Top 10 Expectations from Digital Banking Users

Digital banking has caught the fancy of every bank in the world, from small to large. Digital, which assumes internet connectivity, allows customers to avail of banking services anytime, anywhere from their digital devices. Digital devices include laptops, tablets, mobile phones, ATM, Kiosks and may be even large touchscreens. Every time a customer or a prospect is interacting with a digital device and learning more about a bank or transacting with a bank, the bank is providing an experience (even if the bank knows it or not). Whether that experience is making it easy for the customer to remember, come back, start a process, complete a process, ask for support, recommend to a friend etc. is what defines the essence of digital experience.

In other words, digital banking experience is a series of interactions a customer has on his/her digital device. Most of us would pay attention to the “series of interactions” and forget about the “customer” part. We need to look at the experience from a customer’s perspective. What’s missing in most of the digital banking experiences is the emotional aspect. We don’t need to run a Yash Raj Films musical score in the background while banking. But, are we able to empathize with our customers in a way that we can capture their intent logically and emotionally and solve it so that they can be both successful and happy after the interaction?

Why is this important? There is a huge realization that if banks don’t get their digital banking strategy and execution right, their customers might leave them for another bank that does get it right. Banks have realized that digital is a fundamental new challenge for them. It is also a huge opportunity to re-imagine customer experience. So, what does a digital banking user want or expect the bank to provide? There are many things, but we need to remember, everyone in this world has a relationship with money. And they need help to manage that relationship so as to maximize their wealth. Digital makes that possible like never before.

But, are banks ready? It all depends on how well we know our users. So, here are top 10 things a digital banking user expects based on my observations. Some of the examples and jargons used like NEFT are familiar in the Indian context. But, the principles remain the same for any global bank.

#1 Digital user has a goal to accomplish. Digital banking is pretty convenient in terms of time and effort. It beats driving to the bank and standing in line any day (nothing personal). To provide the best customer experience online, we need to know why is the user visiting the web site or mobile app? Do they want to transact, as in check balance or transfer funds or do they want to shop for loans and fixed deposits? It’s very easy to find out depending on what they choose to click (or touch). Unfortunately, there is a lot of information thrown at the user. This causes cognitive overload and the unintended effect is that the user will learn how to ignore everything except a sequence of clicks built into muscle memory to get their jobs done. So, are we helping the user get their jobs done or are we throwing hurdles along the way? Next time you login, count the number of horizontal scrolls, vertical scrolls, flashing news, ads, popups and extra pages you see on the way to checking your balance! To get this right, we need to provide relevant information based on customer intelligence. For this to happen, we need to begin with really understanding the users.

This requires deep capabilities in product management and a product mindset.

Yes, the hidden question is, so how do we market our billion other products now that we have the attention of the customer? Agreed, the website is a great channel to market new products, but we need to first focus on making the customer successful in their intended jobs.

#2 Digital user expects anytime, anywhere, anywho service. This is a very basic expectation from internet services. The beauty of digital bank is that it’s always there with the customer wherever they go and whatever the time or day of the week is. So, for example, instead of saying NEFT option of funds transfer is not possible now (after entering all the details) since its beyond office hours, how about providing the user with a workable set of options based on the time of login, from the moment they choose to transfer funds?

It was funny to find out that NEFT (before RTGS came along) couldn’t batch my requests to transfer funds beyond office hours. I recently found out NEFT and RTGS are platforms that are government owned and operated. Commercial core banking system vendors can only do with what is possible. So, the interesting bit was the online fund transfers are timed for clearance at the same time as the manual cheques! Internet runs 24×7. Think Flipkart or Google.

There are times when the user wants to communicate with the bank via their preferred option of email, facebook or twitter. It is not important who they communicate with or when but that their problem gets solved. For this to happen, banks should put in place mechanisms to create an integrated session across multiple channels of communication. Banks should also stop viewing emails, facebook or twitter as silos and have an integrated strategy in communication.

