What Does Design Have To Do With Rapidly Evolving Customer Experience Expectations?

We all know the reality facing financial institutions – it's that little pocket device that more than 90 percent of Americans own is driving an evolution around what customers expect today. These rapidly evolving expectations are changing the banking experience. Young adults especially expect convenience and flexibility through alternate channels, when it comes to transacting with their financial institution.

Filene Research Institute found that the availability of multiple channels, such as mobile, online and ATMs, led to greater customer satisfaction for those under 30 than other age groups. The flexibility and convenience offered through alternative interaction channels was cited as more than twice as important to customer satisfaction for the younger generation, compared to decreased fees and improved rates.

Financial institutions can and should understand and employ human-centered design when developing new products and services for their members and prospective members.

How can financial institutions manage this evolution? Financial institutions can and should understand and employ human-centered design when developing new products and services for their members and prospective members.

What is human-centered design? It starts with gaining a deep understanding of the needs, hopes and dreams of the people your institution serves and intends to serve. It is a process whereby you must learn by doing. It focuses on evolving solutions based on real-time feedback. It shapes the customer's journey; a product or service developed to provide value is nothing without an experience that corresponds to one's expectations.

Design thinking refers to a set of methods and a mindset that creates empathy by putting people at the center of the development process. It is a highly collaborative, knowledge-based approach that can yield innovative experience-driven solutions through a flexible but standardized process. As an example of design thinking in practice, ask a financial institution's leaders, "What is a problem you need to tackle?" A typical response would be, "We need to grow loans!" but a human-centered design response would sound more like, "We need to make borrowing easier and affordable for our members."

Design thinking is critically important for financial institutions given that members and prospective members want to interact with their financial institution through a multitude of channels. People don't see a financial institution as a group of distinct channels but as a single entity with which they want to interact in a variety of ways. The tricky part for financial institutions is that people expect very consistent interactions across those channels. Therefore, designing, building and executing a consistent experience, or journey, is the key for financial institutions.

What are some steps your financial institution can take to use design thinking to better serve customers in this multi-channel world?

  • Start by answering the question: who are you serving and why?
  • Gather insights to understand what you do and don't know about current and prospective customers. Financial institutions have transactional data at their finger-tips, which can provide rich insights
  • Understand which customers use which channels for what transactions
  • Design a unified experience around the highest segment to channel match
  • Establish metrics that will track and assess member satisfaction across an experience journey
  • Ensure the cornerstone of new product and service development is the customer

An option for credit unions is to participate in an Innovation Immersion program offered by Filene. The program is based on over ten years of developing a collaborative methodology for innovation, which is grounded in human-centered design.

Mollie Bell is the Chief Engagement Officer for Filene Research Institute, which explores issues vital to the future of credit unions and consumer finance. She can be reached at mollieb@filene.org.

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