Rajeev Sawhney Dec 2, 2015

Three design principles for omnichannel experience

Banks are investing in new technology to create omnichannel experiences for their customer but success has been limited. Why?

For one thing, bankers overlook these wise words from Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.” In other words, technology must be guided by a strategic view of how it enhances customer experience. Many may argue that good, responsive technology would lead to a better customer experience, but that’s not the case.

Rather, it’s good design that has the ingredients of ease-of-use, efficiency and emotion while delivering a consistent, seamless experience that makes for a great omnichannel experience. That indeed goes beyond the technology; it’s all about creating a seamless experience for the customer irrespective of the channel used for transaction. It’s got to be consistent. It’s got to eliminate the duplication of information. And it’s got to have a common look and feel.

For the customer, it means that all his/her information and data is in one place and is contextually pulled up whenever required, irrespective of which bank product is being used. Banks are still struggling with having multiple point-of-contacts between the computer and its user across channels, such as desktop, mobile, and contact center.

Ease-of-use. Recently, a colleague of mine wanted a new desk phone handset installed, and the company bought one of the most expensive handsets with hundreds of fancy functions. My colleague was furious and threw it away. All he wanted (and needed) was a phone that had a large keypad to enable him to dial telephone numbers. It’s no different in many banking apps/websites today, which are cluttered with flashing icons, too much text consuming lots of real estate and multiple steps required to navigate through the site. Oftentimes, when I encounter such sites, I forget what I was looking for.

There is an innate desire of the technologists to add feature functionality and thereby loose the simplicity that is so essential for everyday users. I am not arguing that feature functionality is not essential; all I’m saying is that ease-of-use and simplicity should be at the core of the interface design.

Efficiency. It’s quite common today for consumers to subscribe to various banking services from different banks. However, even with banking solutions being available across channels, there is a tremendous amount of hassle involved in using multiple passwords and following numerous process trails across a number of different applications. One bank has a hardware device for generating random numbers, another has a call back feature with a one-time password, and I am sure many other variants exist.

This is, of course, required by security, since cybercrime is so rampant. But this forces customers to carry in their heads the user ID, password, memorable information, password retrieval question and PINs. Since some banking products are not interlinked you may end up having to carry a spreadsheet of confidential information, which in itself is the weakest link. Could biometrics be the solution?

Access, navigation, consistency across channels and similar look and feel are beginning to be embraced by many leading banks. However, a large part of the industry isn’t there yet. Considering time is so important to customers, efficiency is a key tenet for a pleasant customer experience.

Emotion. Going omnichannel and embracing the digital future doesn’t mean that the bank needs to lose its human face. Especially in banking and finance, users must have a fundamental level of trust in their financial partners. Regardless of whether the customer opts to go meet a representative at the office or chooses a digital medium, banks should ensure that the customer feels good about the experience. This can strengthen trust levels and ensure that the relationship goes deeper than mere transactions.

The other day I was in Italy, at the Milan airport, and was pleasantly surprised that the information desk had been replaced with a large plasma screen, where visitors were greeted by a gracious lady on the video at the click of a button. It’s a very different feeling compared to dealing with a dumb kiosk. Being able to look into the eyes of a real person, and listening to the tone of her voice, is so much more reassuring. Notwithstanding bandwidth constraints, video could be yet another experience-enhancing channel.

As the velocity of digital sweeps the banking world, it is imperative that good design which has the ingredients of ease-of-use, efficiency and emotion and delivers a consistent, seamless experience, is at the heart of any bank’s strategy. That is indeed beyond technology. If ever in doubt, ask yourself: is the output of your omnichannel strategy something that you can simply use and would like to use? You will know the answer.

Mr. Sawhney is president of Strategic Business at Bangalore, India-based Mphasis. He can be reached at Rajeev.Sawhney@mphasis.com.

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