This requires deep technology platforms and robust customer data.

#3 Digital user expects banks to simplify the security process and yet keep it 100% secure. Two factor authentication is becoming the world standard for secure logins. More and more banks are deploying this measure for greater security. It is no doubt commendable that banks take our money deposited with them seriously and put strong security measures around them. Still, there are too many passwords to remember. I bet most senior citizens are writing down the passwords somewhere and reading from it. Hence, banks need to consider biometrics based logins urgently for mobile apps. Not sure if Aadhaar can verify biometrics but that’s a start for leverage.

However, there are some pretty confounding security measures followed by some banks. For example, a few banks don’t allow you to copy and paste (Ctrl-V is disabled) credit card or account numbers. In some cases, the account numbers are treated like passwords and masked. But there is another field right below that asks you to confirm the account number, which is not masked. Even OTPs are masked. I am not sure what’s the rationale behind this but isn’t it better if data doesn’t get transduced for integrity? May be someone can enlighten me behind the security use cases that demand masking every input. It will be great if banks develop a sense of graded risk tolerance. Once the user is authenticated and authorized there can be a scale down in terms of masking inputs or asking more passwords. Knowing user location can also help in grading risk tolerance. For example if the user is checking in from home it is much safer than from anywhere else outside.

A few banks want to educate the customers. Unfortunately, users have neither the time nor the inclination to read user manuals or attend workshops or watch videos just to figure out how to login! This is true for any digital service not just for banks. An eclectic mix of design and security can keep the vaults unbroken forever.

To build this capability you need to innovate rapidly or invest in a promising startup.

#4 Digital user expects that you don’t make them think. This is taking words from the title of a book by Steve Krug on how the best user experience designs don’t make the users think. This is true for even first time users. The questions in user’s minds are intuitively answered through thoughtfully designed interfaces. Getting to this point is an iterative process but this needs to be understood before growing the customer base. A very simple example is the design of choosing payees in some online banks. You are asked to remember the beneficiary id (numeric). It’s scary enough to remember your wedding anniversary. Who remembers beneficiary ids? Seriously! It’s incredibly over-engineered! I have figured out some short cuts – like for example, you can click on Search without giving any inputs and it will show you all the current payees.

Another example is interchanging the location of Change and Confirm buttons in subsequent pages in the same process flow. These are all actually hygiene factors in good design. It gets even more critical when you design mobile apps with limited real estate and shorter attention span.

Another example is NEFT, RTGS, IMPS are great technology platforms but for an average banking customer, they sound like jargons. How about showing a default (recommended option) along with other available options at the time of transaction with clear charges?

To build this capability you need a strong design organization. Banks may consider hiring a Chief Designer too!

#5 Digital user expects omnipresence. Omnipresence means being available and usable across all digital points of interaction. This is applicable for marketing channels across digital devices. A Facebook user may be looking for home loans for his/her new apartment. How can banks identify, participate in this conversation and help him/her make a decision? Are you there when the customer is looking for you? Think about rural users with feature phones. The second scenario is when the user is already a customer and needs to interact over their preferred choice of digital device. For e.g. how many users are using Windows Phone? Users would very much appreciate a consistent user experience in terms of layout, style, fonts, colors, design etc across all digital points of interaction. The third scenario is customer support when the user has a grievance and there are no easily available redressal mechanisms, the user has the power to vent on twitter letting the whole world know what a shameful service he/she is getting.

Having a presence is one thing and being effective is another thing. For example, it sounds like some banks that have twitter presence have given out a Standard Operating Procedure to their twitter reps of entrusting the responsibility of solving the customer’s problem back to the customer itself by asking them to navigate through their organizational maze. Wouldn’t it be great if these twitter issues and sentiments are also tracked and ticketed? All the bank needs to do is to link the twitter handle to the account and your twitter rep can solve the problem!

To build this omnipresence capability requires not only an integrated technology platform that bridges all silos but also an organization that is empathetic and aligned towards customers.

