Discover New Opportunities Through the Power of Service Design

There is no magic formula to quickly solve this complexity, but there is a great approach that can consistently guide us to better results: Service Design.

Let’s be honest: banks and financial services are not highly ranked when we talk about reputation or user engagement. In general, they are not the type of service that has many loyal happy customers advocating for the brand. I bet you’ve rarely said or heard “Oh, I love my bank” –  but I’m sure you have thought or heard things like “I will close my account here” (or worse) several times.

People tend to think of banks as villains – that they lack transparency, full of hidden fees and small print designed to entrap us. Besides, it can be complicated to understand (math is not for everybody). To make matters even worse, any mistake is a BIG mistake when we talk about financial services: money is a serious business. And taking care of other people’s money is really serious business.

Ironically – that’s exactly why the world of financial services is one of the segments with the highest potential to boost their competitiveness by creating better experiences for customers. Here’s why:

Financial services are long-term

When it comes to relationships with customers, financial institutions have some of the longest running, even lifelong in some cases. This means that they have the advantage to be with a customer for years and years – knowing their behaviours and being part of important moments of their lives: buying a home, financing studies, saving money for a trip, opening an account for another family member, etc.

High frequency interactions

Money is everywhere, every day – and all things related to money imply a financial institution behind it. All the more reason to focus on Service Design.

Everybody needs financial services

Financial services are one of the most democratic, diverse and widespread types of services. The opportunities to empathize with users and adapt to each target are huge.

Technology is in our side

Open banking changed the rules of the game. New technologies have improved experiences and waiting times. Neobanks can be created faster than ever (Galgal and Mox are just two examples from Vacuumlabs). So yes, this is the perfect time to do better!

But what makes Service Design so complex?

If those opportunities seem so clear or obvious, why is it so hard to deliver a good experience when we talk about financial services? If we talk about traditional players, we know we have legacy systems complicating innovation. And if we talk about new players, the speed to market many times prioritize tasks or features that are fundamental to a good end-to-end experience.

Designing a good service is also not a simple task – many pieces need to be perfectly synced in different stages of the experience, while the requirements of the business, user, and technology need to be aligned. Frankly, it is tempting to give up and keep doing things the same way – just with some patches here and there. Often, companies are open to improvements and conscious of the importance of a better experience, but simply don’t know how to start.

What exactly does a Service Designer do?

There is no magic formula to quickly solve this complexity, but there is a great approach that can consistently guide us to better results: Service Design. A Service Designer is a professional who focuses on how to deliver the best possible service. This means that they understand real user needs, designs end-to-end user journeys, maps all the pieces that compound this financial service complexity, and provides a clear visualization and guidance on what is needed to deliver a great service – and how to correctly implement it. He advocates for the user experience in the whole process, but also balances it with requirements from business and engineering teams. A Service Design also assures that the front and back office are “in harmony” – in the end one is dependent on the other. Beautiful screens are useless when we don’t have the pieces working properly to offer what is being promised in visual terms.

Because of this approach and the rise of user-centric methodologies, we have great examples today of how Service Design can help Financial Services deliver a better experience. 

Here are some ways Service Design can take you to the next level:

  • Well designed user experiences across all of your user touchpoints: ATM withdrawals, web portals, branches, statements, physical cards, emails, notifications, user applications, and more. 
  • Creating or adapting services for targets with specific needs. For example, features or entire products for the elderly, freelancers, teenagers. Just take a look at Smartie, one of our clients that worked with us to create this great banking app designed for kids in a very responsible way.
  • Better guidance during relevant moments when users would feel lost or confused. For example, during onboarding or when making an important decision around money: payments, transfers, loans, etc.
  • Creating better tools for the back office, which helps all of the organization’s services to be managed in ideal conditions.
  • Gaining a real understanding user needs to build more flexible and accessible products. We helped Zvilo offer a multi-currency product, allowing Balkans living in the United States to send money back  to their families with reduced fees.
Why it takes a dash of pessimism to succeed in Service Design

Perhaps a less obvious aspect of Service Design is that it calls for a pessimistic mindset. If our ultimate challenge is to create a happy experience – the way there requires understanding the opposite. We need to think about every unhappy scenario and everything that can go wrong. Let’s take a closer look: we need to design a new way to activate a credit card, but also the best way to recover it in case the card is lost on the way. We need to design the best way to sign a contract, but also be prepared in case users don’t understand one of the clauses. Users will have issues – because as mentioned before, financial services are complex, hard to understand, and depend on many external factors.

That’s why you can differentiate your product by focusing on unhappy paths, so you can stand out, delight your customers, and beat the competitors. If you want to learn more, don’t miss our next Webinar: Want happy customers? Start designing unhappy paths, on June 14th, 2023.


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