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When we talk about customer or user experience in the financial services arena, what do we actually mean? The understanding of banks and banking is not a straightforward concept, and there are different types of banks out there which serve different purposes for different audiences.

To pick apart some of the layers of customer experience that the financial services sector contains (and in some cases really needs to work on), here are a few key tips from our experience in retail banking and investment banking clients highlighting major areas to keep in mind when designing or re-designing customer experience in these 2 distinct sub-categories.

Retail Banking

The challenges for most retail banks are attracting new customers and retaining current clients. Not unlike most businesses, customer experience can support a retail bank with both of these aspects and if implemented correctly can be used to differentiate a brand in the marketplace. It could be said that customer service is re-gaining its power for the high-street banks, as it was back in the day when your bank manager knew you and your family. It is important to add at this point that customer service doesn’t mean just face to face and it doesn’t put all of the customer experience effort into the branch. It needs to be truly multichannel and developed as a whole for the brand.

Creating a great multichannel customer experience has its challenges for the retail banks, here are 5 key areas to think about when researching, building and managing this process:

  1. Testing and Research requires recruitment and persona creation of a wide variety of customers to cover the spectrum and needs to map out the entire life-cycle of clients to really understand their motivations, needs and desires.
  2. Accommodate for the lowest common denominator. This means using a language and creating a level of usability that applies to a wide audience.
  3. Seamless interactions across in-branch, call centre and digital interfaces. This requires a mixture of staff training, digital design, and striking a careful balance between automation and personal communication. We would recommend at this point that customers should be able to choose their communication and interaction methods that they are most comfortable with.
  4. Flawless usability is necessary as consumers don’t have patience with services such as banking. This may seem like a difficult and obvious goal but what we want to highlight is that usability can be difficult to design for large audience types. In some cases segmentation could be a vital step to help reduce the scope of design and to ensure the experience is correct for the most appropriate target audience.
  5. Consistent brand experience through all touch points including websites, mobile apps, print ads, TV ads, customer service advisors, any form of communication. The issue for retail banks with regards to this aspect is one of ownership over the customer experience as most of these outlets are managed across different departments.

Investment banking

Investment banks have an entirely different outlook and set of challenges. They offer more specialised and sophisticated services as they serve a different purpose and target a different audience from high street banks.  User experience in investment banking is often about speed, accuracy and efficiency, it is about getting your day job done, and covers both user and customer experience, so the audience type is usually specific, experienced and knowledgeable about the tasks to be done, systems and language.

For user experience in investment banking, we have found 4 specific areas to keep in mind when managing the research and design process:

  1. Do as they do. Always relate your work to the business objectives, a great experience in investment banking is about speed, timing and optimisation of information flows so always relate the user experience to these objectives. For example personas should just present the basic needs and priorities of the users and not include any further, more personal information that is usually presented for customer experience design.
  2. Retain the banking jargon. There is a lot of jargon in investment banking. Whereas we would recommend to avoid jargon in other sectors, it’s important to use the terms of the bankers. Thus, translating the language into simple terms doesn’t make sense when designing for domain experts in investment banking.
  3. Use the tools of the bankers – spreadsheets, use cases and business flows are their tools so use them when documenting user experience. Complement these with more visual aspects in workshops as time and efficiency is key in banking and most people find it easier to take in information this way. This also takes the abstract element out of a business flow or spreadsheet so the value of user experience as being different from business analysis becomes clear.
  4. Make it a collaborative process with only the right people getting involved in the decision-making and be careful with the people you invite for workshops or other types of research. This is definitely a rule that goes beyond banking, however, when the financial markets are open time is money and you just can’t consume their time. When the famous Gordon Gekko from Oliver Stone’s ‘Wall Street’ says “I can give you 10 minutes” it’s not so far from reality.

These are just a few things that we have picked up over the years of working with different organisations in the financial services sector. Do you agree, have you found different issues? Please leave your comments below!

Image shows a Near Field Communication (NFC) enabled smartphone, predicted to be the next big thing for automated payments and something retail banks will need to get on board with.

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