Katy Thorbahn is President/CEO at Shiny.
Looking for a painful experience? Try opening savings accounts with large banks. Afterward, you’ll realize just why financial technology companies are such a threat to large established brands.
Our Big Bank Test
We were doing a research project for one of our financial clients and decided to open savings accounts with different brands to better understand those experiences. Our need for the accounts may have been atypical, but the criteria we laid out for selecting the accounts were not:
• Easy to open and manage online.
• Low or no minimum balance requirements.
• No (or easily avoidable) fees.
• No hard credit inquiry.
• Optional: competitive interest rate.
Some may not care about the interest rate, and that’s fine—my point is that people looking to start a savings account online may well be doing something more impulsive than they are when it comes to most other financial products. They may be thinking, “I don’t have a savings account, and I know I should have one.”
On the first bank site we went to, our state wasn’t available in the drop-down menu, and no explanation was given as to why. As people who work in financial services, we understood why this might be, but it was such a dead end that the brand left us with a bad taste in our mouths. And then it happened again with a second brand.
We then set our sights on a third bank, one of the most recognized financial brands in the world. “This should be easy,” we thought. We thought wrong. We captured everything on video, so we were able to determine how long it took to complete different steps. Here’s a breakdown:
• Four minutes and 18 seconds: How long it took to go through selecting the right product for our needs and completing the application process. This includes a minute of a spinning icon with a “submission completed” message before we saw a “submission error” screen and an 18-digit code to give to the folks at the 800 number provided. There was no other option. Remember, the goal was to open and manage an account online. Not with this bank.
• A minute and three seconds: When we called the 800 number, this is how long we spent listening to choices on the phone tree three separate times because none of them included, “Press 3 if you encountered a submission error on our website.”
• Nine minutes and 48 seconds: How long we spent listening to very repetitive hold music.
• Three minutes and 56 seconds. How long it took the call center representative to say, “It’s showing here that your account is approved.”
• Four minutes and 38 seconds: How long it took to set up a funding source during the bafflingly confusing onboarding process.
• Two days: How long it took to see the test deposits in the account.
• Seven to 10 days: How long the call center representative said it would take to receive the welcome kit.
In a highly competitive space where milliseconds count, this is simply abysmal. One of our team members suggested a new tag line for this brand: “Set up a new savings account in two weeks or less!” And while that would never make it to market, it’s exactly what a new customer probably thinks of the brand: It’s slow, inflexible and painful to work with for even the most basic of tasks.
You may be wondering how the other banks fared. We gave up. We were looking for a quick fix and learned what we needed for the research assignment: The big banks we tried didn’t deliver fast, easy and seamless experiences.
Big banks, is this what you want your process to be like? Because it surely isn’t what your customers want.
Three Tips For Big Banks
Here are three things big financial institutions can do to level the playing field:
1. Context is key—always provide information and helpful tips at the beginning of someone’s journey. You don’t operate in certain states? The solution is simple here: Populate all 50 states in drop-down menus and provide your prospect with an explanation as to why an account can’t be opened in their state. Ideally, provide them with an alternate path, if possible. Do you need additional information to complete an online submission? Clearly state what you need and why. If you know that you’re going to require some details that may not be readily available, let them know that before they get started.
2. Keep people in their channel of choice. If for any reason a task can’t be completed without human intervention, think of ways to provide that in the channel in which the customer started. For example, if we wanted to talk to a human to set up an account, we would have walked into a branch or started with an 800 number. Online chat, text or even email would have been a better solution for us rather than that dreaded phone call.
3. Understand that immediacy is nonnegotiable. Most people’s mindset once they start an application or begin setting up an account is that they are already your customer. And that means they expect to be able to use whatever product they’re looking for as soon as they hit the submit button. When we opened our account, test deposits should have been received while we were still online, and a digital welcome kit should have already been provided. No matter how big the business is, you need to operate at the speed of life.
By taking a few simple steps, big banks can solve a lot of the issues we experienced—and start giving fintech companies a run for their money.
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