The importance of user-experience as a real differentiator

When the iPad first came out, the reaction was decidedly mixed. In fact, there was a big, collective head-scratch as people asked: "What's it for? Isn't it just a big iPod? Will it replace netbooks? Laptops? Mobile phones? None of the above?"

A year later, what the iPad is about is pretty clear: it's the user experience, stupid.

Financial institutions, particularly credit unions and community banks, have always striven to differentiate themselves through superior customer service. Well, in the new era of the iPad, the terms "customer service" and "user experience" are increasingly synonymous.

Customers like the service they get with community banks. But those same customers increasingly expect top-quality service via more than simply a telephone call, more even than what you can get through a great website. Great customer service in today's world requires all of the above.

Forrester Research estimates 24.1 million tablets will be sold in 2011 – and fully one fourth of all iPad users are expected to be over 55. Everyone will increasingly turn to apps on their tablets to do their banking.

Why? The user experience.

Frankly, it's a move we should have expected from Apple. After all, it's not like the iPhone makes clearer calls than other smartphones; Apple's laptops aren't smaller or quicker; its software doesn't have more features.

No, the reason Apple has sold over 15 million iPads is pretty simple: the iPad revolutionized the user experience.

Take filling out a loan application, for example. It can be a tedious experience. Few people in their right mind actually enjoy doing it on the computer, much less in person. And try scrolling through a 14-page document with all the requisite forms and info requests on your smartphone. Sorry, not going to happen.

The tablet, in contrast, has the potential to dramatically improve that experience. User interfaces that currently exist online can be transferred to a device like the iPad with relative ease.

And if you don't think the improvement in user experience is revolutionary - well, then you probably haven't spent enough time kicking back on your sofa with your iPad. Over 15 million users have already made the jump, and Gartner estimates the total tablet market will be 208 million by 2014. Now is not the time to be left behind.