Tuesday 30 October 2012

paying bills is boring even with lipstick!

Continuing with my series of posts on improving online and mobile banking, this time (find here the previous entry) I will make a case for intermediation instead of, or in addition to, simplification.

Lately I've seen many technology providers and banks showcasing the new advances in mobile and online banking... nice pie charts that move, a couple of web 2.0 interactions and bill payment operations that show the logos of the utility companies.

No doubt we're living a modernization of banking sites and the whole digital banking experience, but it seems to me that the more things change, the more stay the same.

Take for example bill payments... you can add all the logos of the world and make them drop into de screen and show me how my payment is "being processed" with a progress bar... but you know what? I still find paying bills boring!

You can also show me my investment in mutual funds with a pie chart showing the distribution of assets among stocks, bonds and money markets, and allow me to click into one of them to see the whole composition of the segment... but, I still prefer to do other things than choosing funds and looking their composition.

Sure I want to make money, but for that I work and I have a bank to take care of the money I make. I feel that I belong to a group that represents the vast majority of people... we don't know how to take care of our banked money, we don't care enough about how to do it or simply we would rather be doing something else.

I like current efforts being made to simplify, beautify and enrich digital banking, but sometimes it seems like putting lipstick on a bill!...it will still be a bill ;-)

Instead on focusing how to make paying a bill nicer, let's remove it from the equation... automatize it... alert the user that a payment will take place and then do it. Give the power of veto as it gives the user the control over the operation, but don't force the user to pay it everytime.

Propose the funds that are best for the user, change them when needed and show the user the progress from time to time... again giving the control to the power user that wants to do it on her own.

And even if the user will visit less the banking app or site, the interaction either by alerts, mails and on the site will be much more meaningful.

Quantity should not be over quality... I interact with a bus driver everyday, but I'm not closer to him in any way... and if you remove him from the equation like in the subway I don't see the difference. But my usual cab driver when I go to the airport puts the kind of music I like and knows when to talk to me and when to leave me alone because I'm busy.

Let's make the new digital banking more engaging, more helpful, more valuable and more meaningful for the users.

Monday 8 October 2012

Recalculating! the online and mobile banking...

Following my previous post where I revisited the obscure language online banking uses, let's dive now into where the emphasis is made in online and mobile banking.

Today online and mobile banking offers are built around banking and financial products, not customer objectives. Today, it is up to the customers to choose and operate those products in order to achieve  their goals. Of course the banks are there to help bridge the gap between goals and means, between wants and needs... usually in the form of human financial advisors in the branches.

But interaction with those advisors is getting less and less common (when was last time you popped into your bank branch?...), while the changes in the objectives and wants of the users change more and more frequently. Paradoxically customers interact with the banks more often than never before through online channels. The problem is that those channels predominantly focus only on the products and their management.

Last time I compared digital banking and healthcare... for this post let's compare it with a GPS.

If the GPS were built in the same way than online banking, then the interface would not ask you where you want to go, but if you want to know how fast you would like to drive your car in this moment, in towards which geographical direction; it would also tell you what are the streets in the next intersection and of course your current position... but it would never ask for your destination or show you how far are you from it. Being up to you to find the way to your destination, to estimate the time it will take you to get there in your current situation and perhaps more importantly to figure what to do if you make changes, to analyze the traffic ahead and basically every decision needed to get to where you want to go.

Continuing with the GPS analogy... financial advisors work for you like a GPS... they ask you where you want to go and set you on your way... but the analogy ends there... as the GPS knows when you make changes and adapt to them... "recalculating" sounds familiar? the GPS will adapt without you having to ask for it....and you can ask for it anytime as well.

Was it the right exit? Is this fund still the best for me? Let's stop for a coffee, how much it will delay my trip? I want a new car, how much it will affect my savings? or should I take a loan? Which type of loan? how much money should I put as down payment?

A digital banking interface that takes the users objectives at heart and puts all the financial instruments and products subordinated to those objectives will help the users much more than the opposite.

As examples: How much monthly money do I want for my retirement? How close am I from getting it? Can I change my car? What are my savings objectives? how close am I from reaching them? How can I have more money per month and what will be the consequences? And many more

Today, technologies exist to know when the customer took the wrong exit or her situation changed... and in any case, he/she should be able to tell you... and the online and mobile banking to tell her what's best for him/her.

Customer centricity, not banking product centricity is the future.