In Customer Experience

iStock_000021269605SmallBanking is becoming digital. Just as bank branches need to look good and provide great customer service to instill consumer trust, bank apps need to look good on mobile devices and provide a great user experience. Does your app represent your brand? Will your customers want to share it with their friends? The standard for digital usability is very high and rising quickly. How can banks create a digital experience that lives up to consumer expectations?

It is common for banks to assume they can build mobile apps in-house, and there is no shortage of developers who would rather be working on mobile apps than core systems. But please beware. Just like in the early days of Web development, many institutions are still trying to scrape by with internal resources to build the digital version of their bank. Unfortunately, consumer expectations of mobile apps have already passed that point. Not only are their expectations of usability very high, but consumers have one hundred ways to share their displeasure.

A quick search of mobile apps from national retail banks reveals many grumpy customers who can dramatically hurt mobile adoption rates and an app’s reputation by placing negative reviews. It is worth noting that many of their complaints are about narrow usability issues, like the dimensions of the check you can deposit remotely. Apps with major shortcomings are quickly rejected by consumers. But, the smallest of issues can have a big impact on the bottom line. Remember the musician whose guitar was damaged by United Airlines and they refused to refund the repair cost? One unhappy consumer can easily impact thousands, and potentially millions, of consumers.

It is critical to make your decision on whether to build, buy, or partner carefully. You should make this decision based on your core competencies. If you chose to proceed in-house, be prepared to make a significant investment to get it right. For example, Capital One hired Dan Makoski, the noted designer behind Google’s smartphone project. He was also involved in Microsoft’s original Surface touch-screen tabletop. Not every bank will need to hire at that level, but keep in mind that your competitors have digital experts helping them get things right. Your consumers will expect the quality of digital experience that Capital One is providing.

If you decide to buy a solution, the due diligence can be just as challenging. The most established companies providing mobile banking capabilities offer little in the way of the differentiated experience. Leading developers from other industries lack a sufficient understanding of banking and regulatory requirements to safely and quickly deliver. Among those FinTech providers that offer outstanding user experiences, more than a few lack the expertise to support the complex backend systems required to manage credit and fraud risk. It is for these reasons that so many mobile account opening and banking apps fall short of consumer expectations. It is actually remarkably difficult to seamlessly combine an elegant user experience with a reliable real-time infrastructure.

And finally, there is the option of partnering to provide a richer, long term solution. This approach may hold the greatest potential and yet, it is still fraught with risk. Unless you approach your partnerships strategically, thinking carefully about how they fit into your business strategy, you still may miss your objectives. Recognize how each partner will fit into your value chain and invest in the relationship accordingly. The value of their capability may be a much better measure of their importance than the size of your contract. We’ve seen many of our clients acquire technologies through a procurement process that saves money at the expense of the business strategy. It’s critical that these partnerships, and the underlying products, are managed as aggressively as they would be if they had been developed in-house.

Regardless of the direction your bank takes, ensure that you are protecting your brand with a great digital experience. Not only will failures be remembered, but successes will be rewarded by customers who share their enthusiasm for your accomplishment. You can take advantage of this new desire to share by creating apps that live up to consumer expectations. Will your bank be creating a cutting edge digital experience?

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