11 Commandments of Digital Banking: The Customer Journey

Great technology can’t replace an obsessive focus on and knowledge of your customers - which is why digital banking is really about insights and customer experience

Last year we published a highly successful The 11 Commandments of Digital Banking eBook that introduced the 11 commandments:

  1. Digital lift-and-shift is not a strategy!
  2. Friction – not inherently good or evil
  3. Be personable in this impersonal channel
  4. Respect the data
  5. Engage me, teach me – feed by TikTok obsession
  6. Use your branch wisely!
  7. Respect my time and match my effort
  8. Pester me … but only when I want it
  9. Be fascinated by your customers, not your technology
  10. Make me feel safe
  11. Come together like a symphony orchestra

We are kicking off a series of 5 blog posts that take a deeper dive into these posts, grouping the 11 commandments into common themes.

In addition to a new blog post that will be published monthly over 5 months, we are also excited to launch the following event:

Digital Banking LinkedIn Live talk

LinkedIn Live on Digital Banking
Tuesday, January 18
9 am PST/11 am CST/ 12 pm EST

Join me and my guest, analyst Alex Johnson of Cornerstone, as we discuss this concept of digital transformation for the customer journey.


With increased competition from challengers and Fintechs, financial institutions need to approach digital transformation as an opportunity to build something fundamentally new. You have the chance to start with a clean slate – and banks should use this opportunity to completely reimagine their products and services.

Digital Lift-and-Shift Is Not a Digital Banking Strategy

Many companies are realizing that simply carrying over analogue assumptions and digitizing in-person processes aren’t producing the desired results. Future-proofing your organization now involves studying behavioral science and how people engage with technology.

Think about the digital journey you’re trying to take people on. Consider how your interactions with customers must adapt to different digital channels versus a bank branch. You need digital greetings that are akin to a customer walking into your branch and being greeted with a smile.

In the past, we designed our banking applications and engagements for face-to-face interactions. But today we need to think about the benefits and strengths of different digital avenues (e.g., mobile, tablet, desktop) and how we leverage them to create an intuitive experience for the customer. This means utilizing modern platforms and software to make your banking experience better across all channels. And to be truly successful, bankers and designers need to create a religion around conversion rates and understand what drives them.

   The Most Important Conversion Rates (online loan example):

  • Application Rate – The number of people who visit your website or download your mobile app vs. the number of people who apply
  • Offer Rate – The number of applications completed vs. the number of offers approved
  • Acceptance Rate – The number of offers extended vs. the number of people who accepted their offer
  • Funded Rate – The number of people who accepted their offer vs. the number of people who accepted and get funded (after an offer is accepted, there is usually another stage of bank verification)
  • Look-to-Book – The product of multiplying the above rates together

Remember these 3 rules:

  1. Start with first principles and rebuild how you think about financial services.
  2. Don’t get bogged down by technology stacks and risk committees.
  3. Clearly define how you differentiate yourself and focus on “How we win.”

For instance, consider the digital account opening process. Why does it require a form? Could it be an interactive chat with a virtual assistant instead? You can collect relevant information during the flow of conversation while also making it enjoyable and personable by responding in context.

You need to establish a learning culture where you can rethink the way your organization operates. Run A/B tests so when you start to see things that impact your rates, you’re able to make the changes quickly. You can’t have to risk your job to make a change – fear tends to drive small changes instead of dramatic changes.

Friction Is Not Inherently Good or Evil

Unintentional or unnecessary friction in the customers’ experience is always bad – however, friction itself is not inherently evil. In fact, thoughtfully designed points of friction can be extremely valuable for managing risk and making customers feel safe. Make sure you understand where you are putting in friction and ensure that it’s deliberate.

Small UX improvements (like real-time address lookup) can have a big impact on customer experience. An incorrect customer address poses little actual risk of fraud, but verifying it or making customers retype their address adds unnecessary friction to the process. Instead of having customers enter each piece of information manually, streamline the data entry experience by making real-time suggestions, which also reduces the odds errors.

Remember these 3 rules:

  • As a default, assume that customers are impatient and will move on if you make them wait – save them time by importing data and using pre-fill options whenever possible.
  • Prospective customers are different than existing customers – existing customers expect and deserve VIP treatment.
  • Compare yourself to your peers and best-in-class digital experiences (such as Amazon, Apple, Uber, etc.).

Banks should focus on applying the appropriate amount of friction based on the situation and perceived risk level. When you ask a customer for information, help them understand why you’re asking (e.g., “we need this data to help protect your identity” or “the federal government requires us to ask this”). Only ask for information that you truly need and that hasn’t been supplied in the past, and look for external data sources that can help you verify.

Be Fascinated by Your Customers, Not Your Technology

Keep in mind, it’s about the customer journey and not just about digital transformation. Great technology can’t replace an obsessive focus on and knowledge of your customers. Banks need to demonstrate that they know who the customer is and what they want. This means uncovering customer needs and pain points, and making technology investments based on helping customers get better, more personalized experiences.

Don’t let your customer experience muscle get flabby – focus on showing your customers that their experience has improved, rather than explaining how or why. Remember these 3 rules:

  • Make a habit out of continually trying to uncover customer needs and pain points.
  • Customers’ expectations evolve, often in unpredictable ways – make sure you’re keeping up.
  • One size does not fit all, or even most. Focus on a segment of one.

For the most part, banks have been using technology to drive their digital banking processes. However, the best practice is to have the process be customer driven. Banks need to consider the advantages of different digital channels and how to leverage their capabilities to create an intuitive (and maybe even fun) experience for the customer. Technology is an enabler – the customer experience and customer outcome is at the center of all of it.

We hope you enjoyed this blog post and that it provided ideas on how you can implement the commandments in your organization. Look out for blog #2 in this series: Humanizing the Experience.

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