#6 Digital user expects “You must know me by now”. You would think that simple things like choosing “No Thanks” to downloading mobile app should be recorded but they keep showing up every single time you login! Going from fixing this to recommending the most relevant product based on my age, profession, income, savings, loans, where I live, my spend history, family information and a dozen other parameters; would be an ideal trajectory. Banks need to focus on conversions than clicks. Few and most relevant messages would be more meaningful than throwing a dozen messages and hoping for the best.

To build this capability, consider Predictive analytics and a robust customer database platform.

#7 Digital user expects that you are rethinking the WHOLE process and not just mirroring offline processes. Digitization of business processes presents a tremendous opportunity for improving efficiency. This should not be lost by simply taking the existing process with a mix of manual and semi-automated process and offering the same experience online. Digitization needs to be thought through in disruptive ways and this is certainly in the realm of several technology platforms available today. Digital needs an end-to-end perspective. For example, a few banks expect paper letters to initiate or re-initiate logins and request certain documents. It sounds like this is to ensure the person requesting is the same who owns the account but that should be obvious with a few security checks online.

To build this capability, we simply need better empathy of users that can be woven into product features and design! There may be a need to make core banking systems more open in terms of API support, but I will leave it to the experts.

#8 Digital user expects speed… and they get it! The speed of online banking is one thing that banks do get right. Speed is something that a digital user has been pampered with thanks to Google, JustDial or even online display ads served within 200 milliseconds from inMobi and the likes. Here speed should be viewed not just in terms of online site or mobile app responsiveness which is pretty good, but broadened to include overall online process duration. For example, time taken to approve a loan online or open a bank account online.

This highly engineering scalable capability is already or mostly built!

#9 Digital needs to augment hybrid experiences. Customers, retail or merchant, may need to visit a branch for various reasons. The frequency and the need may have already reduced and may further reduce. But, I think branches are not going away anytime soon. When the user visits a branch, is it possible to predict their questions given their historical pattern or an open case? How wonderful if this information was ready at the fingertips of the bank staff to satisfy the customer’s questions immediately. For example, every year around tax time, I need to make 2 visits to the branch to get a tax document. The first visit, I need to submit a written letter asking for the information and then come back the next working day. This needs to get online immediately but until then assuming regulatory procedures can this be solved in one visit? You can use the rest of the time in understanding your customer’s upcoming growth plans or life events and thereby using this opportunity to share more information about your other services (up-sell/cross-sell). This is probably the best outcome you can get out of face time!

To build this capability, bank staff needs to be equipped with customer intelligence management tools.

#10 Digital user expects you to be there for him/her. Just like personal relationship banking, digital doesn’t take away the need for the user to know a human on the other side. Adding a human relationship element in the world of bits and bytes is going to be a key differentiating factor in a bank’s success. The scope and quality of the conversation needs to be reconsidered once the basic transactional experiences are taken care of.

To build this capability, you just need good leadership!

In summary, be bold to put customer success first. WhatsApp founders were bold to say no to ads and the result is a super clean interface that is simple and powerful. In the words of Steve Jobs, Simplify, simplify, simplify and hide the complexity behind this simplification. It is not the customer’s job to understand how we work. It is our (as in the creator/service provider’s) job to understand what customers need and deliver value. To re-imagine a superior customer experience we need a holistic approach that spans business, products, design technology, analytics, marketing, support and most importantly new skill sets for the people who run and represent your banks.

What do you think?

To know more how you can go about building these capabilities and to improve customer experiences, email [email protected]

The author is the founder of Pravi Solutions, an Innovation and Marketing Consultancy enriching digital experiences!

Roadmap To A Cashless Country

Denmark is well on its way if not already the first country in the world to go 100% cashless. Sweden is not far behind either and in fact may be ahead of Denmark in cashless behaviors. The governments of the two NORDIC countries are enabling and encouraging cashless mechanisms through legislations. That means, all payments towards a cup of coffee or a house will be through cards or mobile wallets. This is an amazing development in our life times as we go from touch and feel experience of money to just clicks on our digital devices.

