We have all experienced the moment when we understand that the time for change has come. Often these changes are associated with personal challenges. Most of the time we want to implement them as soon as possible and in the easiest way. This also exists in the world of business. The business world mirrors our personal world and follows the same rules.
This also applies to the financial industry. From time to time, clients come to us and say that they need new design. When we ask when they expect it to be ready, the answer quite frequently is - yesterday. It is easy to compare this with individuals who start to go to the gym in spring to get the ideal body for summer. Maybe their goals are attainable, but it is highly unlikely that they will achieve the desired result in such a short timeframe. That's why in this post I will point out some tips from our own experience with financial services on how to get “the ideal beach body” and keep fit painlessly.
On cold winter evenings, people start to dream of hot summer days by the beach. They seek admiration for their perfect weight, muscles, and swimwear. This great vision creates enthusiasm and the delusion that it is possible to achieve it in a short time period. The action plan is simple - go to a gym and eat healthily. The same thing is true in banking. Many chief executives have a vision of where they want to be in terms of service UX. Most importantly, they believe that it is easy to do in a short time period.
People often believe that money can get them anything and anywhere. They are not used to hearing the response - “most probably you won't receive the desired result in such a short timeframe”. You know where I am going with this one... Even if you have a lot of money it doesn't mean that you can become a swimwear supermodel or successfully implement design thinking in your work processes overnight. It takes a lot of hard work and patience to achieve results. However, for some reason there are individuals who believe in a magic pill, that will do everything for them.
Shifting the mindset is crucial to success
Let me break this down for you - magic is not real. But I can tell you what is real - hard work and a shift of mindset. When it's done properly it helps your dreams come true. Before implementing design thinking into your company, you have to start with a basic understanding. UX and design thinking is a perception model of how you view your service and your attitude to the users. It is a work and life philosophy that teaches us to think more about people. How to empathize and take a step forward. Do not overwhelm them with things they don't need. Yet another loan is not necessary. What they need is a quick and painless banking product that they will use every day.
If you have the desire to get fit and have a great beach body, you have to change things in your life, such as your attitude towards daily routine, food, and habits. Design thinking and UX need to be empowered in the corporate culture and daily practice to create successful financial services in the disrupted market. An understanding and acceptance at the executive and business development level are crucial to achieving that. When that is accomplished, it can be brought to employees who will execute it and implement it for users. This does not work any other way. If banking business developers don't understand value and its importance, this philosophy will fail.
At a gym, all exercises have to be executed with caution. It may sound strange - how can something that should be good for my health actually harm me? If you workout like there is no tomorrow, do the exercises incorrectly, don't stretch afterward and don't follow the right diet, it may do you more harm than good. The same happens with UX implementation when banks and businesses focus on UX design as an emergent and fast solution. Imagine a situation when you download a well-promoted Fintech application, start using it, and find yourself with the urgent need to contact support. When you do, you receive a cold and unpleasant attitude from the support manager. They say that you are only as strong as your weakest point. If a user-centered philosophy is not implemented across the whole company, a customer will become frustrated. Even if you have created the perfect solution, as soon as your customers encounter a bad attitude, it will affect their impression of your company.
UX strategy implementation checklist:
1. SELF REALIZATION - VIEW FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE
It is important to be 100% honest with yourself and answer the question, How did I get myself into this situation? Self-realization and acceptance is a crucial step before we start anything new. It is completely useless to start running or doing push-ups just because we realize that summer is around the corner. There is a risk of repeating past mistakes if we don’t understand how they occurred.
From a bank’s perspective, one main question arises, why don't we currently have a customer-centered philosophy? It is good to realize, that the current business model is not so user-friendly and might not provide much value to customers after all. How did all of this happen? Did executives get too greedy after achieving success and then stop caring? Maybe key people left, or there never were any user-centered philosophy advocates in the team? It is time to ask the right questions and be ready to find answers that may not be pleasant. There is no point in blaming anyone or taking radical steps. Question, analyze, and understand why and how this happened.
2. FIND THE RIGHT MOTIVATION
It is important to know if what we are currently doing is being done for the right reasons. Are we getting fit because we want to show off on the beach for others or are we serious about changing our habits and lifestyle? It is important to get our priorities straight and find the right motivation.
