The key underlying issue found from the research was the measurable gap between the inconsistent online experience banks offer and the personal trust that customers maintain with their local branch banker.
The study assessed customer effort and cross-channel customer experience in a group of major consumer banking institutions. In addition to in-depth analysis of the banks’ digital channel such as public sites, online banking, mobile and contact center assistance, the researchers visited more than 40 different branches in various, geographically dispersed locations. In that process, hundreds of bank customers were approached about their expectations, frustrations, and desires for easier online banking interactions.
While a broad range of factors and variables impacting customer experience were noted, there was a common thread among all of the online banking platforms: a string of barriers to customer adoption. What was captured from customers directly was that they were struggling with online banking platforms and are frustrated with banks’ slow response to make them simpler to use.
Some of the primary problems customers encountered included online banking use and navigation are hampered by poor design and confusing structure, minimal onboarding and support for new online banking users, confusing or missing online help tools such as FAQs, chat and in-line help, contact center and branch staff hampered by a lack of access to tools and training on online banking platforms, and software updates to platforms were being made without proper customer communication and preparation.
When designing an online banking experience for customers, financial institutions face a number of in-house and external obstacles to success; some more easily tackled than others.
First, banks need to take the time to design, implement, and maintain the online banking platform as part of a customer experience ecosystem that is fully connected across the bank. Online banking cannot live in seclusion from your other channels. Customers need to feel the same trust online as they do in the branch.
For example, poorly implemented interactive voice response systems are a common source of high user effort, causing more customer frustration. Many of the banks that were evaluated struggled to have these interact seamlessly with their online banking platforms. If a customer has a question about online banking, they’ll likely pick up the phone and call the contact center. However in most cases, the contact centers and the online banking support was dealt with by completely different, and often disconnected teams.
Online banking platforms frequently add to customer effort by encouraging unneeded calls instead of facilitating simple, contextual in-line self-service such as searchable FAQs or live chat. Providing a properly trained contact center, available 24-7 or a secure, real-time online chat can remedy these issues.
Periodic updates and navigational changes to the online banking platform are often sold as improving usability. Unfortunately for customers, they are often the last to know. The common user response that was heard to these sudden switches was, “Don’t just tell me something has changed. Lead me through the changes.”
So what’s the fix? Customer experience success typically corresponds with the level of internal, customer-focused collaboration within a bank. Whether structured as a formal CX governance program or simply as informal cross-team collaboration, the banking teams with these relationships in place were uniformly better at delivering an exceptional customer experience.
This extends to banks’ third party partners too. Vendors and partner contracts should include clear requirements and service level agreements for customer experience that are in-sync with the bank’s CX strategy, from meeting UX design best practices and incorporating flexible user interface design features, to closer integration between public facing sites, mobile channels, and online banking.
Banks need to put forth more effort to bridge their in-branch services with online banking and self-service channels. Customers value the in-person experience and trust the relationship with their banker. If the branch team can onboard new customers and handle questions with confidence, customers will follow their lead. Banks also need to ensure that contact center teams work in close collaboration with the branch, online banking and IT teams to collect and learn from customer feedback, questions, and recurring issues.
For banks looking to bring an end to customer online banking frustration, the simple answer is communication. Establishing an internal, open dialogue across each of the organization’s channels and key stakeholders is the first step to setting and achieving the CX goals. Offering an equal amount of transparency to customers will make for a much more comfortable, honest relationship.
Online banking has been a point of contention for many customers for long enough. Making some intuitive operational changes could be enough to pay dividends in customer experience.
This article is based on the original research and writing of Brian Clark, who is a principal in the customer experience practice at West Monroe Partners.