The rise of the internet has reshaped business: technology and design are the new central platforms on which customer service stands or falls.

“Bank has become a verb not a noun,” says Capgemini banking and financial services practice leader Philip Gomm. “It’s no longer a place to transact: we bank in our pocket.”

While the connected nature of the internet, driven by the popularity of smartphones, has created a new business opportunity, it has also presented a major challenge for banks.

While they traditionally exude strength and stability, they have also struggled to deliver intuitive and emotionally engaging customer experiences, leaving the door ajar for a new wave of agile fintech start-ups.
Effective digital design extends well beyond aesthetics
“There isn’t a single bank that isn’t investing in design-driven experience and design-driven outcomes,” says Deloitte customer practice leader, consulting, Jenny Wilson. “They’re all very aware of the trust relationship that was theirs to own, and is now potentially tenuous and up for grabs.”

Good customer service is wrapped in digital design

Digital now dominates everyday banking.

In fact, 20 percent of bank customers have become digital-only users, according to the 2015 Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Research study, which surveyed 23,600 customers in 33 countries. The trend shows no signs of slowing – the study estimates that consumers aged between 18 and 34 are two to three times more likely than consumers aged over 55 to want more digital interactions than companies currently support.
“The role of design is becoming even more critical as we step towards a far more automated, machine-driven digital experience,” Wilson says.

Effective digital design extends well beyond aesthetics: it intuitively guides customers towards their goal and, in some cases, makes it seamless.

“We are moving towards invisible payments and anyone who has used Uber will understand: the final step in terms of payment is completed seamlessly and automatically,” Gomm says.

The payments landscape has attracted significant fintech players using intuitive customer design as a selling point, including the high profile Square led by Twitter’s Jack Dorsey. It began offering its Reader device, which allows merchants to accept credit cards using smartphones and tablets, to Australian businesses in March.
But the incumbents are fighting back.

ANZ became the first major Australian bank to partner with Apple Pay in April, while the Commonwealth Bank’s Albert point-of-sale terminal, which allows customers to easily split bills via multiple payment methods from anywhere in store, has been well received since launching last year.

Challenges remain

Banks have significant data about customers and distribution power, but they are also constrained by stringent regulations, legacy IT systems, technology silos, and larger bureaucracies.

A cultural change is underway shifting from a product-centric approach to one centred on customer acquisition and retention and customer experience, Wilson says.
Prescriptive analytics will guide customers to the next decision
“There are always short-term versus long-term trade-offs around selling the next product, or going on a journey with the customer, where the second, third and fourth interaction may have nothing to do with selling the next offer.”

Banks are now looking at specific customer segments such as millennials or pre-retirees and designing with collective teams. “They don’t just think about the mortgage, they think about the end-to-end home experience,” Wilson says.

It is a significant challenge given many banks operate multiple IT systems, which can require customers to enter the same information multiple times when dealing with the same institution, compared to smaller fintechs with fully integrated technology stacks. 

The inherent complexity surrounding many financial services is another potential barrier to creating seamless digital interactions.

“When you think about financial literacy and educating customers around the type of decisions they should be making, you might need to make them pause and think,” she says. “Prescriptive analytics will guide customers to the next decision – you need to create the design so that customers can absorb the new information, understand it and then feel empowered to do something with it.”

The current complexity is often bolstered by consumer protection laws, which place particular limits on incumbents such as banks. Fintechs typically pinpoint one customer area, and potentially have greater operational scope given the government’s push for ‘regulatory sandboxes’ to foster innovation.

Gomm says it is a challenge.

“It can make the design processes seem very convoluted in comparison to organisations which don't have that same regulatory overlay but in the long run I'm in favour of the model that protects the end consumer.”
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