This got me thinking if India will ever go cashless. My prediction is that at least in the foreseeable future, India will never be 100% cashless. Just one glance at the collections in temples will show how small change matters. But over the next decade we will see strong pockets of cashless transactions by use cases. A recent report showed Cash On Delivery (CoD) still reigns supreme with 55% of overall e-commerce transactions. This is a good metric to follow on how the nation is doing with regards to cashless transactions. The tipping point towards cashless would be a sharp decline in CoD mode of payment.

In most cases, the choice of CoD is just habitual and easier, fuelling the habit. The challenge for any online business is to shift the default from CoD to digital payment modes including credit cards, debit cards or mobile wallets. Businesses don’t make it any easier with more number of instances of broken credit card machines that occasionally remind you to carry cash at all times. This along with having to remember a million passwords for both offline and online transactions easily makes cash the default king even if having to run to the nearest ATM! Cash has another benefit that is hard to beat – there is no digital footprint of the source and destination. Also, there are no fees to transact in cash unlike credit cards where some party needs to bear the cost of infrastructure.

Advantage Cashless

Uber, the taxi app set the bar high in showing us how incredibly easy the customer experience can be when it all works fine. Uber asks you to pre-register your credit card with their service when you install their mobile app. Uber is one example of a superior customer experience through the use of a payment platform from Braintree.

There are three trends that give hope to rise in cashless payments. They are mobile smartphone owners, rise in payment technology platforms and consumer behavior trends.

Mobile smartphone users in India have reached 111 million and expected to exceed 200 million by 2016 according to eMarketer. Ecommerce companies are saying majority of the purchases (CoD despite) are coming from mobile. Mobile wallets are at the least occupying the mind share of users, thanks to airtel money and PayTm. I am sure the companies will have more to say about actual usage trends.

Payment platforms are making a splash thanks to Apple which pretty much reinvigorated the space with Apple Pay. Tap and Pay is a cool platform that allows buyers to simply tap their mobile phone over a NFC enabled device installed by the business. National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) released RuPay cards which offers much lower transaction costs that helps the Indian government and businesses to reach all sections of society in its ambitious financial inclusion program. In summary, there is a lot of innovation happening in this space that will be interesting to watch on simplifying payments.

Consumer behavior trends show Gen Y and Z, people born and waking up with mobile devices will be comfortable with mobile communications, transactions and payments.

Why small to large businesses should promote cashless?

The benefits of cashless transactions to businesses are that it saves time and money that is today spent in end of day accounting, safe storage, transportation and handling.

Why government should make it easier?

The clear benefit to government is in moving towards a more white money economy and curbing black money. Of course, governments may be tempted to react to increased visibility into billions of every day micro-transactions at grocery stores, newspaper vendors etc. Increased visibility in large transactions such as buying real estate will help curb corruption and create a fair marketplace for all sections of the society.

RBI certainly would appreciate the savings from not having to mint so much money. The impact of a majority cashless economy on monetary policy is an interesting question and may be worthy of seminal research.

Society would appreciate sharp declines of bank robberies and ATM heists. (Hang on to your copy of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). However, there are risks and the biggest is the electronic fraud. There will be many attempts to hack in to the digital vaults and steal. The nature of insuring digital banks that support cashless economies needs to be reconsidered.

Why you should pay cashless?

As someone who values money, cashless allows you to track every paisa spent and received quickly and easily, thereby allowing you to make better decisions on short term, mid term and long term financial futures. Cashless also allows you the convenience of not having to worry about carrying enough cash.

