How One Bank Almost Succeeded but Failed
I stumbled across Union Bank’s website today. As a financial services marketer, I’m always interested in seeing what banks and credit unions are doing to market their products and services online. I usually run into the same old problems. Typically, banks and credit unions don’t offer much help to consumers looking to compare choices.
It’s difficult for the average consumer to know which checking account is best for them – this is part of the reason so many still favor the branch for account opening. It’s 2012, this problem should have been solved by now. So, I was excited to see that Union Bank promotes “Banking by Design” on their homepage, with a promise to help me choose the right checking account.
I clicked “Get Started” and was told that I would not only get to design my account, but that I was about to design my own bank. Seemed too good to be true, but I was intrigued.
After entering a California ZIP, I was greeted by a window that explained what they meant by building my own bank. In a nutshell, I was going to get to choose only the account features I wanted, which meant that I wouldn’t be paying for stuff I wouldn’t use. Brilliant. As expected, the next screen presented a a variety of features. When I clicked on a feature, those boxes turned red. The user experience was slick. The best part was that each feature had a price next to it, so I was able to weigh the benefits against the costs. I knew exactly what my account was going to cost me each month. This transparency made me feel safer and more confident building my own account.
After I selected my features, I was sent to a summary page that made me think I was almost done. Then I realized I hadn’t even applied for the account yet. I started to get a little confused about what was happening.
The next page congratulated me on designing my account and presented me with a code in case I wanted to return to the site to change my choices later. That seemed like a nice feature, although not one I think many consumers will use. After that, I was directed to what seemed like the start of the online application, so I entered my information:
I hit continue, expecting to proceed with my application. Instead, the music abruptly stopped. I felt duped.
What happened? Union Bank asked whether I’d prefer to visit a branch or talk with a phone representative to open my account. Why? Didn’t I just express my channel preference by starting the process online? Even stranger, Union Bank offers online account opening, and you can apply online from other parts of their site, but their online application process isn’t connected to Banking by Design.
Since I was curious to know what would happen next, I chose a branch location and clicked “Continue”. This brought me to the last page in the Banking by Design process. A “See You Soon” page. Say what?
Union Bank believes that because I told them I’d stop by the branch on the last screen that I actually will. I have to wonder how many consumers actually follow through – even if they were motivated and wanted the account.
Based on years of experience trying to minimize website and online application abandonment rates, I am betting that Union Bank is losing a lot of business by forcing those who prefer to do their business online to come into a branch. Especially since expectations weren’t properly set at the beginning of the process.
Switching channels in the midst of an application process isn’t a bad thing – if the consumer is the one that’s making the choice choice and if the switch is totally seamless and nothing is lost in the process.
With Banking By Design, Union Bank took a huge step forward by avoiding the overly-complicated account comparison matrix like the ones you see on most banking sites. The process isn’t perfect yet, but I’m anxious to see it evolve over time. One thing is clear: Union Bank is innovative and they’re willing to try new approaches to improve the self-service experience.