For a bank and a business, it is a great goal to look good in your customers' eyes. To win awards as the most innovative, beautiful, competitive bank or Fintech is really nice, but why? Why are businesses trying so hard to be rewarded? Typically, it is for free publicity, great PR, a reason to show off to the other board members, to raise the next big investment, and even for a career boost. In rare cases, the reason is to make customers’ lives better, change the whole corporate way of thinking, be able to produce great future products, and live up to the customer-oriented legacy.
3. CREATE VISION - CLEAR AND CRISP
You have figured out your motivation and you know where, why, and how you got yourself into this situation. Now what you need is a vision. It is a key element that determines direction. When doing reps for biceps in the gym, you are imagining strong and muscular arms - that's a real vision of the future. Vision is a powerful tool for perceiving information and it can be used to turn vision into reality. Arnold Schwarzenegger kept Muhammad Ali’s picture in his locker as his motivation while he was training.
When businesses revamp their definition of identity, they try to build a vision of how they see themselves later. The same applies to UX strategy. Vague vision statements such as, “I want to be fit” or “we want to be user-friendly” will not help much. A more appropriate vision could be, we want to give our customers the most pleasant digital banking experience possible. Or, perhaps, the next time a customer enrols in any of our services, it will be done as quickly and as easily as possible. Or, even from now on, our payment forms will not cause any confusion, and consistency will be applied to all services. Or maybe, visual result definition should be clear and understandable.
4. WORK ON YOUR OWN VS HIRING PROFESSIONALS
This is a tough decision. In theory, everything is so simple. To get fit, all you need is - exercise and to eat healthily. Basically, if you start running every other day, lift some weights and say no to chips and late night snacks, you should see results. But will these results be as good and effective as you hoped for at the beginning? Individuals who are confident in themselves or have some knowledge in fitness believe that they can do it on their own.
With banks, it is similar. When they are on the verge of change, they believe that they are capable of rebuilding their user-centered strategy on their own. The business and IT department feel confident that they can build their new digital banking system, and this time it will be user-friendly. The problem is that these are the guys who most probably came up with the previous version that sucks. Where is the guarantee that the new version won't? Similarly, if you have already tried to get fit once, and you grew muscles but then gave up or failed, where is the promise that this time it will be different?
There is a reason why UX experts exist. They are the ones who have the experience - good and bad. They can help you to avoid mistakes even if you are fully convinced that you are doing everything correctly. As with the gym, you probably don’t know all the small details that make exercises better, which ones are the most effective, and which are just a waste of time.
5. GET THE RIGHT PROFESSIONAL
You have reached the point where you know for sure that on your own you won't achieve the result you desire, and you need guidance. Actually, it is pretty challenging because you need to find the right professional, the one who will inspire you to battle the related difficulties and guide you through the whole journey.
Now it's time to take action and find that right professional. Search for a potential gym with coaches, do the research and make calls to find out more details about several gyms. What pros and cons do each of them have? Narrow it down and make a comparison, in order to make the right decision.
When you have found the right person, share your desired goal with your coach. The goal most definitely differs for every person. It can be to lose weight or to become more muscular. Only when the coach has understood your previous experience and the goals you wish to achieve, the perfect training and diet plan will be created and the journey commenced.
This is also a crucial moment for banks. When the priority is straight - to revamp the whole system of online banking so that it is customer-centered - find professionals that focus exactly on that. Ask around and find out what others can suggest or have seen in financial areas, or do the research on your own. Banks and Fintechs need to find professionals who understand them, empathize with the situation they are in, and feel that they can help with that. They need to be easy to communicate with and trustworthy, because the upcoming process will be crucial for their future. And of course, their skill level, knowledge, and previous experience are self-evident.
Just as in our comparison with the gym, these professionals can only help to achieve the best results if they perfectly understand the whole situation and the result you wish to accomplish.
6. BE 100% HONEST
You have found your professional and you are sure that you are working on your challenge. To reach the place that you have in mind, you have to be honest with your coach, about all your intentions, progress mindest and other details of which you might not be so proud. Even your previous experiences that didn't go as expected. This is how you may avoid repeating the mistakes that happened in the past. You need to let your coach know if you really don't like doing something. There is always an alternative.
