piggy bank with cash money

Journey mapping in banking

November 9, 2020

Like many other sectors, the world of banking is facing persistent pressure to innovate within a society undergoing rapid technological, environmental and social change. Due to these changes, the way we engage with banks and access money isn't the same as it was five years ago. Short: the customer experience in banking has changed – and it's highly likely it won't be the same five years from now into the future. 

To meet these changing environmental pressures banks are required to maintain a tight understanding of customer experience that will inform service innovations, while simultaneously creating more cost effective, efficient ways of working and profitable business strategies.

By implementing service design approaches and tools, such as journey mapping and personas, banks are able to adapt swiftly to changes in their customers' experience. Through an in-depth understanding of their customers, banks are able to provide services that address real needs, adapt to novel circumstances in which people are using money, and develop increasingly personalized interactions throughout their service delivery that maintain high levels of confidence and trust.

Banking in the context of customer journey mapping

As with many other industries, customer experience in banking or financial services is increasingly becoming a driving force that determines whether service providers succeed or fail. Because of this, how service providers are able to refine their service offerings to accurately meet customer needs are greatly affecting their ability to attract and retain valued customers.

As people's lives change, so too do their needs for how they store, save and access their financial resources. Some of the driving forces affecting the customer experience in the banking industry are:

  • Inconsistent loyalty from customers
  • Increasingly technology-driven generations of customers
  • Evolving demands for personalized banking experiences
  • Shifting perceptions around data security and transparency  

By utilizing customer-centered or service design approaches, banks are able to give themselves a competitive edge with these evolving trends and ensure their services stay relevant and needed into the future.  

In this article we will explore some instances where journey mapping can assist in the development and innovation of banking services, then we will conclude with a short example of how journey mapping can assist in the personal journey of someone taking out a home loan.

Questions to solve in banking

Customer journey mapping allows us to address a number of important questions in relation to our service delivery, from customer understanding, identifying pain points and anticipating future service innovations.

Who are our customers?

Central to delivering great customer centered services is having a deep understanding of who our customers are, what they are trying to achieve and what customer experiences they expect while they engage with banking services.

Banking institutions offer services which play a central role in many of our lives. Because of the sheer number of people that engage with banks, there also exists a diverse range of different attitudes, values, and expectations when it comes to receiving financial services.

So how do we develop an understanding that enables us to customize and deliver personalized banking experiences that both retain and attract customers? We develop personas that are grounded in people's actual experiences in the banking context, reduce assumptions about our customer’s behavior, and accurately reflect the types of people we are attempting to help.

  • How traditional are our customers?
  • How much human interaction do they require in their banking experience?
  • What do their lifestyles look like?
  • What channels are best to connect with them?
  • How comfortable are they embracing new technologies?
  • What digital devices are they using?

On one hand, we might have a young customer who is completely willing to enable NFC (read: wireless payments) on their mobile device and start using it for daily payments, on the other hand, we might have a customer who is entirely risk-averse with these forms of technological innovation and unable to comprehend where to start if they had to use their phone to pay for things. Being able to develop different customer personas that represent our users and leveraging them to develop meaningful insights allows us to tailor our service delivery in ways that are more personalized, trustworthy and likely to satisfy their needs.

visualization of a customer persona in form of an IP lawyer
Potential persona in the banking context

How is customer experience in banking changing?

Digital transformation is affecting all industries and banking is not excluded. In recent years we have seen fintech providers embracing technology in ways that provide novel and innovative customer experiences that confront traditional modes of banking.

Digital banking and changing customer experiences go hand in hand. Neobanks (digital-only banks) such as Revolut, N26, and Monzo are all offering banking solutions that are driven by technology and customer experience.

These digital disruptors are providing banking services for a new generation of customers that values polished UX, accessible ways to manage their money and increasingly personalized experiences.

Neobanks are considering the journey of the customer and how they interact with banking services. By providing seamless interfaces they are enabling their users to quickly manipulate money the way they need to - in real time, through this clever use of available technology they are able to provide convenient and enjoyable solutions to user needs.

Take for example a large group of 10 people who have just had a meal together at a restaurant. When It comes to payment it may be time consuming and difficult for a restaurant to split the bill with such a high number of patrons. The burden then falls on the customer to organise and arrange how money will flow to the appropriate person when the bill is paid.

Innovative companies such as Tikkie in the Netherlands are facilitating payments through quick and easy Whatsapp payments that people can access and share with large groups. Meaning that one person can cover the bill and receive payments from other members of the group in a fast and simple manner by simply sharing a payment link. Innovations such as this are changing the landscape of possibility within personal finances.

Whether or not digital-only banks are considered as a threat to traditional banks, the innovations they provide are enough to draw significant numbers of new and existing customers by shifting peoples expectations of how banking services can be delivered.

Traditional banks, as well as neobanks benefit from putting an emphasis on their customer's journey so that they are able to adapt and innovate their service delivery to accurately meet people's needs.

