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Customer Experience in Banking: Key to the Success of Bank Digital Transformation

The rapid development of digital technology is making new demands on financial brands. Marketing methods that used to work perfectly only a decade ago, don't deliver the expected results anymore. There are so many alternatives available on the market that a pretty package and a catchy slogan aren't enough to convince people to buy and stay loyal to the brand and the product. In the digital age, it's all about the emotional connection customers have with the financial brand that is formed through the value they get out of its digital financial solution.

According to CB Insights research of 101 startup failure post-mortems, 42% failed because they lacked market need. It's not only about “inexperienced” startups, this happens even to the “best of us”. Google failed with Google+ and Google Wave, despite enormous marketing budgets and award-winning ads. We see the same happening in digital banking.

Making financial product and trying to convince everyone that they need this is a very expensive russian roulette with no guaranteed outcome. A much more reliable way would be to do it the other way around - first define and then match the market need with the exact solution that the customers seek.

Experts define bank digital transformation as the use of digital technologies to fundamentally change how financial companies operate and deliver services to customers. This can include a wide range of activities, such as automating processes, improving customer experience, increasing efficiency and productivity, and introducing new products and services. Some specific examples of digital transformation in banking may include:

  • Mobile banking: Providing customers with the ability to access their bank accounts and perform transactions using a smartphone or tablet.
  • Online banking: Allowing customers to access their accounts and perform transactions through a web browser.
  • Robotic process automation (RPA): Using software bots to automate repetitive tasks, such as processing loan applications or handling customer inquiries.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML): Using advanced algorithms to analyze data and make decisions, such as detecting fraudulent activity or personalizing financial recommendations for customers.
  • Blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT): Using decentralized, secure databases to facilitate transactions and track assets.
  • Cloud computing: Storing data and running applications in the cloud, rather than on local servers, to reduce costs and improve scalability.

Goals of Bank's Digital Transformation

Bank digital transformation aims to improve the effectiveness of financial institutions, providing convenient ways for customers to access and manage their finances. There are several areas in which bank digital transformation is having a significant impact:

1. Convenient customer service

Digital transformation improves the customer service by providing convenient, personalized, and seamless access to financial operations through digital products.

2. Operations and efficiency

Process automation and artificial intelligence are helping banks to improve operations and reduce errors, resulting in increased efficiency and productivity.

3. Product and service innovation

Bank digital transformation delivers new products and services, such as personalized financial planning, real-time fraud detection, and virtual financial advisors.

4. Risk management and compliance

Machine learning and blockchain are helping to improve risk management and compliance.

5. Data and analytics

Analyze vast amounts of data using advanced algorithms to gain insights and make more informed decisions.

Main Challenges of Bank Digital transformation

Here's the paradox: everybody knows that digital transformation is a must to succeed in the digital world.  At the same time, not many are aware that digitalization itself isn't enough to guarantee success. This is the reason why so many banking digital transformation attempts end up in failure and huge losses of invested time and money resources.  In fact, studies show that "70 percent of complex, large-scale change programs don’t reach their stated goals" according to McKinsey.

Meanwhile, digital “unicorns” clearly demonstrate that, in the digital world, success is empowered not by new technology implementation, but by the right mindset and inner culture.

The fact that a bank creates a mobile application doesn't guarantee successful digitalization. As an example, a bank launched a mobile application with the intention to keep up with the requirements of the digital age. To open an account, customers had to visit the branch and wait in line for about an hour. The same effort was needed to add additional users to the account, transfer large amounts and apply for a loan. In the end, there was really no use for this mobile channel as the customers had to waste their time physically visiting the branch.

Yes, the bank had created a mobile app, but can we really call this a successful digital transformation? I doubt that.

Banks have to face the harsh reality of the digital age: if they don't focus on customers and their expectations, they will lose their clients to financial companies that have customer-centricity set as their TOP priority.

There are many challenges that banks face when implementing digital transformation initiatives:

1. Cultural resistance

Employees may resist the digital change to processes, particularly if they are accustomed to traditional ways of working. Digital transformation requires a shift in corporate culture and mindset, with a focus on customer-centricity, continuous learning and adaptability. Financial organizations should have a clear strategy and roadmap for managing the transition to new digital processes and technologies.

2. Talent shortages

Digital transformation should involve the introduction of new products and services, but can be difficult for banks and other financial organizations to find and hire skilled employees with expertise in digital user experience design and in digital technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and cloud computing.

