How to keep your banking user experience competitive

Published October 25, 2021

By Amra Siddiqui

In a digital world, products and applications should be designed and built around users.

Users increasingly demand instant results, especially when it comes to essential functions like banking. This is why providing a seamless user experience is not only important, but a logical necessity that financial institutions need to prioritize in order to stay competitive.


Banking experience: the past and present

The banking industry has undergone all kinds of changes over time, from the Baronial age (1838-1913) when bankers followed a code of conduct and fostered relations with aristocrats, to the Diplomatic age (1913-48) which saw the rise of the middle class and global expansion.

In recent decades, users have readily adapted to changing trends, practices and technologies. They’ve gone from commodity exchanges and coins to virtual Bitcoin and Crypto currencies. This evolution best characterizes our paradigm shift into the Digital Age (1989 and on). Digital tech allowed the world to switch to digital products. Just as machines replaced people, applications that offer enriched user experiences have begun to replace machines.

A change in user preferences

Three decades ago, people were mentally and physically prepared for unexciting visits to the bank. But we’ve seen a profound change since then as financial institutions have begun adopting digitalization, such as for UX, interaction flows and micro experiences. This has enabled users to perform once-tedious online tasks with the touch of a button from the comfort of their homes.

Another key aspect of change worth noting is user expectation. In this day and age, customers get easily frustrated if a product isn’t intuitive or easy to use. Today’s consumers don’t shy away from expressing their likes or dislikes publicly, either—especially about brands and businesses. That’s why it’s imperative to present well-designed products and services with rich user experiences. These virtues will not only score high on usability metrics, but will also boost user satisfaction.

Whether we’re ready to accept it or not, a growing focus on digital-first experiences combined with a protracted pandemic has drastically changed the way we work. It’s certainly intensified the hustle culture which had already deeply influenced the digital banking ecosystem.

While plans for a more digitized economy  were already in motion, the pandemic accelerated this process in more ways than anyone expected. It’s ushered in a change that will certainly continue to impact how people interact with financial institutions in the future.

The need for better UX

According to Jim Marous, a phenomenal curator of all things banking, “Bottom line, having a customer-centric culture is more than just a good thing—it’s become a matter of survival.”

Which company would know this better than NCR? From banking to retail to hospitality, we’ve seen and been part of great changes in how we deliver services and in how users avail these services.

NCR is one of many companies that realized early on how the pandemic triggered a change in the relationship between customers, their banks and how they handle money in general.

The challenges now faced by the fintech industry are no longer just about going digital—they’re about being able to provide the value users expect. Failure at this juncture will eventually lead to abandonment of the product or service. A recent study found that it only takes a heartbeat for users to decide whether they like or dislike a product.

Slowly but surely, the economy’s need for financial institutions is shifting to a need for the services they offer. That means financial institutions must be able to provide a seamless and uncomplicated approach to transactions.

Engaging users with better UX

Since the pandemic began, many people around the world now have more time and fewer distractions.  This has increased productivity and revealed a shift in user behavior. Before the pandemic, we focused mostly on the UX journey and interaction with users. But since COVID-19 swept the world, this has become a somewhat invalid measure of success. In today’s changed work environment, it’s become increasingly difficult to enhance:

  • Customer engagement
  • Customer retention
  • Customer referral

For a true consumer-grade experience, it’s essential that financial institutions focus on the journey before, during and—most importantly—after product usage. Banks have traditionally focused on fostering relationships with their customers via in-person business. Now they must ask themselves, “How can we do the same with users who digitally interact with our products and services?”

Banks thrive when their customers profit. That’s why we need to look carefully at how existing platforms build personal relationships with users and help them manage money more effectively. User success is equal to business success. This fundamental mindset transcends change and is a potent solution for unforeseeable challenges.

Nevertheless, the most important element in any customer-bank relationship is trust. When using a bank platform or application, users need to feel secure, that their needs are met and most importantly, that their financial assets are safe. Whether this is accomplished through direct human interaction, a teller machine  or a chatbot, providing an experience that users can trust is key.

Lack of an emotional, human touch definitely impacts the user experience, leading to an inevitable disconnect between users and the products and services they’re being offered. As service providers, banks need to ask:

  • Are we taking the initiative to encourage customers to use our products and services?
  • Are we advertising enough on our display screens to make users aware and inspire trust in the safety of our products and services?

It’s evident that when it comes to technology, some financial institutions are still nascent in their stage of digitization. Even though they have a digital presence, a seamless user experience is either non-existent or not effective.

As service providers, we need to do everything we can to ensure the tools we offer inspire trust among our customers, and to make sure our offerings are highly intuitive and packed with ease of use for all user types. Let’s improve users’ experiences so they don’t feel exploited, but rather happy to recommend our products and services to others.

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