Conditions that must exist before a country can go cashless

  1. The biggest condition that must exist is Trust. Trust between the parties to give and take money through digital modes; Trust with the payment platform provider that the transactions are secure; Trust in governments to honor the transactions and also safeguard user data as every transaction leaves a digital footprint.
  2. Ease of Use in cashless payments through better user experience design and a holistic customer experience. Right from easy one click logins to finding the service you are looking for, to raising issues with customer support all done through mobile apps will be the way to go. But, several of the digital banking applications are learning the hard way about the need for solid customer experience design. My consultancy Pravi Solutions offers workshops and consulting services to create the best customer experiences.The challenge is to provide a simplified experience while still working within the regulatory framework.
  3. Scalable back-end payment systems with a ready non-cash alternative in case of emergencies. There have been internet outages even in large companies in developed countries. Even in cashless countries, there have been instances of total meltdown in taking payments. There has to be very clear government mandated and honored alternatives in case of emergencies.

In summary, the road map to a cashless country is one which will ride on the mobile internet wave and as consumers start to enjoy and appreciate the ease of use of mobile apps and the convenience of not carrying cash, it will be a matter of time businesses of any size from micro to extra large will start supporting mobile payments. Governments only need to create enabling mechanisms and institutions that safeguard citizens interest in this brave new digital world.

What do you think?

The Operating Model for Product Companies

The missing bridge between strategy and execution

MANHATTAN (4)Building an IT product business can be quite challenging if you don’t have certain foundational elements well understood and institutionalized. This applies to not just startups but large organizations too. The goals in any sized company are similar. For example, getting a new idea out to market, entering new markets, trying to achieve scale, reducing cycle time between idea to market, reaching the right set of customers etc. Large organizations will need to maintain their leadership positions by continuously innovating, whereas startups agile nevertheless, have a lot less room for errors due to scarce resources. Some of the symptomatic situations of a shaky foundation are; building a new product with several features without involving potential customers; depending heavily on sales to gather customer requirements; misaligning outsourced development outcomes; mixing custom solutions and products while positioning etc.

There is an implicit operating model in product organizations, which has rarely been explored or discussed so far. An operating model describes how organizations execute. Imagine a product team – what conversations do they have to execute their goals and strategy? How are information and decisions flowing between team members and with their external stakeholders? Is it aiding or impeding their speed of execution and thus eventually their business? This is not to be mistaken with functional best practices in creating or marketing a product successfully, rather this is more foundational for any product organization. There are four factors for that make up the operating model for product companies and they are product mindset, organizational design, development model and decision making structure.

Product Mindset

Mindset is the basis of culture. Product mindset can best be described as the set of beliefs and assumptions that power the creation of inspiring products. Our beliefs and assumptions are hidden deep in our psyche and it takes a conscious effort to realize and shift to the mindset needed. The challenges are in unpacking the beliefs and repacking them with new ones that enable creating products. The mindset drives how we perceive success, failure and efforts in every aspect from deliverables to revenues.

For example, if the customer asks you to add a feature for them, do you jump on it and implement or do we understand why do they need it and how does it help them? Do we also pause and collect data points from other customers on similar needs and then begin to work on it? It is easy to mistake a customer’s ask for Promise to Pay. Instead we should explicitly check for Willingness to Pay before launching the product.

There are three assumptions we need to watch out for. First, are we paying too much attention to what the customer is asking us to do instead of understanding what they really need? Second, are we jumping into technical solutions before spending enough time trying to understand the problem and reframe the problem in multiple ways? Third, are we building for each client instead of exploring repeatability for many?

A good product organization considers product failures as valuable learning lessons (as long as you can afford it) and success only when you have happy, paying and returning customers. Shifting to product mindset requires sustained effort. Ideation or brainstorming is one of the ways. Exposure to inspirational stories is another. Several companies encourage new ideas through internal hackathons but fall short of nudging their employees to think bigger and from a customer point of view.

Organizational Design

Organizational design looks at reporting structures and size of teams. Engineering, Sales and Marketing are well defined organizations. Product companies need a Product Management organization that reports to the CEO. This is not to be confused with the Marketing organization, which is essentially Sales in internet consumer companies. It is important to balance the perspectives of engineering and sales with a product management team. Very simply put, product management organization is responsible for representing customer interests during product development. A good Product Manager recognizes and navigates through the dynamics while diligently advocating for the customer regardless of reporting structures. It is not easy to balance with generating revenues or feasibility constraints.

