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The customer should be at the forefront of digital banking design

Retail banks are all competing to be the first past the post when it comes to developing new innovations that make customers adapt their habits, change their banking allegiances and adopt new products or services brought to market. Yet financial institutions really need to go beyond the obvious necessary innovations like mobile enablement and cloud-based delivery. To develop solutions that will undoubtedly attract millennial customers, specific and detailed attributes of a product or service must be considered. To gain mass adoption of new digital innovations, banks need to truly get inside their customers’ heads in order to understand what will appeal to them and retain their custom.

Making assumptions can be costly

Most organisations would say that they consider the feedback they get from their customers, but that very feedback should inform the design of digital solutions too. Learning the likes and dislikes of your customer is as important to digital design as it is to customer service. Yet many organisations still develop digital banking solutions by making assumptions early on about what their customers want. Many digital innovations are often advanced on the premise that banks think their customers will embrace them, and they then ultimately fail to take off. The speed at which new solutions can be implemented is often what takes precedence, but this is a short sighted strategy. Without customer engagement, it is impossible to truly learn how to solve problems.

All banks need their customers to adopt their new innovations, so it is only common sense that product development needs should start with them. Being customer-centric isn’t about trying to find a problem to fit a solution that’s already been developed. It’s about understanding what the customer’s real problem is and creating the best solution to solve that problem.

Identifying and understanding these fundamental needs is the key to delivering an outstanding customer experience, defining your product strategy and determining what areas require the most investment and where to concentrate efforts. Discovering what will impress your customers can lead to highly relevant, immediately adoptable banking innovations that can positively impact the customer experience as well as the bottom line.

Developing needs-based solutions

To delight your customers, you have to understand their needs. Banks already know their customers expect far more than just viewing their balance online or making basic transactions. They also know their customers will demand an engaging, seamless experience across all channels - online, mobile or in branch. But to respond to what customers specifically need requires multiple avenues of research i.e. customer surveys, focus groups, polls and other typical ways of soliciting customer input.

However, both traditional quantitative and qualitative research methodologies provide limited value for developing true needs-based solutions. People are influenced by others’ opinions when participating in focus groups, and often surveys and polls don’t uncover customers’ real problems and needs.

True success is achieved when overall organisation goals are aligned with identified and validated customer needs. The critical element for developing needs-based solutions is Design Thinking - tapping into what customers really need - whether that customer is a retail customer, a call centre agent or a cardholder.

Design Thinking crucial to success

True success is achieved when overall organisation goals are aligned with recognised and validated customer needs. The critical component for developing needs-based solutions is Design Thinking, which is achieved by tapping into the needs of the customers. This results in the development of needs-based solutions that can improve adoption rates, enhance loyalty, establish trust, increase revenue and reduce costs.

Design Thinking empowers banks to put themselves in the shoes of their customers. By employing empathy, rather than assumptions, to the design of digital solutions, organisations can create new innovations that really resonate with their customers.

The empathy approach should be adopted very early in the product development cycle, allowing banks to learn fast what their customers need whilst having the time to change direction if the original idea doesn’t resonate so well – which not only saves time but also costs. Design Thinking is a concept that translates into innovative solutions that customers have already validated.

With Design Thinking and the empathy-based approach, you know up front why customers do things, what is important to them and what their real needs are. It drives a more focused product innovation strategy that ultimately removes time and cost from the process. It leads to innovation that customers will actually need, value and ultimately adopt long term.

First, financial institutions should find a partner to help them undertake a Design Thinking project. With help, banks can employ the empathy-based approach and work together to understand the true challenges their customers face. Banks that do so are at a distinct advantage; as the competition continues to make assumptions about what customers need, those taking a Design Thinking approach will rise more quickly to the top and attract new customers that become the ultimate champions of their brand, products and services.

Keith Rowling, MD UK & Ireland, First Data

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Oleksiy Mark