What do a Chevy Camaro and Online Banking Have in Common?

Aug 31st, 2010 | Posted by
Bookmark and Share

On a recent business trip to Atlanta, I arrived at the rental car lot and there were almost no cars to choose from. I use National’s Emerald Aisle service and the manager kindly pointed me to a brand new Chevy Camaro parked off to the side. It’s not my kind of car, but I figured it would be entertaining to try it out, and I was drawn to its bold exterior styling. I drove the thing around for a couple of days and I concluded that I really disliked it. The Camaro’s engine was impressive and it zipped me along (as much as you can zip around in Atlanta traffic) with little effort. However, I couldn’t relate to the car once I was sitting inside:

- The front and rear windshields were raked in a way that reduced visibility
- The pillar on the driver’s side just behind the seat belt introduced a mighty large blind spot
- The radio controls were awkward – e.g. the buttons to scan radio stations were in the middle of all the radio buttons, making them very hard to find while driving
- The steering wheel had the same look, grip, and feel as a Chevy truck

I could go on, but I think you get the point. The entire experience got me thinking about how online banking is in a similar state. Under the hood, banks have pretty powerful systems that can process loads of transactions and scale to thousands of users. Many bank web sites have been redesigned to be visually appealing. However, once users are logged into online banking they are faced with a customer experience mess.

You can’t put lipstick on a pig.

Whether it’s a car or online banking, firms need to pay more attention to how users interact with a system and emphasize the user experience. This is achieved by engaging usability experts, human factors engineers, and of course, hands-on research with customers. There are many ways to approach this, and I invite you to view a previous blog entry, Can banks increase online banking use by “making it fun to do?” in order to get you thinking about what this means.

What do you all think? How can banks improve the online banking experience?

  1. jwdew
    Aug 31st, 2010 at 13:50
    Reply | Quote | #1

    By making it easy and relevant. So skip eveerything that is non-relevant and make it take just a few steps.

    j de waard

  2. Kenneth Kunin
    Aug 31st, 2010 at 13:51
    Reply | Quote | #2

    They can start by reducing the obnoxious fees they charge for doing simple everyday transactions that you would expect your bank to offer for free, while at the same time not making it terribly obvious what costs money and what doesn’t. The fee schedule is often buried on the bank’s Web site some 20 pages deep. I’m always afraid to use my bank’s portal for anything I don’t absolutely need to do, primarily out of fear they’re going to charge me some ridiculous fee.

    It also wouldn’t hurt if they were to offer real straight-through services, rather than having every online process for non-routine transactions end in the ubiquitous “we’ll get back to you” message, which often takes days.

    Banks can also learn to integrate their own services better. I have 4 bank accounts, and that’s not counting my brokerage accounts at the same bank, each for a different purpose. Some offer higher interest, some offer chequing, some let you hold non-cash instruments. Why? Stop making me open new accounts every time I want to do something different. Another example is transfering money between one’s bank and one’s brokerage account, when they’re different subsidiaries of the same institution (the very reason I keep my money at that institution). It should be seamless, and should happen instantly. I shouldn’t have to see my bank account debited on Monday only to have the same amount credited to my brokerage account on Tuesday. If I wanted to wait a day, I’d use a fax machine.

    Bottom line: Banks have done a good job of letting their customers perform routine transactions online, providing convenience to customers while reducing costs internally (for the same fees, no less). But what they need to do now is move their business processes online. They haven’t really done that very well so far. The Web has been treated as a mere interface to the bank, but in order to move to the next level, the bank has to interface with the Web.

  3. Bryan Clagett
    Aug 31st, 2010 at 17:47
    Reply | Quote | #3

    Experience and engagement are two critical words FIs need to become accustomed to using when developing their online banking strategy. Like with the Camaro, there seemingly is a lack of ergonomics considered in the design. A good online banking platform can not be deployed at the drop of a time. It takes time and understanding of how users will engage the platform and what the FI hopes to get from it. Clearly, it is time to think beyond the transaction.

  4. Jacob Jegher
    Sep 1st, 2010 at 07:42
    Reply | Quote | #4

    These are great comments guys, thank you.

    j de waard – You are spot on with regards to relevancy and ease of navigation. It’s not an easy thing to do however with the plethora of features available. It is possible however and requires a different approach focused on what features/functions the customer actually uses.

    Kenneth – all fantastic points. Processes have to be fixed behind the scenes prior to slapping on a new skin to the front end. There is not enough emphasis on this and the siloed nature of banks makes this extremely difficult. At the end of the day it’s not about technology, it’s about trying to solve the issues the customer is experiencing. I may quote you on, “The Web has been treated as a mere interface to the bank, but in order to move to the next level, the bank has to interface with the Web.”

    Bryan – You are correct, experience and engagement are not being emphasized enough. It is time to think beyond the transaction. However, a properly designed online banking solution can increase adoption, transaction volume, etc. It is still however a difficult sell to banks as they are so accustomed to the old school approach.

  5. Bryan Clagett
    Sep 1st, 2010 at 12:24
    Reply | Quote | #5

    Thanks Jacob. Perhaps we need to share this kind of thinking with our industry friends. http://www.sapient.com/engagementbanking/

  6. Dan Boylett
    Sep 2nd, 2010 at 04:11
    Reply | Quote | #6

    I was just wondering whether you are highlighting US banks only, US and European? The reason I ask is that using UK online consumer banking services (Amex, Natwest, Halifax, HSBC) I actually don’t have too many gripes – services I need, done quickly without too much fuss.

    Natwest’s iPhone app left me utterly cold, however their online banking is very good in my view.

    So, can you be a bit more specific on whether it’s all online banking, or just US-based?

  7. Jacob Jegher
    Sep 2nd, 2010 at 06:14
    Reply | Quote | #7

    Dan, thanks for your input. Many of the UK and European online banking services are plagued by the same issues. However, some have done a decent job of simplifying workflows and improving the user experience. This is particularly true of those that have placed PFM/OFM within online banking (e.g. ING in the Netherlands, BBVA, etc.). Otherwise, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

  8. Carmen Crutchfield
    Sep 9th, 2010 at 06:17
    Reply | Quote | #8

    I agree some of the European banks have done a decent job simplifying workflows for end-users but is it too simple and are they missing the opportunity to provide their customers with relevant information that would help a customer better manage their finances? For those banks who are not offering some sort of PFM/OFM capabilities I have found there is a lack of control over your finances and no view on future activities. Though there may be a list of my Direct Debits on one page and a list of my Standing Orders on another page, there is no place where this information is presented to me in one single place and definitely not something I can choose to have presented to me, the way I want it presented like I have information presented to me in iGoogle.

    To the point Kenneth made above “one size” or “one presentation” of online banking does not fit all. Financial Institutions need to give some of the control back to the customer to decide what financial information is relevant and important for them to see, to enable them to respond quickly and easily in order to better manage their finances. I believe this type enablement will provide many bank customers with some of the transparency they feel they are missing and reestablish some of the trust lost between banks and their customers over the past several years.

  9. Jacob Jegher
    Sep 13th, 2010 at 06:46
    Reply | Quote | #9

    Great comments Carmen. Yes, more control is absolutely required. I think it’s more about the consumer getting a handle on his/her own finances as opposed to reestablishing trust between the consumer and the bank.