A typical product team consists of a product manager, designer and several engineers. Product ownership is critical and a basic ingredient to making the product a success. Some very successful global product companies have figured out that a good team size is which can be fed with two large pizzas. That’s roughly 8 including engineering, quality assurance, designer and product manager. Being able to do “more with less” is an oft-heard statement. Most founders in startups are the first product managers but quickly exceed their bandwidth. An easy milestone for the founder-CEOs to know when you need a product manager is when you are not able to spend enough time with the customers. Even though customer empathy and advocacy is something that the whole organization should embrace, a product manager can greatly help drive the process.

Development model

Product companies must build in-house engineering talent which they usually do. For startups, it is becoming increasingly expensive as well-funded companies are going all out to attract top talent with much better compensation. Large companies may also want to hire someone outside for temporary work to rapidly build a proof of concept. So, there have been and will be situations that require the team to outsource development. When product companies outsource development, there is a great amount of risk in velocity. The difference between the client and the vendor is in operating rhythm. The outsourced vendor expects a well-defined Statement of Work with fixed scope to ensure quality and timely deliverable. This is the antithesis of product development where scope is inherently flexible and changes during development are almost a given in the first few versions when working closely with customers. One way to getting around this problem is for vendors to innovate their business models and/or engagement models so that the lines are blurred between consultants and core team members. For this to happen, the conversations between the client and vendor needs to change from time and materials based outcomes to value based outcomes.

Decision making structure

There is always an element of continuous discovery and refinement in the product world that demands continuous decisions. We need to embrace this uncertainty at the same time work towards minimizing the risk. Modern methodologies like The Lean Methodology greatly help in minimizing the risk by cutting down the time taken between implementation and feedback. Also, with the advent of experimentation tools in the market, it is easier to compare user behaviours. For e.g. do the users click more when presented with a green button or a red button. Product level decisions should be clearly aligned with business goals set by the executive leadership. It becomes easier to evaluate and track product performance and impact on annual targets which is also very rewarding in high performance teams since they are visible and recognized. Most product organizations have a flat hierarchy that enable easy collaboration and brainstorming.

In summary, it may be useful for product organizations to pay attention to their operating model while working on strategy and execution.

Product Camp brings hot product topics to the fore

Product camp is a unique event format where attendees get to drive the agenda. It is borne out of the bar-camp or un-conference movement that started in US and spread to other countries across the world a decade back. Traditional conferences do not allow attendees to provide inputs to the agenda. P-Camp gives them a direct opportunity to create the agenda, choose the topics and the speakers.  Product camps have spread in popularity across the world.

The next P-Camp, hosted by eBay/PayPal and supported by ecosystem partners iSPIRT, NASSCOM and OCC is on Sunday September 7th 2014, starting 9:30 am. Anyone can register for FREE.

This is the third product camp happening in Bangalore, organized by IPMA, and only the fourth in India. Here is a peek into the agenda that is still shaping up on with top 4 voted topics.

Product Camp

These are the issues that the community is grappling with and would like to learn more from others who are doing it really well.

This Product Camp is seeing a total of 23 topics proposed by the community. 23 is a healthy number and the highest we have seen so far.  However, due to limited time only the top 9 will be chosen. The P-Camp organizers including the team at eBay/PayPal have pulled out all stops to ensure a smooth and fun day that includes lunch and beverages for hundreds of eager campers, surprise goodies and office spaces for break out sessions.

Attendees also get to meet and hear from Ravi Gururaj (NPC Chair) Ram Narayanan (GM eBay/PayPal) and Piyush Shah (VP of Products, inMobi) as well.

So, this Sunday, forget the malls and TV and the couch. Instead, camp out with your product guys and gals at the eBay office in Bangalore.