The recent news that switching banks in the UK will now take only seven days is great news for those wanting to change banks with less fuss. We have already seen an increase in the number of people, small charities and businesses changing their banks or building society, writes Jim McCall
But what about the banks themselves? Whilst this increase is not as alarming as some predicted, banks should be waking up to the fact that consumers are becoming more willing to switch. They should make the process of switching simpler, and this should start online.
Switching banks online has an obvious number of advantages for both the consumer and the banks themselves. Not least of which running a website takes a lot less manpower and effort than running a call centre or a branch. However the process of speaking to someone over the phone or in person and trusting them with your money seems to many a far more alluring option than clicking a few buttons whilst making such a major decision.
The banks do need to realise that a number of customers will simply not be fussed about switching so they have to make it as alluring as possible. With the right marketing and publicity the consumer will be more tempted to investigate further.
Speaking of trust and the lack of it in banks at the moment, if a bank has an effective user-friendly site, they should expect to create faith within their brand and improve reputation significantly.
What’s more online experiences have a much higher drop-off rate than over the phone. If the digital experience is poor, if the message is confused and unnecessarily complicated, then the customer will simply click off without a moment’s hesitation. Over the phone is a different story; they will be more likely to see the process through despite a rude or unhelpful person over the phone.
Banks can combat this by optimising their user experience in a number of ways, but ultimately they all boil down to the journey the user has to make as they travel through the process of transferring banks.
Traditionally, banking e-propositions were created with closed systems. After a few months, organisations would find these systems restrictive but updates would be costly so they were left alone ‘in the wild’.
The problem lay in that during the implementation stage designers would not have been approached and these business objectives would not have been uncovered, leaving the website with an unfriendly user experience, resulting in the customer paying the price.
User experience is such a dynamic concept that this ridged system opens itself up to being left behind and looking rather dated.
Therefore, any solutions that are put forward to optimise the experience must bridge the gap between technical requirements, business objectives and the end customer. Innovation and user experience have traditionally been seen as being at odds with one another, however they can be harmonised to create an effective user-friendly site.
Contrary to popularly-held beliefs, improving user experience does not need to be a painful process that requires large budgets and time, and several improvements can be made by banks without a complete overhaul.
Developers should make the content task-orientated and less marketing focused, instructing the user what is expected of them and how to complete their tasks. Again this relates back to the likelihood of people ‘clicking-off’ whilst on a website.
Whilst completing these tasks customers should be kept informed of their progress with clear and concise feedback. Every step of the changing process should be explained clearly on the screen, helping them understand what the next steps on the journey for switching accounts are.
Ultimately, the major problems banks face whilst trying to get consumers to switch to them is that people are simply not aware of these regulations, or just can’t be bothered to switch. There may be a blanket distrust across all banks, so putting the time and effort into switching may perceptively not be worth it.
Jim McCall is MD of The Unit