Through the process of researching and creating customer journey maps, banks are able to reduce assumptions and answer a number of important questions, such as:

  • Where and how are people engaging with financial services?
  • How do customers discover and form a relationship with a financial institution?
  • In what ways are people restricted by traditional methods of banking?
  • What levels and types of customer support do people require?  
Visualization of a customer experience when transferring money with a banking app
Exemplary customer experience transferring money with a banking app

How are customer needs and expectations driving innovation in banking services?

As digital disruptors are shifting viewpoints about what services banks are able to offer, as well as how they are offered, traditional banks are required to match customer expectations and provide attractive solutions that are able to retain existing and attract new customers.

New digital financial technologies such as the Software-as-a-Service banking engine, Mambu – are enabling great changes in the banking sector by allowing innovative companies to provide users with customized, flexible and simplified platforms for accessing their money.

To provide these innovations at speed financial service providers must keep a close eye on their user needs and how they can support them better, whether this is through what types of services are provided - or the interfaces through which users access those services.

A successful combination of the two can alter the perception of how banking feels as well as the possibilities it creates within different journeys, leading to better outcomes for customers as well as the banks people are engaged with.

For example, the neobank N26 created a partnership with TransferWise that allows their users to make effortless financial transfers to over 30 different currencies. Using their app, customers of N26 are able to make international transfers, as they would to someone within their own country - in the process simplifying and reducing the cost for users. As the world becomes more connected and people are engaged in work that crosses geographical borders, the need to make international financial transfers increases, and these types of features become more appreciated.

Another innovative example is peer-to-peer lending options being offered which streamline borrowing and simplicity of people to access personal loans. Platforms such as Lendingclub and Upstart are able to offer services that connect borrowers and lenders, bypassing the complex and costly loan processes offered by traditional banks. By understanding that for many customers' the process of setting up a small-scale loan was complicated and cost-prohibitive, new services were developed that allow for low-interest P2P lending and more simplified procedures for setting up small loans.

These types of innovations are changing the way people experience and interact with their finances and are setting expectations for the future.

As many people have adapted to the convenience of using smartphones and digital platforms for accessing banking services, the necessity of physical banking locations decreases. By providing simplified UX experiences, smart features such as AI-driven analytics and support, and novel services, disruptors in digital banking are able to support people's desired lifestyles and draw in new customers.  

Questions that journey mapping can answer for innovation include:

  • What outcomes are our customers trying to achieve with banking?
  • What experiences and situations are pain points for a customer in their banking journey?
  • How can emerging technology meet the needs of customers?
  • What innovative ways could help customers access their finances?

By understanding the journey's banking customers are on and how they like to move and access money, innovations such as this are easier to anticipate and develop.

Visualization of a customer customer experience when using a banking app
Exemplary customer experience when using a banking app


Why are some people still not using banks?

"Globally, about 1.7 billion adults remain unbanked—without an account at a financial institution or through a mobile money provider." (Worldbank 2017)

Of course, the world has changed a lot since 2017, however, the fact remains that a large number of people exist in the world without a bank account represents a large market for banks that can be explored. The majority of these people live in developing countries or locations where banking is simply impossible, or affordable. However, the constraints experienced by these countries and "unbanked" markets are driving innovations in banking technology.

By looking at the experience of users not engaged in banking and mapping their journey we clarify opportunities for how services can be delivered that meet their needs. Digital disruption is also affecting these markets. For example, mobile banking has made the process of engaging with digital banking services fast, affordable and has practically eliminated the need for physical banking locations - in the process service providers have been able to open up these once inaccessible markets.

Taking a look at the life and experience of people who are currently not engaged in banking and mapping their journey we are able to look at the challenge with new eyes. By putting these maps to work banking service providers are able to answer the following questions:

  • What are the barriers that prevent people from using banks?
  • What physical or digital constraints are people experiencing in the context of banking?
  • Can people afford to engage in banking services? If not, why not?

How do we build trusted relationships with customers?

Existing banks have the privilege of long histories of building trust with their customers. This trust is an important currency in banking that maintains relationships and loyalty with customers. Even though incumbent banks may have the advantage of a history of service delivery, the pressures of developing and maintaining trust exist for them as much as it does for new banking organizations.  

So for personal banking, how does journey mapping play a role in helping to develop trust?

Being able to map out a customer's emotional journey as they engage with a service can help to identify moments where trust is compromised or service delivery isn't how they expected.

By building in smart features and touchpoints into the customer journey, personalized relationships can form that give customers more security and confidence that their money is in safe hands.

This disparity of trust between traditional and neobanks can be highlighted in a number of different areas, there are surveys that show people are hesitant to store large amounts of funds in digital banks, seeing them primarily for quick purchases and expenses. It has been shown that users also still value face-to-face interactions and the presence of physical banking locations and the security they represent - these features, along with good existing relationships give traditional banking institutions an advantage, especially during times of uncertainty.

However new banks continue to drive innovations that attempt to build trust in the digital age. Features such as push notifications for transactions are features that build trust with customers that they have intimate contact with financial activity on their accounts. By knowing when transactions are being made in real time users are able to quickly take action if they suspect suspicious activity or their cards are being inappropriately used.  

