Forrester says so
The studious people at Forrester have just released some research that is astonishing. It’s only available to Forrester subscribers or to purchase – but their
teaser says it’s all.
Basically, Internet banking offerings do a pretty good job of offering functionality – they just don’t rate well from a usability perspective.
How is this possible? After 16 years of Internet banking, and what must be, for most major banks, generation 3 or 4 of their offering, this is pretty mind-blowing!
Just a US phenomena?
Let’s get the caveats out the way first – the benchmark research is US-only and covers only the six largest banks.
And yet if we reflect personally on our own experiences, my guess is that at least 7 out of 10 of you out there are nodding in agreement with the US findings.
But Internet Banking is hard – this is surely excusable?
No doubt a defence will be mounted – ‘Internet banking, unlike online retailing, is
hard’. ‘The need for the highest levels of security unfortunately get in the way of usability’ and so on.
I don’t buy it. Internet Banking actually isn’t that hard. Frankly, the scope of even the most complex and advanced Internet banking offerings is dwarfed by the functional and technical complexity of say, online travel management sites or retail sites
that allow you to visualise goods in different colours or fabrics, order, bill, charge, integrate with stock management and shipping solutions and so on.
Security in online banking is obviously important – but it need not be intrusive. Two-factor authentication on login and even re-authentication for certain high-value, high-risk transactions might be a minor inconvenience, but nothing more. Other forms
of security like SSL are completely unobtrusive.
What Forrester is talking about are fundamental issues in presentation and navigation. This is website design 101 folks!
So, if it is that basic, it will be pretty simple to fix, surely? You’d have thought so – A small team of UX (user experience) specialists, some real world customer testing, a team of high-grade technical staff to implement changes, more time for testing,
perhaps roll out to a beta group. Not cheap and not quick but definitely doable in 6-9 months.
What’s the real problem?
Will it change any time soon? I’m doubtful. And while I accept that banks have built fairly unwieldy platforms that resist change, and that channel support teams and budgets are stretched; I don’t think this is the real problem. The real problem is the
way banks think of their customers. (I maintain this is true for the most part – run with the generalization for a while – you can freely comment your exceptions later!).
Banks treat customers as captive. Retailers treat customers as transient. It creates a completely different mindset and ‘worldview’.
Think about it for a moment – you are a ‘customer’ of a supermarket only when you have a trolley full of goodies and are standing at the checkout. Any other time, you are a potential customer and you’re spoilt for choice.
If Amazon had stopped at ‘yup, you can buy books online now’ I suspect they’d have lasted a few months. What Amazon focused on was – ‘how can we make this the best book buying experience ever, not just online, but anywhere’. No surprise that Amazon
doesn’t just sell books these days.
What’s the solution?
Of course, bank customers are more captive, no question (although arguably this is changing, albeit slowly – I’ll cover this in a future blog).
In my opinion, our Internet banking experience will only improve when banks start to think differently about their customers, about how valuable our time is, about how little time we want to spend managing our finances, and about how transient we
could be. In all honesty, if they started to reflect more on the fact that most people have a ‘relationship’ with a bank out of necessity rather than choice, it would be a good place to re-baseline.
Banks need to stop thinking of Internet banking as an ‘alternative channel’. For many of us, the Internet is our primary channel and the branch is an alternative. For the next generation of customers, the currently unbanked, this is even truer.
So, poor navigation and presentation are symptoms rather than the cause of the malaise in Internet banking. Banks need to re-think the customer proposition and focus on building ‘best ever’ experiences, because in less than a generation there won’t be such
a thing as a multi-channel financial institution whose Internet channel sucks.