3. Data security and privacy

Ensuring the security and privacy of customer data is a critical concern for banks, particularly when implementing new digital technologies. Banks should leverage data and analytics to gain insights and make more informed decisions, using technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).

4. Regulatory compliance

Banks must ensure that they comply with various regulations and laws related to data privacy and financial services, which can be challenging as they adopt new technologies.

5. Integration and interoperability

Ensuring that core systems and technologies work seamlessly together can be a complex and time-consuming process. Also, digital transformation often requires collaboration and partnerships with other companies, including fintechs, to leverage their expertise and bring new solutions to market.

6. Cost and ROI

Implementing digital transformation initiatives can be expensive, and it may be difficult for financial companies executives to justify the investment if the return on investment (ROI) is uncertain.

7. Change management

Managing the transition to new digital processes and technologies can be challenging, particularly if it requires significant changes to how employees work and interact with customers. Successfully implementing digital transformation in banking requires digital strategy, careful planning, clear goals, and the ability to adapt to changing technologies and customer needs.

The Key to Bank Digital Transformation Success

Unfortunately, when it comes to digitalization many finance companies still make the same mistake - they put all of their main efforts into creating a product and thinking about the benefits it should provide to their business, instead of focusing on the value for the users.

So, if the focus on technology and product alone leads to failure in bank digital transformation, then what's the key thing to success? The answer is simple:

"Successful bank digital transformation means improving the customer experience by applying the possibilities of modern digital technology."

And this is what ChatGPT AI told us when we asked it about one key thing for the bank digital transformation:

"So one key thing that should be considered in the bank digital transformation to avoid failure is the customer experience. Banks need to ensure that their digital services are easy to use, secure, and provide value to their customers. Of course, additionally, they must take into account regulatory compliance, data privacy, and security issues when implementing new digital technologies."

After all, customers are the ones deciding product's success. What if they don't care about all of the features and technological advancements of your financial product?

In the previous Industrial age, the gap between the FMCG brands (fast-moving consumer goods) and the sales was about lack of market distribution and promotion. Times have changed and for digital products, this is not the largest issue anymore.

Digital transformation in banking - experience gap vs marketing gap

In the digital age, it's possible to reach almost anyone, with small or even without any marketing budget, using social networks, blogs and SEO (search engine optimization). The main gap today is - can you provide something the customers actually need? A product that would solve people’s problems and make their lives easier?

Those who can reply with a confident “yes” will be able to succeed even without huge marketing budget. That's because in the digital age you can bridge the gap between your financial app and the customers only by providing an exceptional customer experience in banking. Huge advertising budget, nor nice packaging won't help here.

A user-centered mobile banking app that's based on the customer wants, needs, and expectations will always be able to market itself without almost any marketing budget.

For example, we can probably all name some local restaurant that offers unforgettable experiences to its customers and creates a ton of positive emotions. After visiting, everyone tells their friends about it, post about it on Instagram, and it's not long before it's almost impossible to book a table because it has become SO popular. And it's not thanks to intensive advertisements but the word of mouth because people were so happy and satisfied with it.

It is no miracle, anyone can integrate this into their own financial business, whether it's a huge bank or a tiny fintech startup. All it takes is a true dedication to satisfy customers in the best way possible by creating an unforgettable digital banking customer experience.

To demonstrate the mismatch between what the customer expects in the digital age and what the financial companies or banks provide, we might ask: how many users would Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or TikTok have if people had to visit their headquarters and spend hours opening an account? Seems quite absurd, right?

Sadly, in the banking industry, it's often a common practice. The marketing department showcases glossy online and mobile banking solutions that might have an attractive interface, and they think this is enough to convince the shareholders that company will have a successful digital transformation.

Banks have to understand that the customers won't buy it. In the short term, these “digital” products might attract the attention of users because of their appealing visual transformation, but, in the long term, we can't call this a successful digital transformation as the number of customers for this bank will gradually decrease. Users will be disappointed by the experience this product provides and choose other alternatives on the market that can deliver up to their needs and wants. There are plenty of examples of this on social networks where people are posting about their horrible experiences with digital financial products.

I believe that this is due to the fact that often the approach to digital transformation is too superficial. Digital technology and innovation itself is not enough to ensure customer satisfaction. Digital transformation is all about transforming the experience to one that fits digital customer expectations. This requires a shift of the transformation process objectives and the evaluation metrics across all service ecosystem. That's why we should focus on experience transformation to ensure successful digital transformation in banking.

