Retail banks are increasingly going to face customers for whom the primary interface with the bank is going to be mobile. The high frequency, repeatable and lower value transactions, or their combination thereof are rapidly going mobile. Just about 5 years back, mobility and related initiatives were classified by most banks as innovation. Now they are central to all retail banking IT planning and execution process.

Undoubtedly, the disruption has been led by innovations and product evolution on the payments side – Silicon Valley forced these changes on the Wall Street via dis-intermediating the P2P payment processes, reducing banks to mere accounting platforms in the process over the last decade. It would appear though, that the omni-channel story has finally become mainstream for most large banks, and mobility is no longer an add on for any CIO. However, one look at the mobile banking landscape will confirm that various banks and retail financial institutions are still at very differing levels of maturity here. The acceptability of the concept has not always resulted in game changing customer experience on the ground.

Customer Expectations from Banks

As banks rush to address the customer experience aspect within the hitherto silo driven channel management strategies, they will do well to remember these Ten Customer Commandments:

  • Thou shalt have no redundant process steps before me on mobile channels.
  • Thou shalt not make unto thee any cumbersome registration and verification requirements.
  • Thou shalt not take the name of other bank products in a bid to cross-sell during transactions.
  • Remember the bills and their due days, keep them available on the mobile interface.
  • Honour thy iOS and thy Android, and catch up with anything else that gains more than 1% of the mobile OS market share (i.e. Windows).
  • Thou shalt not kill your user with heavy and recurring downloads.
  • Thou shalt not force social logins or data sharing with other applications on the user.
  • Thou shalt not steal your customers – mobile should be free and fully geared up.
  • Thou shalt not witness false transactions, whether terminating inside the bank or outside.
  • Thou shalt not covet customer time for understanding and using the mobile functionality.

Despite making significant progress in this aea over the last few years, several banks will be found lacking on at least a few of these customer expectations.

Getting the Feature Set Right

Many banks continue to struggle making the trade-off between offering a lot of functionality to customers replicating what physical presence does versus understanding how a customer touch-point can be made better using mobile. Getting the right features alongside a tailored, seamless execution is what will make significant difference in future on areas like customer engagement, customer loyalty and revenue uplift.

Sales and Marketing Presence: As per Capgemini Consulting research, just about a quarter of the banks focus on making product selling easier via mobile. The channel is still seen as transactional, rather than one which enhances brand value and extends product footprints. While clear segregation of transactions and cross-selling is a must, the latter cannot be completely ignored by the banks.

Touch Count Optimization: The existing web channels for most banks use multi step processes for simple transactions like money transfer or standing instructions creation. Sometimes these also involve repeat authentication on the web for greater security. On the mobile, balancing process steps with the number of touches the customer is expected to make to get through a transaction is a key determinant of custome experience.

Location Based Services: The ability of the banks to customize the in-app information and experience based on customer location is an area of improvement. Offering deals and exclusive offers involving bank marketing tie ups with third parties can be made co-terminus with the customer location. Most apps are not geared up for this.

Asset and Liability Balance: Banks almost always find it easier to bring the current and savings account and credit card functions to the mobile platform. Traditionally, the banking systems have been designed in a way so as to keep asset and liability products separately, and within assets too, using different systems. Mobile channel is still a superimposition for the banks on top of this federated IT, which in most cases mirrors the physical organization of the bank. This however prevents the information the customers see across asset and liability products on mobile channels. Most banks solved this problem on web only in the last 5-6 years, offering customer single views. There is still some distance to go before solving this on mobile.

Payments Experience: Payments as a function is offered by most banks in their mobile apps and tends to be the most used mobile feature after balance inquiry. However, banks are still catching up on payments features like payee registration and confirmation on mobile, payment origination based on email addresses rather than bank account details and integration with social / virtual currencies and “parallel payment services”. Improvements in this area can significantly drive channel adoption as well as bank loyalty over time.

While the banks continue to play the catch up game and streamline customer experience, the success in engaging retail customers will be driven by the ability to the banks to integrate mobile as an essential component of service delivery, rather than treating it as an add-on. In another half a decade or so, mobile will be the difference between retail banking success and failure. Banks need to keep straddling the innovation – differentiation – commoditization cycle rapidly and be prepared to iterate on this continuum multiple times, rather than looking at mobile as a one-off project. On stake is the future of the bank.