The Biggest Mistakes Financial Institutions Make Launching Tech Products

Decisions about new tech solutions too often end up with the institution telling the customer: 'Here's what we have for you.' That's because banks and credit unions begin by partnering with a fintech or tech vendor before they've uncovered what customers actually want, and how employees will react.

For banks and credit unions that recognize the futility of trying to avoid dealing with the technology-driven changes taking place in the industry the biggest challenge may not be deciding to embrace a fintech partner, but how the partnership starts. Fear of being left behind is a weak foundation on which to build a relationship. In some cases, this element may drive conversations with a fintech (or any new technology partner) before you’ve spoken with the stakeholder that matters most: the consumer.

No one can deny that fintechs have developed many fabulous new products. And there is no doubt the stuff is cool. But do customers — your customers in particular — really want it, or will it “successfully” launch but never get any traction?

That’s the risk of jumping at the ‘next big thing’ without setting the proper foundation of a partnership — not the tech partnership, but your partnership with two key stakeholders: consumers and employees.

So often, conversations in banking take place in a way that talks at the customer because they start at the top and then come down in a ‘here’s what we have for you’ fashion. Instead of jumping on something a senior executive saw at a virtual conference, and then doing a competitive analysis or a board presentation, the conversation of what the next tech should be must begin with your customers. Doing that will cost you next to nothing compared to deploying technology no one wants or understands.

Does Your Perception Match Theirs?

Marketing needs to understand how your customers perceive your institution and what they want. For example, you may feel that the institution is way behind the times, but your customers might think that you offer everything they need. I’ve seen the reverse as well, where a financial institution is loaded with advanced technology, but their customers don’t know about it — or worse, don’t care.

The only way to understand the true perspective of your customers is by reaching out to them. Banks and credit unions have a wealth of customer information at their fingertips, but honestly one of the most helpful pieces of information is quite simple — a customer’s email address.

Traditionally, banks and credit unions have used email to sell to their customers, brag about their commercial prowess, or even tell them what their favorite chili recipe is. Instead, email can provide an excellent avenue for creating an engaged customer and getting much-needed feedback to help you make informed decisions.

To understand how customers perceive you, ask about how well your current tech solutions perform: your website, mobile banking, online account opening, mobile deposit — even ATMs. Then ask them where they would like to see improvements. Now, you’ll have the groundwork to make the right decision about how to proceed.

Armed with Consumer Feedback, Find Your Partner

The next step is finding a technology partner to help you serve your customers with the tools they really want. You may start with your core provider, but you should also consider the many fintechs outside of your core who provide an excellent variety of services. One of the great things about fintechs is that there are a lots of them.

Naturally all vendors will share positive references with you, but you need to know how things went, both good and bad, before proceeding. So once you talk to a few potential partners, have a conversation with your peers about their experiences.

Once you’ve made a decision, the real work begins.

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The One Element Too Often Missing

Technology is useless if your team members don’t understand it and don’t use it. About seven years ago, the bank I worked for was looking to deploy image deposit ATMs. Our brand was firmly positioned as a community bank that was big enough to offer big-bank tech. The new ATMs supported that, and we needed to make a splash.

You might be surprised that our ‘big splash’ included absolutely zero dollars for marketing.

Instead, we hit the front lines. Our marketing team went branch to branch and spent several days addressing team members’ fears about an ATM replacing them. We also demonstrated how the technology worked and made sure everyone was comfortable enough using it to confidently guide customers through the new features. We even set up an internal competition for most success in migrating check deposits to the new ATM.

Each month we had meetings to discuss what was going on, help team members address objections, and move forward. Was it perfect? No, but our team members were empowered. They bought into the tech and understood it in and out, so when they talked about it, they were passionate about how it could help customers. Branch team members saw the benefits of the technology because they were able to focus on conversations instead of transactions.

And the customers loved it, too. Migration rates moved from about 2% to over 16% in less than six months. And just a year after deployment, we hit over 20% migration, with some branches at nearly 30%.

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There Is No Grand Finale

Once your great new tech product is launched, there is no grand finale. The process can’t end when tech is deployed; in fact, that is just the beginning of the conversation. Post-deployment is the time to talk with customers about the technology they asked for. You may think you delivered them the best option, but do they agree?

This communication serves two purposes. First, you’ll be able to see how you performed in your customers’ minds, and, more importantly, you’ll show them you value their opinion. The data you obtain will also help your institution evaluate the return on its investment in that particular technology.

When we talk with our customers first something amazing happens: We create a partnership. And it’s only in this way that we can ensure we are meeting their needs and accomplishing our mission of helping them achieve their financial goals.

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