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Building software development around customer needs

A 2018 report by Accenture, Back Office, it’s Time to Meet the Customers, found that 75% of operational leaders at banks now want to focus on customer experience more than on efficiency. 

The driver behind this view is undoubtedly higher customer expectations not just for excellent service, but for better personalization and engagement as well. The financial institutions that fail to recognise this trend will surely run the risk of falling behind their competitors. 

So the importance of focusing development efforts on customer needs and desires is critical to future success, but how should organizations go about orchestrating ongoing development to ensure they keep customer needs and UX central to all activity? What processes and best practice can help support these efforts? 

The rise of ‘neo banks’ 

Banks recognize that it’s easier said than done to get rid of traditional core systems overnight. Consequently, we are seeing an increase in traditional banks establishing new operations to deliver a more engaging experience to customers.  

These ‘neo banks’, including Mettle from RBS/NatWest and Marcus from Goldman Sachs are designed to meet the basic banking needs of customers in a faster, more up-to-date environment, while protecting the parent brands in the background. 

Such operations will only thrive if banks learn to test every new feature with customers at an early stage, in rapid iterations. Banks need to know what matters to customers, who increasingly shy away from complex services with cluttered screens to user interfaces they can tailor to their individual needs. 

It helps to look at the detail of where clients are interacting with an app or service and how they interact with it. Can they get to the tools and data they need as easily as they can with any other, commonly used app such as LinkedIn or Facebook? Is the app designed to clearly signpost how to navigate and move around the system, encouraging outcomes desired by the bank? 

Ongoing communications 

Keeping communications open with customers is important – even when a service is well-established – and can help grow loyalty within communities. Banks can have the confidence to seek customers’ opinions via online polls, for example, if they plan to introduce, change or withdraw a particular feature. 

This was the approach taken by UK bank Monzo, which announced a poll to collect customers’ views on how it should introduce fees for using ATMs overseas. While it had provided a free service for customers withdrawing money from ATMs outside the UK, rising costs had made this unsustainable. Rather than impose a new regime, Monzo crowdsourced the most popular option. 

Improving the customer experience applies to business banking as well as retail banking. Referring back to the need for personalization, it’s important to consider the needs of specific communities when developing business banking services.  

For example, a corporate bank could build third party traffic data into a service aimed at logistical companies, or long-term weather forecasts into one suitable for farmers – anticipating the need for investment in new equipment and offering loan facilities along the way. 

Starting small 

From a developer perspective, the best approach to take when building the customer perspective into new apps or services is to start small, with an app that is not necessarily designed to be scalable from the beginning.  

The rationale is that an app can be delivered quickly, tested with a small group of users and pivoted into a second version. Developers can then gather extensive data about the first version that helps them figure out how to upscale the app and take it to a wider audience. 

It can seem counter-intuitive to build an app that is never going to be suitable for the whole addressable market. But testing it with even 10 people at the start can really help to expose problems with usability. Quantitative and qualitative data gathered as part of this process can genuinely inform the next level of development. 

In turn, this enables start-ups to focus limited development resources on what is going to deliver the most value to them and their clients. And for those developers operating within in-house teams at banks, it provides an opportunity to proactively create value in the new digital era.

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Maxson Tee

Maxson Tee

Associate Product Manager

Finastra

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London

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