The CX Imperative: Why You Need a Customer Experience Blueprint Now

When it comes to the customer experience, most banks and credit unions are playing catch-up. To avoid some common CX pitfalls and disconnects, you've got to ask the right questions.

What consumers expect of their bank or credit union is changing and doing so at a breakneck pace, leaving many financial industry execs struggling with how they can meet and keep up with people’s list of new demands.

The good news? The fundamental ROI of CX is pretty clear: strong relationships driven by consistently reliable and rewarding experiences have always paid dividends.

But the question is, how can banking providers ever dream to accomplish this when the majority of today’s online banking experiences are rooted in legacy, paper-based processes?

Craig McLaughlin, founder and CEO at Extractable, says to truly deliver value to customers’ lives, digital channels to do more than simply reproduce and replicate outmoded legacy systems.

That starts by having a clear strategy established up front. What — or more accurately, how much — does your bank or credit union really think it can achieve? Are you keeping the consumer squarely in the center, or merely rolling out new technologies and sexy features on an ala carte basis? As you gather data, are you getting input not just from customers but employees as well — from across the organization, so you capture all perspectives and get a more complete picture of what’s going on and where (and how far) you need to go?

“Start by getting both marketing and IT at the same table,” McLaughlin says. “And include someone independent of those two departments who can play a leadership role in the process, so that your CX blueprint winds up being comprehensive and balanced — not IT nor marketing-dominated.”

In an industry where the most exciting CX developments aren’t coming from banks and credit unions, McLaughlin says financial institutions need to figure out how to (1) create and deliver a rewarding customer experience (2) across all channels, and at every touch point.

“How can you demonstrate what makes your institution special, and do so in practical ways that address consumers’ needs, priorities, expectations and preferences?” McLaughlin asks.

When setting out to build a comprehensive digital strategy, McLaughlin says the journey should begin with the following three steps:

  1. Use analytics to evaluate how people are using each of your channels today, then answer key questions. Where do they start? What do they click on most? What activities are they doing (or trying to do)? Where and when do they get frustrated and leave? What can’t they do?
  2. Review the list of terms that your digital users are searching for — via search engines and on your site — so you can prioritize what features/functionality/service should be provided that will address the most common needs… and which ones go unfulfilled. There’s usually a treasure trove of insights lurking in this data, so you should do this regularly — even weekly.
  3. Conduct regular cross-functional co-sharing sessions with groups that touch the customer (or member) — marketing, service, call centers, etc. Engage internal constituencies that will ultimately be responsible for executing the strategy and delivering the experience — IT, HR, Ops — to evaluate the research insights and find the ways to improve the experience, care, and value customers get.

Once there is a clear understanding of what you are starting with and what needs to be built, then you can get started on your blueprint. McLaughlin likens it to remodeling a house — you measure and survey, then layout a plan based on your vision and needs.

“You have to know what your digital channels need to do in terms of design, value and the service experience,” McLaughlin says. “Then you can determine what ultimately you can- and need to do from a structural and functional standpoint.”

Any CX/UX plan must define who your most important constituents are, starting with new customers.

“How will you take them on the journey from prospect to customer, to increase the likelihood they’ll want to stay and expand their relationship with your brand?” McLaughlin says. “It’s all about getting the basics of a strong UX strategy and visual design right. It has to be about both form and function.”

Ask any financial institution what makes them unique, and the answer is almost always this: “our superior customer service.” But McLaughlin says you barely have to scratch the surface to find out that really doesn’t hold true.

“How is it expressed?” he asks skeptically. “If you are brutally honest in your assessment of what’s going on — from products and services offered, to testing the online and mobile user experience — the process and outcomes will yield a plan that address the disconnects between the experience you think (or hope) you’re delivering today and the experience you need to deliver tomorrow.”

For example, McLaughlin shared how one analysis of a financial credit union’s website revealed new members that were applying for membership had to go through an arduous process involving seven separate steps.

“This is really where fintechs shine,” McLaughlin says. “They get UX and understand how important it is to simplify the experience.”

In all fairness, however, McLaughlin concedes that fintechs don’t usually face the same regulatory and compliance burdens as banks and credit unions, but that’s no excuse.

“There’s always an opportunity to improve the experience, no matter who you are.”

Empathy is key. Does your mobile experience leave users frustrated? Do people need to jump through hoops? Have you really asked about the “why” behind the steps you’re requiring of people? Just because you “always did it that way” isn’t good enough. You must be constantly asking yourself, “Is there a way to pare down certain processes?” Could a multi-screen, multi-step process work as one clear, concise page? Do you really need to ask for everything up front, or can you follow up with a phone call and/or online options? How can you streamline the data collection and documentation process while still addressing all the potential regulatory concerns?

“Whether a small or large financial institution, taking time to examine pain points and complaints can only better inform a value-driven customer experience,” McLaughlin says.

Whatever you do, McLaughlin says you had better get started. Like yesterday…

“Look at something like Rocket Mortgage. Three years went into building that product,” he points out. “That’s why many financial institutions are feeling like they are playing catch-up. If you’re just starting from scratch now, you’d have to play at a level like Wayne Gretsky to succeed in the UX game now.”

While many in banking still don’t have their heads wrapped around the UX riddle quite yet, McLaughlin says the payoff for delivering a seamless omnichannel is substantial.

“Let’s just say it’s a really exciting time to be in the banking industry.”

You can learn more about how to transform your digital channels at The Financial Brand Forum 2017, where Craig McLaughlin joins 65 other all-star speakers to show you how you can deliver the type of innovative CX today’s consumers expect.

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