Why Banking Professionals Need To Use Service Design Thinking To Win Customers?

Reported by: |Updated: May 6, 2017

As bankers and board members, you realize that you are getting disrupted by the digital tsunami, rising customer expectations, Modi government’s drive for a cashless economy; competition from emerging fintechs and payment banks. You realize you can no longer play a wait-and-watch game, and need to do something quickly as the risks associated with being indifferent is very high. This is where service design thinking steps in, to help you rethink your approach and rewrite the exchange of value (and trust) between the bank and your customers. It enables you to better manage and respond to change, and continuously and rapidly innovate to differentiate your brand by involving relevant stakeholders to co-create.

A Shifting Landscape – A Show & Tell Era

As banking professionals, you are aware that in today’s world banking is no longer about just money but is about the banking experience you provide to your customers. Though you may closely work with the government, B2B or B2C businesses, and individuals – at the end you are dealing with people who decide whom they want to bank with – hence their experience matters. Moreover, as your employees are the one’s who can deliver this exceptional customer experiences, which will make them coming back for more, you need to prioritize the employee experience to attract and retain top talent.

Today, you no longer can afford to talk about customer centricity in the boardroom, but you need to “walk-the-talk” and show it via the experience you provide to your customers, employees, and stakeholders.As a result, the question you need to ask yourself is: “Are our customers with us as they love our brand  or loyal to us out of their habit?”

You also realize the need to develop “attitudinal loyalty,” as you can’t rely on “behavioral loyalty” for long. Your behavior loyalty customers continue to do business with your brand – simply because they are lazy or the switching cost to another bank is high, and they struggle and feel stuck-up. By developing attitudinal loyalty, you increase the stickiness towards your bank and prevent them from being lured by marketing offers from competition. By tracking their behavior, such as channel preference; savings, lending, transfer, and purchase habits, social interactions, loan repayment patterns, opens endless opportunities to recognize and reward them throughout their lifecycle.

Moment of Truth In Banking – A Sample Scenario

Scenario 1 (Not Met Expectations) – Picture yourself visiting a local branch of your bank, to apply for a housing loan and after waiting for almost an hour, the assigned loan agent was unable to address all your concerns, leaving you disappointed.

Scenario 2 (Exceeded Expectations) – You make few calls, and Saturday morning, you visit another bank and walk away extremely pleased with the staff interactions. The person walks you through the banking site and activities that need to be completed by you. Later in the evening, you log in online and check out the dashboard and view the summary of activities completed at the branch and you complete the pending activities.  While filling the form, you get stuck-up, but the system is intuitive and guides you.

You also delighted that by downloading the mobile app, you can receive the status update on the go. You also, receive a message sharing details of a new financial product related to your recent activities. Thoroughly impressed, you decide to call the relationship manager and know more.

Given the clear link between the moments of truth and your share of wallet, your bank should identify the relevant touchpoints along the customer’s journey to achieve this state of customer excellence. You need to beyond the analytics to get a complete picture of your customer’s needs and behaviors. Service Design Thinking could help banks to move towards this state and bring a user-centric approach by redesigning their services.

Service Design Thinking For Banks

“Service design is the shaping of service experiences that really work for people. By removing the lumps and bumps that make them frustrating, and then adding some magic to make them compelling.” – Mat Hunter, Chief Design Officer at the Design Council

It is about making the intent real. It is an outcome driven approach making the customer the focal point of the decision-making process towards creating a preferred future. It connects the dots between strategy, creativity, innovation and business feasibility, impacting the customer, employees, stakeholders, products, and services, location, processes, and performance.

Many Australian Banks, Bank of America, Denmark’s Jyske Bank, Lloyds Bank, Umpqua Bank and so on, have recognized the potential of service design thinking in the journey to becoming future oriented.

The tools and techniques help banks to:

  • define new end-to-end customer experiences and differentiate yourself
  • learn about your end-to-end customer journey and identify the make or break experiences across multiple banking channels
  • ways to turn negative experiences into positive ones
  • understand how your employees, processes, and systems support directly or indirectly the customer’s end-to-end journey
  • redesign your work-culture to meet the demands of the digital era

Service design thinking offers a perspective, method, and toolset that will enable your bank to realize your business strategy as well as a way to deal with internal and external challenges. It offers to tame and humanize technology, bring cultural change in your organization, enhance customer experience. The tools exposes your bank to the merits of ‘failing fast.’

It offers an outside-in approach to deal with the strategic initiatives as well as operational challenges, by asking three fundamental question:

  1. What does this do for our existing and potential customers?
  2. How will our bank’s business be impacted?
  3. Which capabilities are needed by the bank to respond to or drive the initiative

The practice lets your bank draws upon the imagination, intuition, logic and systemic reasoning to create the financial products that are more desirable and services which are more appealing, benefitting the end user, and improving the success rate of the innovation.

To Apply Or Not To Apply

Much of the conversation is to justify whether service design thinking will prove to be useful or a waste of time and resources.

With speed, convenience and easy of transacting become the liquid expectation of customers, your bank has to leverage digital technology to be empathetic, proactive (and responsive), accessible, connected, provide value for money and be human to win over your most prized assets (employees, customers, and stakeholders).

Instead of focusing on building a Minimum Viable Product / Service, today you need to image and give shape to a Minimum Lovable Service, making your customers coming back for more.

This call for transformation demands you to redesign or rediscover a revised or new business model, innovative products, and services, reshape the bank’s culture, consider a merger or acquisition, based on the vision of the future of your bank and so on. As this whole thing is volatile, iterative and experimental, it demands a non-linear approach to problem-solving keeping the end user need in mind.

If your bank is looking to elevate your brand, engage with your omnichannel customers and communicate authenticity, service design thinking can deliver meaningful insights to support those initiatives.

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Vidya Priya Rao, is the Founder and Director of Innovatus Marketers Touchpoint LLP, a customer experience, marketing, and sales consulting and services firm. She is a visiting faculty at S.P.Jain School of Global Management. She is an Executive, Marketing & Sales Coach, Trainer, and Keynote Speaker. vidyapriya.rao@marketerstouchpoint.com



  • Abhinav Lunawat

    Relevant and very well expressed thought. Brings out the truth that any and every interaction could be an experience for the customer, if consciously approached by the service provider.

    • Vidya Priya Rao

      Thanks for taking time to read. You have nailed it. To differentiate, companies will have to concentrate on enhancing the customer experience.