banking simplicity
By Brad Powell

A little more than a year ago, I wrote a post that recappped key mobile banking trends for 2015. As 2017 kicks off, several of those trends are continuing to grow in importance, with one in particular standing out: The need for banks to learn from their technology sector counterparts when it comes to customer experience.

Technology has made our lives easier in many ways, of course, but there’s no denying it also has made things more complex. The overall “customer experience” of modern life can be taxing.

Think about the number of passwords you manage. Your bulging email inbox (according to one report, the average office worker receives 121 work emails per day). The fact that it’s so easy for others to contact you, sell to you, and generally insert themselves into your life.

That’s why more and more technology companies are embracing simplicity when it comes to customer experience. It’s an approach banks and credit unions would be smart to mimic.

Jeffrey Pilcher of The Financial Brand recently made the case for simplicity in digital banking, referencing Boston Consulting’s research on “The Bionic Bank” in the process. Pilcher has written a smart piece, and it doesn’t sugarcoat the challenge:

"Unfortunately, making banking easy isn’t easy. It’s an exceeding complex and potentially painful process to transform a legacy institution into a truly digital competitor — one where the experience feels intuitive, simple and seamless from the consumer’s perspective. BCG says most banking providers today have a long way to go to overcome the sources of friction that presently degrade their customer experience."

(This in-depth report from the Wharton School provides additional detail about the challenges of simplifying banking.)

The fact that simplicity is a challenge shouldn’t dissuade banks and credit unions from trying, of course. Where should they start? Here are four steps that can help get them on their way:

1. Figure Out What Problem You Are Trying to Solve

It’s not uncommon for discussions about a business project or deal to start with talk of solutions.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the parties involved often miss important questions when they focus on revenue-producing solutions.

Instead of solutions, start by thinking about the problems you’re trying to solve. For instance, a bank considering adding mobile options might ask if it’s trying to stem revenue erosion, cater to new customers or responding to customer feedback.

Everything needs to be rooted in the answers to these questions, or else you risk building a solution no one asked for.

(For more on the value of asking questions before moving to solutions, read this post on 99U.)

2. Align Priorities Across the Organization

There’s documented research from MIT’s Sloan School of Management that most companies (including banks) struggle with priority alignment and management.

This typically happens when different parts of an organization are working in silos and functional expertise is overvalued. That environment can hinder a project that has a wide scope, as most mobile banking projects do.

So you’ll need to bring all the stakeholders to the table: IT, senior management, customer service, marketing/sales, account management, and, ideally, even some existing customers. Their input will help you make good decisions on objectives and priorities.

3. Focus on Interface and User Experience

We’ve all visited hundreds, if not thousands, of websites in our lives. We know that when we see cluttered, ugly ones ... we navigate away.

It’s the same with mobile apps. Much research from the past 10 years has shown that the most important factor in gaining wide technological adoption is creating a simple interface that makes it easy for the user to figure out how to do what they need to do.

No one wants to dig around a banking app to figure out how to deposit a check or find a phone number to call someone about a specific issue. Keep it simple.

4. Root Everything in Analytics

It’s one of the advantages of the digital world: We have so much more data now. Banks and credit unions need to use it when creating a new product and updating it after it has hit the market.

Analytics data can show you what customers are actually doing online or in your app. If large numbers of users are looking for home financing information, move that to the front of the app and onto the homepage of the website. Analytics should drive decision-making and action; otherwise you’re just capturing data with no end game.

Those four steps should create a foundation for a move into a more digital — and simpler — future for banks, credit unions and their customers. Would you add anything to the list? Let me know on social media: @Axiaware on Twitter


Compliance and Your Credit Union

Does your credit union:

• Face an daunting burden of regulatory requests?
• Struggle to manage the multiple experts inside and outside your organization who must respond to exam requests?
• Use email for regulatory communication -- possibly opening yourself to legal discovery?
• Receive the same request more than once but provide a different answer each time?

If these challenges sound familiar, Axiaware's new credit union compliance software product, Redboard, could help.

Learn More About Redboard