When Resources are Limited…

By Hunter Young

Releasing a new online and mobile banking system to tens of thousands of people can be a bit anxiety-provoking to say the least. There are so many technical, training, and communication components in launching a new online experience that affects the primary way customers engage their bank.

First Bank launched our an entirely rebuilt Digital Banking platform in early 2015 that included a consistent look and feel, responsive design, new features like mobile check deposit, an improved bill pay system, and the foundation for what customers expect from banks big and small. Customers rightfully anticipate their bank will transition between systems seamlessly as well. This is no project to take lightly and we were “all hands on deck” across departments during our launch. Like every large initiative, we made a few mistakes, learned a lot, and became a stronger bank despite minimal dedicated resources.


What Worked

  • The End Product: With a mash-up team of Marketing, Operations, and Training associates, none of whom were true Product Development experts, we thoroughly tested and released the best end user product possible at launch. That’s a big win. How did we do it? It started with Requirements building. You’ve heard this before, but your Requirements document for any major development project will make or break the end solution. We took months just preparing this document alone and it paid off throughout the project as we regularly referred back to decision points from early in our development. Your vendor may also provide a format for this type of introductory document, but make no mistake: you need an internally-driven requirements document. And this document should work in concert with any vendor-driven documentation and hold them accountable.
  • Customer Service: By engaging the call center early in the development process, our representatives were fully informed and prepared for any customer questions at launch. “Early in development” does not mean a month or two out from launch; our call center manager was part of the project from requirements to launch, a nearly yearlong process. Our call center manager helped develop all FAQs and pre-train our representatives. Technical troubleshooting items like browser updates, variance of experience by device, or any re-enrollment requirements were all important items to have clearly described for our staff.
  • Customer Communication: We prepared customers with teaser communications two months before launch and built in “drip campaigns” based on opening/click behaviors that ensured a large portion of the current online customers were ready for the change. The key to our communication success was the development of bite-sized and gradual information before, during, and after the conversion. We started with new features and design changes, moved into specific features that required onboarding, and further detailed frequently asked questions as the staggered launch took place. Communication was also segmented based on the type of customer and services they currently used. Email and letters were the predominant direct-to-customer communications, but we also had a parallel social media outreach and education program that helped raise awareness.

What Needs Improvement

  • Acquisition-Focused Education: While communication about all the logistics and expectations of our new platform were clearly explained, we did not invest in more advanced education of the new tools and experiences we were offering. We did not adequately seize the momentum of a launch to acquire a large number of customers in the excitement. Product launches are truly a time to acquire new customers, but we often spend so much time on ensuring our current customers’ transition is smooth, we do not setup the proper acquisition tools to make the most of the moment.
  • Testing: Quality assurance and user acceptance testing is an arduous process and needs proper structure. Our bank’s front-end testing procedures were never previously outlined and led to a sometimes cyclical, duplicative, or inefficient style of testing. In smaller teams, it is important to setup some basic testing parameters including device, design, and back-end testing. For other projects, we have since held at least two days of in-person testing with representatives from key customer-facing or impacted groups with the organization.
  • Branch/Channel Integration: Often the greatest challenge in banking is the infusion of one update across all channels. Systems are different, people are different, processes are different. Kiosks and media displays are nice ways to showcase the new offerings, but real influence lies in consistent training packages for all associates. Most importantly, hold associates accountable. True accountability means every associates uses and understands every new product or service you launch before it is launched. When launching digital services, you can monitor usage at the employee level and engage those who are showing no interest or may be unsure how to use the new tool.

Final Thoughts

These types of projects are highly fulfilling. Making experiences better for customers is always rewarding. The real challenge for banks is clear in every report, from the mouth of every “guru,” and within the walls of every branch: How do you create a culture that strives to improve the customer experience at every touch point? A place where the best interest of the customer is always put first and associates are highly trained in providing new solutions (often digital ones today) based on information they know about that client and their bank’s offering.

You’ll never have all the resources you need on every project; so how will you make the most of them?

Hunter Young is senior vice president, marketing and digital banking, at First Bank, Southern Pines, N.C. Email: [email protected].

Online training in digital, mobile and social media from ABA.