First impressions count: bank onboarding customer experience

November 11th, 2019 by Azur Digital

Documents printed – Check.
ID – Check.
Paper application form complete – Check.
Arriving at the branch to be told you’re missing a document – Check.
Another lunch hour used up – Check.

As defined by Forrester, customer experience is “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”  Therefore, when great effort has been placed on attracting new customers, it is of paramount importance to ensure the onboarding journey is seamless to succeed in creating a positive and lasting impression.

Moreover, customers are now comparing their experiences with digital leaders from other industries. No industry has been immune to customers ever-rising expectations, which includes the banking industry.

This article aims to uncover what has expedited customer experience expectations in banking and how banks can respond, with a focus on the customer onboarding journey.

New players have propelled banks to focus on improving customer experience

Two players are shaping customer experiences in banking today: challenger banks and leading technology brands.

Challenger banks have been created by bankers, they’ve been able to create seamless customer journeys whilst avoiding the high operating costs that come with traditional banks, branch networks and legacy systems.

By contrast, GAFA (Google Amazon Facebook Apple) are elevating day-to-day customer experiences, they are customer-centric, data-driven companies by essence.

Traditional banks would benefit from embracing these players. There is an opportunity for them to evolve their customer experiences, learn from innovation introduced and how to better position themselves in their customers’ lives. 

Challenger banks, the digital-native banks

Challenger banks, or neo-banks, are “A new breed of technology-driven and customer-centric financial institutions”, as defined by Burnmark research. The aftermath of the recession drastically reduced customer trust in traditional banks, coupled with rising customer expectations. This created the perfect opportunity for challenger banks to enter the market.

Since these banks aren’t burdened by legacy systems and cumbersome organisational structures, they can more easily disrupt the status quo, focusing their resources on delivering seamless digital customer experiences. Challenger banks put their emphasis on their digital channels, which in some cases is only mobile. By comparison, traditional banks must compose with digital, branch and phone banking channels, and need to think about the customer onboarding journey from an omnichannel perspective.

Challenger banks are delivering frictionless onboarding journeys by leveraging technology. The high number of customer acquisition proves the success of their formula, as more and more customers gravitate towards apps that bring convenience to their lifestyle.

Since these challenger banks have put a lot of effort to acquire new customers at a rapid pace, there is no doubt they are also focusing efforts to convince customers to walk away from their primary bank. Sooner or later salaries will get paid into their accounts and this will ultimately impact traditional banks customer attrition rates.

GAFA, the customer-centricity excellence

GAFA have become the gold standard for customer experience. If any consumer can simply buy an Apple TV, plug it into any TV, register and begin watching their favourite TV shows, surely it should be as simple for banks?

GAFA have invested tremendous effort into understanding their customers by developing customer centricity at the core of their ways of designing products. They understand their customers better than their competitors, thanks to the huge amount of behavioural data they collect and process.

The truth is that banks need to consider a few more factors such as KYC in their onboarding journey. However, these shouldn’t be viewed as blockers to delivering a seamless journey if designed with the customer in mind.

Because opening a bank account requires several steps and documents, retrieving and checking different sources of information (Passport number, Social security number, security codes, proof of address, etc.) customers are expecting the ability to start any step of the onboarding journey in any location, on any device and resume it on another. For example, they could start their application from their desktop at work during lunch and finish on their mobile at home that evening. Again, we must remember they are expecting that opening a bank account should be as intuitive as buying a book from Amazon.

Banks also store a lot of consumer data. They have the opportunity to leverage the technologies that GAFA customers have become accustomed to. For example, pre-populated forms.

Personalisation is omnipresent in the services provided by these leading technology brands too. Amazon excel at products suggestions, Apple at personalised playlists on Apple Music. Customers are expecting similar levels of experience from their banks. After all, banks hold a wealth of data on their customers, data to allow them to offer personalised experiences based on customers life stage and spending habits.

How can traditional banks deliver on customer experience expectations

Think back to the story told at the beginning of this article, a process involving paper forms, manual compliance checks and in-person identification checks. From a customer point of view, this is a siloed journey where they could only complete some onboarding steps in one channel – the branch. There are digital capabilities banks can avail of to improve the omnichannel onboarding experience for customers, a journey that can be orchestrated across channels. Here are a few of those: 

Omnichannel save and resume

Provides customers with the ability to save an in-progress application and resume later. This is key to enabling a true omnichannel experience, for example, a customer starts an application in the branch and does not have required documentation on their person, but can resume and complete later from their mobile at home.

Pre-populating forms

Remove the pain-point for customers filling out the required information, by leveraging digital capabilities available such as Google Autofill. Pre-populating this data for customers results in a simpler, quicker, and better customer experience.

Digital KYC process

Provides customers with the ability to scan their ID from their mobile, upload required documents and provide remote ID verification. Gathering necessary information and conducting identity checks is vital for banks to comply with KYC regulations. 

Investing in these digital functionalities is a part of delivering great customer experiences. Successful banks also design and build their digital platforms to deliver seamless omnichannel journeys, avoiding fragmented experiences. Capabilities should work in unison across all channels from branch to phone to digital.

Great customer experience: finding the balance between useful functionality and excellent user experience

At Azur Digital, we start outside in. We put the customer at the centre of the design process. We design customer journeys with customer personas in mind, to ensure the experience is differentiated, accurate and purposeful and not designed on inadequate perceptions. This is critical for attracting, engaging and retaining customers.

Creating great experiences

Good UX design considers the low-level details ensuring that customer frustrations are avoided. For example, it is good practice to ensure users can identify what exactly certain icons mean – instead of assuming. Key features, call to actions and information require they stay above the fold most of the time. And messaging has to be easy to understand by the target audience.

Going to this level of UX design detail will result in intuitive and seamless interactions throughout the journey, and help achieve a positive impact on business KPIs such as the average time to onboard and number of clicks to completion.

Design is the silent ambassador of your brand

Would a customer trust a bank website that looks like a generic product with a logo? How many time did someone walk away from a poorly designed payment gateway page? A bank brand image is important and the look and feel across channels should feel consistent for customers. Banks with a well-implemented brand image will earn customers’ trust, and increase their brand equity.

Improve the product experience 

Successful businesses continuously learn and optimise. They understand where a customer is having challenges in their journey. They know at what stage their customers are running into difficulty, improving on it will provide a better experience for your customer and drive up conversion rates.

To conclude

A move from a lengthy, paper-based and inconvenient process to a seamless and truly omnichannel experience is not an easy task, especially as consumer expectations continue to evolve. In a nutshell, customer-centric banks place emphasis on the below:

  1. Push a customer-first agenda within the organisation
  2. Know who the products are designed for
  3. Put the customer at the centre of the design process
  4. Invest in digital onboarding capabilities to support the omnichannel customer journey
  5. Ensure look and feel across channels is consistent for customers
  6. Continuously optimise and improve

Customer experience leaders grow revenue faster than CX laggards, drive higher brand preference, and can charge more for their products.

Forrester, 2018

By applying the above considerations, banks can create a seamless account opening experience for their customer, which is essential to ensure a positive first impression is made and to set the tone for a fruitful relationship going forward.