Why Financial Services Cos need Designers and fast !

I just came back from depositing a cheque into a relative’s HDFC Bank account. I know, its a crime that I did not use the Online Money Transfer services, especially since I am a self proclaimed Digital guy working in the Financial Services sector.

Anyways, I was filling in the deposit slip with details of the cheque and the beneficiary account details and suddenly there was this huge frustration in filling the same information twice.  HDFC Bank does not use a carbonated Deposit slip like Citibank India does. And it stuck me that once I have experienced the Citibank’s way of filling the information once, I refuse to be forced through the seemingly ill-designed process. I eventually did fill in the bank’s half of the deposit slip but just scribbled the bare essentials in my half of it.

So it got me thinking, why is it that our banks and other Financial Services companies do not “design” with the customer-experience at the center. In today’s world when better designed products and services are beating-the-shit out of their established competitors, why are Banks and Insurance Firms so slow to react.

The rise of well-designed products and services is not something which is purely outside of BFSI sector. Any payments industry person would tell you that Square is a serious threat to VISA and MasterCard in specific business segments. Square’s well designed product and application just removed a few major hurdles in the overall process.

The Branch

The branch is probably the single most important customer touchpoint.  You might argue otherwise that your call-center or the website gets more traffic and handles more transcations. But the reality is that its at your branch that a true face-to-face interaction happens and that too because the customer wanted it. The customer is so keen to do that transaction or resolve that query that she has taken the pains to walk to you.

Have you been to a branch of a Public Sector bank? Chances are that the iron-grill was chained and you had to take care while entering the branch premise. Sounds familiar? What do you think a customer feels while entering such a premise? Is he in a mood to listen to someone telling him to buy an Insurance product or is he likely to just walk out of the branch as soon as his chosen transaction for the day is done?

I recently went to a TCS powered Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) and boy did it feel like a whole different world. The premises were clean, air-conditioned, there was line and crowd control. A token system which ensured timely processing, a display announcing which desk you had to report to and the works. Compared to my first experience this was a complete contrast.

While getting your branch to look like the Jabong ad  might be an easy task, what is needed is a design oriented approach towards all the aspects of the customer touch points. Do we expect the customer to wait on us, if yes, is there a waiting area. Are our clients senior citizens, if yes, what facilities do we have for them (say dedicated desks). Do we serve them just water or tea/coffee too? Is it a self-service kiosk or we have a kitchen hidden somewhere. This very simple question is something that many MNC companies have failed to understand in the Indian context. I have been to a few corporate reception areas, where there is no one to ask you for water, leave aside tea/coffee. If you serve Indian customers, you might have created a big wall right there. Its part of our culture and just because its a corporate set-up we cannot ignore it.


Beyond the branch

Opportunity to design better goes beyond just the branch or the physical world interactions. Here are a few others that are ripe for design-disruption:

  • Credit/Debit-Card chargeslips. I remember that a French company presented to us way back in 2004 about printing chargeslips with detachable coupons. In almost a decade the only variations one has seen is probably an ad on the reverse instead of the usual T&Cs. The key thing that any designer would probably do is ask why a customer is given a chrageslip in the first place. If this is to keep as a proof of transcation, then most of current thermal printers beat the whole purpose. The ink just fades away. Does the customer need it to file for expense claims and reimbursement? How does the customer store it? Does it stay in their wallets or does it go into some envelope or drawer. I don’t know the answers but I sure know that chargelsips in their current avatar just don’t cut it.
  • Websites. I remember reading the findings of a Kern report which states that almost all Life Insurance co’s websites had a poor overall user experience.

“Most online insurance websites provided minimal details about the policy, mostly hidden in a PDF brochure, making it very difficult for the customers to find details. The customers had to spend time to search for information, which was distributed throughout the website, in the absence of any reasonable user flow.”

  • Even Mobile apps. A friend on my Facebook network posted this. Enough said.

American Express App





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