Banks often work with design and consultancy agencies. Sometimes cooperation is completely unhelpful and same mistakes are repeated over and over again by running into same issues. So why not to discuss and to talk about them, in order to help avoid them? Open communication will definitely help make sure that both sides are on the same track at every step of the project. It is perfectly fine to admit that some collaborations or some internal work on a specific project didn't work out as expected. The new agency will analyze and understand what went wrong and what precautions should be taken in advance when working towards new goals.
7. PAY ATTENTION AND DO YOUR BEST
You need to listen to your coach to learn the correct way on how to perform an exercise - check your pulse when you are running to keep it within a healthy level, do push-ups correctly to not harm your spine, stretch after every workout etc. Learn about healthy nutrition such as what products to avoid and which are more than welcomed to use in your diet.
Quite often banks and people in the financial world tend to throw money at problems and hope that they are going to be fixed by someone else without any particular engagement. This tends to be a problem because money and a consultancy agency simply cannot solve your situation alone. Your consultant can teach, show great examples, and talk about best practices, but the actual heavy lifting is done by those who need it.
8. BE PATIENT AND MOVE FORWARD
We all know that to get the right result we have to work hard - exercise regularly, follow a healthy lifestyle, drink a lot of water, and have a good night sleep. It takes lot of time and patience until the first results can be visible. We feel better and that makes us happy. But inevitably as it happens in a world we can hit plateau state or have difficulties. In terms of the gym and workouts, we might get tired, think it doesn't work anymore, or let everyday things get in the way. We can always surrender our goal or keep moving forward regardless of distractions, in order to reach our goal. This may sound like a motivation poster, but the ones who move forward despite roadblocks and find the path, are the ones who later are admired. We do tend to admire people who were able to do something that we could not.
The exact same thing happens to banks. They often point out to some startups or other banks and say that they want what they have. But they don't understand what roadblocks these others have gone through to get where they are. Popular roadblocks include, aligning user-centricity across the team, fighting the legacy backends, implementing new features, and leaving out outdated ones despite the fact that in past time was spent on building them. They may also be confronted with battling the legal team and looking around for another way to minimize huge input forms that are offered to users, which they hate. It is time for a bank to stop wanting what others have built and not fighting for that, but actually, start thinking about what the possibilities are of implementing change. There are so many simple examples for almost every banking function in other banks and Fintechs that work. It is time to stop making excuses and make it happen!
9. LIVING PAST ACHIEVED RESULTS
The happiest outcome is achieved - the goal. Satisfaction is guaranteed. Some say it is about the journey, some say it is about the destination, but the result is the result and it is time to taste the fruits of success. Now we can relax, right? And herein lies a great misconception. We tend to take a rest when our goal is achieved because this is it, this is what we wanted right? If we stop, success will be short-lived. Perhaps it is worth considering also staying in good shape after summer? What we can do to prolong this amazing feeling of being on top, is to find new heights and start moving in that direction and suddenly a healthy lifestyle becomes part of daily life.
When a bank has successfully implemented UX design in their digital platform, technically the job is done. We can pat ourselves on the back and wait for bonuses. But success is only temporary. The work on being a customer-centered bank is not finished yet. Rebuilding digital channels is only one step of many more. Having a UXed digital platform means that the customer experience will be expected to be at the highest levels too. Call center experience, the customer experience at branches for example. What can we do with digital channels? Implement continuous testing and improvement. Look for an everlasting change of user habit, new generations requests etc. Continuously implement small changes with help from the in-house team or UX consultants. This is how the success of the bank and a good experience, in the customers' eyes, will last much longer.
When going through this checklist banks, Fintechs and any other service may find similarities with their own situation and identify how this situation occurred. Understand what the possibilities are to solve it and find the right path to achieve results. It should help them realize that it's time to take action to avoid unrealistic expectation and as mentioned previously - avoid unnecessary harm to achieve it. Now it is up to financial institutions who seek to make a change to successfully implement this ideology.
Account Director & UX Expert
at UX Design Agency