By Graham Wood, Creative Director at Somo
When it comes to digital experiences, good UI design in digital products should really be regarded as table stakes. Often driven by challenger brands across sectors who define success by user uptake of their product rather than their reputation, we have seen digital ripples become digital waves across apps and websites of all players. Digital is now a part of everything we experience.
In many ways, the FS industry is the poster child of this innovation. The rapid rise of neobanks, from Monzo to Revolut, has set the benchmark for user experience and UI design that incumbents have had to take note of. They have demonstrated what a difference thoughtful and well-executed features can make for users across every area of experience, both internal and external. They have been able to quickly and effectively create features or products that focus on specific needs for particular demographics and build the best possible journey within a category of product. They have found the right balance between convenience and robust security measures, have helped people understand and manage their finances more effectively and allowed them to discover new products from third parties. Combine that with also removing the cumbersome onboarding processes and we see how neobanks have redefined what best actually is.
But even legacy banks that have solid public digital offerings often have a vast gap between the quality of what their customers use and the tools the employees have to do their jobs. Take Citibank, for example. It mistakenly sent $500million to various creditors last year due to its reliance on old software and a poorly designed user interface that harks back to the ’90s. Unfortunately for Citibank, a judge ruled that it isn’t entitled to get back the money.
Situations like this are often a result of finite resources and digital teams with not enough bandwidth and higher priorities than replacing internal legacy systems. However, this often has a negative impact on the overall internal culture. A bank employee’s negative experience has the potential to affect their service quality and poor customer-facing UX leads to lower customer satisfaction. It’s a double blow that can lead to very expensive problems unless good design practices become not just a priority, but also an expectation across all of your digital touchpoints.
Good design is ultimately based on understanding what users want and need from your product. This means catering to it as directly and cleanly as possible, and, ideally, looking for ways you can add value for the user over and above the core function it provides. The same broadly applies whether you are talking about customers or employees.
Poor UX design is always detrimental. If customers find it difficult to get to what they need from digital tools they will either revert to calling a customer service line or give up entirely and go elsewhere. But often, and most importantly, if a product doesn’t feel well designed or doesn’t reflect modern standards for security and usability, then people won’t trust it.
This is where neobanks are at risk. If the UX doesn’t feel secure enough then it will struggle to gain trust and legitimacy in the eyes of its users. Similarly, if a trusted bank puts too much friction in the way because of its own legacy infrastructure, or prioritises rigorous security over customer experience, then they have the opposite problem and people may look to bank elsewhere. This may not look threatening in the short term, but over time it can have a real impact on revenue-generating services as new offerings chip away at a previously stable customer base.
Employees on the other hand often have no option but to use poorly designed legacy systems. It leads to a sub-standard experience for users within the business that often make them slower and less efficient, or at least subject to specialist knowledge that’s not well documented or understood beyond a small group. At worst, it leads to costly and avoidable errors, that Citibank can attest to.
In order to avoid these pitfalls, it really comes down to culture and valuing the quality of experience regardless of who your user is. Organisations that have embedded experience design and have adopted tools such as design systems to create consistent experiences are often better and faster at fixing their own problems internally. The organisation as a whole needs to understand and value design. If a company doesn’t have a culture that values employee experience or doesn’t yet have the digital maturity to recognise where they’re falling behind, you tend to uncover clunky legacy systems and user interfaces that have been designed with little thought for their usability.
In the end, those companies that have really embraced and understood digital have seen the value of making sure this is reflected inside as well as outside their organisation, and the value that digital has brought in improving the tools and workflows that are used at every level. By designing your tools with your customers and employees in mind, not only will financial service companies survive in the digital age, but they also have an opportunity to redefine what the future of employee, as well as customer experience, looks like.