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Using Technology to Improve the User Experience

Thu, Dec 8, 2016

Columbia, Maryland

Recently, our product team was involved in a discussion about “user experience.” This topic has become very important in the world of technology, as we continue to create very sophisticated tools to advance how companies, including financial institutions, do business.  However, if the user can’t figure out how to use the technology they have, it has lost all value.  Focus on the user experience, or UX for short, is one of the reasons why Apple’s technology has been so popular.  While the “hacker” mentality is frustrated by Apple’s proprietary platforms, 90% of consumers find the user experience absolutely delightful.  And that experience isn’t just built into the product, it is built into the entire client engagement.

Creating a positive user experience is difficult to do, especially when there is a lot of complexity tied to the technology. CU Direct’s Lending Insights product team, for example, is looking at refining analytics software, so that it is easier to understand and use by credit union lenders who are not particularly inclined to the analytics environment.  There are other areas in business and in personal life that are faced with similar levels of complexity, and I think you’d agree the user experience is often less than pleasing.  For example, security checks at the airport, applying for a mortgage, or completing a tax return are all tasks that most of us abhor – nothing easy here. However, innovators have attempted to make these processes incrementally better.

Recently, I went to my local credit union to make payments on loans that I have with three different credit unions. I’ll shed light as to why it is that I have to go to the credit union to do this, but first I should say that I am thankful for the credit union service network, which allows me to make these three payments all in one place.  But that is where the positive user experience ended.  Allow me to explain…

First, I have to physically go to a credit union branch because none of the three credit unions where I have loans allow me to make online payments. I could schedule a payment through my deposit account, but unlike other financial institutions, most credit unions do not have an ACH relationship with the banks that allow for transfers.  Most payments to credit unions have to be sent by check.  I don’t want to do that for a number of reasons, so my only resort is to go to my CU branch to make these payments via the credit union service center network.

Once at the branch, I have to write three different checks for each payment. Then I have to complete three service center forms for each payment.  Each check and coupon requires a signature and the coupon requires a thumbprint.  After I complete the required paperwork, I approach the teller station where I have to show my identification, of which the teller makes a copy and, get this, sign the Topaz™ signature pad for each transaction.  By the time I have successfully made these three loan payments, I have signed my name nine times, I’ve completed six forms, and provided three thumbprints.  While I’m sure there is an explanation for why each of these steps is necessary, when consumers live in a world where they can summon a stranger to take them anywhere they want to go for less than $10, the experience I just described rates a 1 out of 10 on a satisfaction scale, wouldn’t you agree?

When we are developing software products for credit unions, we focus much of our attention on the (user) experience of the person who will be using our product. How can we cut down on the number of steps an underwriter has to take to approve a loan, for example?  So, my question is, who is working to improve the member experience?  This is a fundamentally important question.  As I pointed out in my personal experience earlier, the credit union in question invested in signature pads at some point, I assume, to improve the member experience.  However, subsequent procedural guidelines made the technology of the signature pad inconsequential.  They didn’t eliminate the number of signatures required, but probably increased them.  They didn’t reduce the use of paper and they didn’t reduce the cost of ink pens. And in the end, didn’t make my experience easier, simpler or more enjoyable.

Here’s the point: we can’t just invest in technology, and then not use it to the fullest.  We need to leverage technology to improve our members’ experience.  Let’s deconstruct my experience.  Let’s say that the individual credit unions are prohibited from allowing me to make online payments, and I have to visit the branch to make my payments.  Now, can we reduce the number of checks from three to one?  Probably, but that most likely means that there will have to be some way of tracing that one check to three different loans, at three different financial institutions.  Difficult, but possible…right?  Now, let’s ask if the transaction coupon is necessary?  Probably not.  Again, it might make it simpler for the financial institution to keep track of transactions, but isn’t that what a computer is for?  Is the driver’s license necessary?  Probably, if I want a receipt with my balance, but maybe not if, like online, I don’t expect a receipt.  How about the finger print?  Let’s see, we now have one check with my name and address on it and three accounts with my name and address and they all match.  Finally, the signature pad.  Why do I need to sign to make a payment on a loan?

At the end of the day, we need to think about how our processes affect not only credit union staff, but also our customers/members, whether we are a software company or a financial institution. We can rationalize every procedure, but what are the risks?  Companies that have weighed the risk and decided to accept a minimal level of risk, and not try to eliminate it, are the companies that are the real disruptors.  They are trying to improve the way we do business; they are trying to change processes and the user experience for the better.

 

Source: CU Direct