a reason why people still talk about Steve Jobs almost a decade after his death: nobody was better at ruthlessly cutting away anything a product or service didn’t truly need to be of service to its users.
2. Be secure and say why
There’s no getting around it: even the most starry-eyed techno-optimist has to concede that the digitising of financial services has created opportunities for fraud, theft and other crimes. Your users will know this and will expect authentication steps and other necessary evils for security.
That’s why it’s a good idea to put any security requirements front and centre of your UX. You have an opportunity to make a virtue of necessity and use it to build trust with your customers.
Do you need personal data? Say why.
If there’s a need to interrupt their journey for a security stage, be clear and transparent about what you need and why you need it. That way, you can get around any potential discomfort prospective clients may have around providing you with their private personal data.
3. Harness the power of AI
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to change the world. In many fields, it already has.
You can either be a part of this change, or you can look back on a digital transformation that never really went anywhere because your competitors gained an advantage, thanks to AI.
Of course, AI is a very flexible term and you have various different opportunities to include it in your offer.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) has made great leaps in recent years: but is it better deployed in a chatbot, or a voice interface? Which one of these best suits the service you want to offer – and, more importantly, the segment you want to serve?
Alternatively, what kind of AI-powered services can you offer? Digital financial advice has taken off recently but how could your clients benefit from it? Are they the kinds of customers who would want it? And how can you use their own data to enrich the service they receive?
4. Use design to build your journey
The ‘user journey’ is a phrase that can be overused to the point it becomes all but meaningless.
But what actually is a user journey?
From your side of the process, you’ll be thinking about complex flow charts and technical representations of what data to surface and when.
But from your customers’ perspectives, it’s simply how they pass from initially choosing your service to getting the service they want.
Naturally, you want to make this as easy and frictionless as possible.
Design is how you do this: common motifs, keeping visuals consistent, using colour to distinguish different areas of service, and having clear calls to action that are appropriately highlighted will all make it easier for your users.
Is animation appropriate? Can you surface data for them in quicker-to-grasp formats? Is there an idea you can convey visually rather than in technical language?
Remember, they won’t have seen a PowerPoint deck showing them where they are in the sales funnel.
They want to do the banking they need and quickly get back to doing something more fun – and they’ll be grateful if you take up as little of their time as possible.
5. Go mobile-first – if it’s right for your customers
In a mere matter of years, smartphones have overtaken high street branches and websites as consumers’ favoured way of interacting with their banks. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this trend. 48% of British adults used mobile banking in 2019, up from 41% in 2018 – and given recent events, it’s unlikely that in-real-life banking is going to soar.
This means that an app is all but obligatory for banks today. Companies like Revolut have upped the ante for the whole industry, with global giants scrambling to create services that match those of upstart firms.
However, one thing to remember is that if you go mobile-only, rather than mobile-first, it’s putting a huge amount of pressure onto your app.
Listen to what your customers are telling you in the data you can collect.
How do they want to interact with you? Logic and current trends would say an app – but are you sure?
Success often lies in counter-intuitive calls on what channels the public wants for a service – and if you’re entering a space where your app is not best-in-class, you may be allowing your ambition to get the better of you.
6. Personalise your service
No two of your customers will have identical needs, and they won’t like being treated like they do.
Every time your users interact with your service, you should be gathering information that will add to and improve their next experience with your brand.
Whether it’s in marketing – don’t forget customer relationship management (CRM) as well – or in tweaking interfaces to highlight a user’s preferred service, your interface should be flexible and responsive.
Let your users tell you how they want to use your service, but also let them make their own decisions as well.
Let them tweak your UX. Let them focus in on services that are not your ‘rock stars’, but that are core to their everyday needs. Let them cut away anything they find unnecessary.
Also, whether its product recommendations, upselling or sharing insights, remember that all your communications should be targeting an individual, not a segment.
There are tools available to achieve this. Use them. And be sure you’re GDPR compliant.
7. Do the work for your clients
You can lose customers as easily as you can gain them – never take them for granted.
So, you shouldn’t ask your users to do any more work than they absolutely have to.
You need to pay close attention to how many clicks they have to make, how many decisions are needed, and how much interpreting they have to do on any information you provide them.
If your customers are clicking through page after page of irrelevant information, they’ll quickly tire of your service.
Similarly, if they’re presented with a complex data set that’s up to them to interpret and digest, you should think about how you can better present it so they don’t need to waste their own time doing it.
Customers are acutely aware when a service is making them do more work than they have to – and they are seldom grateful.
8. Be original!
Your customers are smart. They may not remember a time before the internet and so are not impressed by all its bells and whistles, and they don’t owe you their love, attention or money.
They’ll also see it a mile away if you copy a successful existing UX.
There is always room for inspiration and building on what has come before – but if you’re either unable or unwilling to take things forward, it may be time for a rethink.
This isn’t just a matter of taste.
Many, many big banks have brought digital services to market that have been constrained by the complexities inherent in building a banking service reliant on the technical capacities of earlier generations of provision.
This issue usually ends up with UX designers having their hands tied by the needs of the outdated back-end tech that the customer won’t even see.
Even if you’re looking to build new features to complement existing services, a whole host of infrastructural FinTechs – including Modulr – exist to do the technological heavy lifting for you.
But this also comes with a warning. Customers expect a certain journey or experience to an app or service no matter what it is. A well designed UX will enhance customer delight around the core, necessary features.
For instance, a customer expects the following journey when making a bank transfer: Select account (if more than one) -> Input payment amount -> add payee details -> Select date/asap -> authenticate -> receive conﬁrmation of payment sent.
A poor UX would leave the customer stranded on the conﬁrmation page. Why not link back to another payment or point them in the direction of your budgeting feature?
Always pay close attention to the Human Interface Guidelines.
If we look at markets in Asia, they have tended towards a single ‘super-app’ like WeChat where users essentially live their whole lives via a single app.
It would be insanely ambitious to want to build the Western WeChat from the ground up – or would it? – but the trajectory towards consolidation is one that you should be thinking about even now.
Think long-term: how might your UX integrate into a wider ecosystem – or incorporate other services into itself?
10. Test, iterate, evolve
Your fancy new banking app is ready for people to download – time to put your feet up, right?
This is the most important stage of all: letting your MVP out into the wild and seeing what both it and its users teach you. What’s working? What’s not? What’s smooth? What’s a friction point?
It’s impossible to anticipate every angle, and you should be constantly monitoring how your users are using your app. Experiment, take risks, change things – you have all the ﬂexibility of a digital platform at your disposal. You should use it!
Key CX/UX to-do takeaway
• Always put your users’ needs ﬁrst. Minimise the work they have to do.
• Keep the copy, design and user journey as simple as possible.
• Use data eﬀectively and always be transparent about why you need it.
• Use artiﬁcial intelligence to enhance your services.
• Go mobile-only but only if it’s right for your customers.
• Tread the line between originality and reinventing the wheel. Customers do expect certain journeys. Your job is to enhance those experiences, not reinvent them.
• Plan for the future, and always experiment.
In summary, when looking at customer experience in the digital age, your users, and their experience, should be at the heart of everything you do. Start with their needs in mind, commit to serving them effectively, and you’ll have a banking proposition that stands out in any market.
Want to learn more?
Whether you’re building a bank from scratch, enhancing existing services or supercharging new features, we’ve channelled our collective experience as the payments platform that powers the likes of Revolut, Mode Banking and Sage, to put together an indispensable, step-by-step guide to building a better bank to help you navigate through one of the most demanding business challenges there is. You've already read the first chapter on UX!