I mean financial companies should not primarly focus on creating a selling package for a product as usual, but on turning the product into a value that sells itself. The secret of creating such a user-centered product is to base it on the solution demanded by customers, not only the market segmentation and competitive strategy.

This means, using reverse engineering - a top-down approach that starts with customer research to define the ultimate value for them and proceeds with an action plan of how to execute it in your digital banking strategy. As Steve Jobs said, you've got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology - not the other way around.

The important strategy to making bank digital transformation successful is a multi-faceted customer-centered approach that includes:

1. Customer experience design

Focusing on the customer and their needs is crucial to making digital transformation a success. Digital transformation offers an opportunity for banks to create personalized, seamless, and frictionless customer experiences. Banks need to invest in UX design and customer journey mapping to ensure a deep understanding of customer preferences, behaviors, and pain points, and then designing digital products and services that meet those needs.

2. Agile and innovative culture

Banks need to create a culture that fosters experimentation, risk-taking, and innovation. This means breaking down silos and empowering teams to collaborate, test new ideas, and iterate quickly.

3. Data-driven decision making

Data is the lifeblood of digital transformation. Banks need to invest in robust data management capabilities, including data analytics, to capture, analyze, and act on customer data in real-time.

4. Technology infrastructure

Banks need to build or upgrade their technology infrastructure to support digital transformation. This includes investing in cloud computing, APIs, mobile applications, and other digital technologies that enable banks to deliver products and services to customers in a fast, efficient, and seamless manner.

5. Talent management

Banks need to attract and retain talent with the skills and experience needed to drive digital transformation. This includes hiring data scientists, software developers, UX designers, and other professionals who can help banks innovate and create new digital products and services.

6. Partnership ecosystem

Partnering with fintechs, startups, and other technology companies can help banks accelerate digital transformation. Banks can leverage the expertise of these partners to develop new products and services, test new business models, and drive innovation.

7. Regulatory compliance

Banks must ensure that their digital products and services comply with relevant regulations, such as data privacy laws, anti-money laundering regulations and standards. Banks need to invest in technologies and processes that enable them to monitor and manage compliance risks in real-time.

8. Change management

Digital transformation requires a significant shift in mindset and culture, which can be challenging for many organizations. Banks need to invest in change management strategies that enable them to communicate the benefits of customer-centered digital transformation to employees, manage resistance to change, and support the adoption of new digital tools and processes.

9. Metrics and measurement

Banks need to establish clear metrics and KPIs to track the progress and impact of digital transformation initiatives. This includes tracking customer adoption rates, engagement levels, revenue growth, cost savings, and other key metrics that demonstrate the value of digital transformation to the business. Banks should also regularly review and adjust their digital transformation strategies based on data-driven insights and feedback from customers and employees.

10. Cybersecurity and risk management

Bank digital transformation introduces new risks and vulnerabilities, including cyber threats and data breaches. Banks need to invest in robust cybersecurity and risk management frameworks that protect customer data and prevent unauthorized access especially across open banking APIs. This requires regular security assessments, training for employees, and investments in technologies such as AI and machine learning to detect and respond to cyber threats in real-time. By prioritizing cybersecurity and risk management, banks can build trust with customers and protect their reputation in the market.

Conclusion

Bank digital transformation is driven by the need to improve the customer experience and remain competitive in an increasingly digital market. I believe experience is the key in the digital age, and the future of the banking industry depends on it. Customers in the digital age expect nothing less from their banks than to be ethical, responsible, honest and caring toward their clients, striving to satisfy their needs.

Ensuring such an attitude not just on the surface level, with marketing campaigns or posters on the walls, but doing so at the core, which is the only way for banks to ensure their survival. This is especially true in times when the finance industry is disrupted by open banking data transparency, sharing economy, increasing global competition, blockchain impact on intermediaries, reducing market barriers and transforming consumer values.

At the end of the day, the “jury” to evaluate the results of your digital transformation efforts will be the customers, not the shareholders, business owners, board or other executives. The customers will “vote” by how regularly they use your digital solution and the number of transactions made. So, don’t try to fool them with a nicely packaged digital technology. Instead, cultivate empathy throughout your financial organization to become truly valuable to the customers, and you will witness a rapid growth in loyalty and retention rates.

Check out my blog about financial and banking UX design >>

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Alex Kreger

Alex Kreger

Founder & CEO

UXDA

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Location

Riga

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Banking Strategy, Digital and Transformation

Latest thinking in respect to Banking Strategy, Digital and Transformation. Harnessing our collective wisdom to make banking better. Ambrish Parmar


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