Other security features include the ability to quickly disable any active cards if any fraudulent activity or if a user suspects they have lost their bank cards. These kinds of features give a sense of ease and control to users and allow them to trust that their important financial assets are safe and secure.

Finally, verification techniques using security codes and authorized devices add extra layers of security for accessing and updating account information. Especially in the digital space, it is important for people to know that there are secure methods for verifying their identity before any changes can be made.

Questions that journey mapping can answer for building security and trust:

  • What forms of verification are convenient yet still secure?
  • With digital-only banking what levels of personalization in service delivery can replicate and simulate the security of incumbent banks?
  • How can services be delivered in ways that build trust customers?
  • What security features make users feel they are in control of their finances?


How to create a journey map for banking?

A good journey map goes beyond the touchpoints a customer has with our organization and helps us to understand their lives in a more holistic way. In this section we will introduce an example for customer journey mapping in banking; we will look at a few applications of how a journey map can be used to look at the journey of buying a house and applying for a home loan.

Communication channels

As we discussed earlier in the article, the channels in which people are engaging with banks are changing. Historically the majority of communication for personal banking services has been done in person. Face-to-face interactions are still the gold standard for many people as the experience of talking with a real person inherently feels secure and engenders trust. But how do you recreate this kind of trust in a digital setting?

As technologies and preferences shift around how people want to interact with financial service providers so too do the channels service providers must adapt and use. This does not exclude face-to-face interactions, however it expands on the possibilities available. With a customer appetite for customized, personalized, digital experiences at the tap of a button, banks must be willing to understand and match these experience needs.

By understanding what channels customers prefer to communicate through when they are taking out a home loan, we will ensure they have the right information at the right time, and in the right format. Whether this is through face-to-face meetings, email, SMS, or embracing newer technologies such as AI-assisted chatbots or virtual meetings. In the end banks must drive for innovation while still developing and maintaining customer trust and a sense of security for people.  

Files, documents and in-depth information

File lanes can be helpful for holding all the different types of documents and information a journey will require. In the process of buying a house and taking out a loan there are a large variety of different forms and information that a customer must understand and complete.

A file lane allows us to centralize these documents so they can be attached to the relevant sections of a customer journey. From here we get a clear picture of when, where, and how a customer should receive information.

Dramatic arc and emotional journey

Buying a house and taking out a home loan can be a big step involving many new decisions and increased levels of responsibility for a lot of people. There can be pressures around deciding what interest rate to choose, choices on how to pay back the loan, and who to go to for trusted advice. Depending on the persona for the type of person we are working with, this can result in a range of different emotional experiences.

As well as tracking the emotional experiences of our users, it is also important to focus on the dramatic arc or the peaks and troughs of engagement for users as they navigate through their journeys. Perhaps our users are highly engaged when they are about to commit to a loan, because of an overwhelming amount of information they have to consider as well as the excitement of making a commitment, this experience can be both negative for the user while also having high dramatic value.

By understanding how our users' emotional journey intersects with the dramatic arc of their service experience, we are better able to identify aspects of our customers' experience where they need additional help and support. It leads us to ask important questions, such as how might we support their process by delivering the right amount of information, at the right time? How much communication gives our customers assurance that they are being thought about and cared for?

By addressing emotional elements such as this, and others along a customer's journey, we have the opportunity to make our service feel more safe, trustable, and enjoyable for people to receive.

Managing a range of different customer journeys in repositories

Customer journeys can be understood at a range of different levels. From the macro scale, right down to small micro-interactions. All play a role in the overall experience of a customer and if orchestrated well will contribute to seamless and delightful moments as someone receives our services.

Perhaps this means creating journeys where he spends a day moving between different channels of information, asking family members for advice, trawling through many different websites, and reading books on how to make his decision. At a fine-grain, this might even be how someone navigates information on our particular website, what his pain points are, and how easy it is to access the relevant information that is needed.

By linking these sub journeys together we are able to see both the higher-level picture and move into fine-grain detail on all elements throughout his experience - creating a detailed repository.

The more detail we are able to add to our journey map will determine how clear our vision for service delivery improvements will be. Adding extra lanes with data, visual artifacts and additional insights make our journey maps increasingly rich and usable.

View an example journey map for the banking sector

Typical challenges of introducing journey mapping to banking

Challenging business as usual

As is the case with many established industries, proposing new approaches to working can be met with resistance as they challenge long-held existing ways of working. This is the way we do things here has held up for a long time… however in the face of change, we can no longer afford to continue working as we did in the past. Digital transformation, disruptors and novel types of service delivery are all challenging perceptions of what is possible in the world of banking. Champions for service design approaches must be able to convey the value of working differently, and demonstrate how new approaches can harmonize and amplify existing ways of working, rather than simply replace them.  

Understanding the end-to-end customer journey  

Banking services can be highly complex and involve a multitude of different customer journeys. Everything from checking account balances, taking out loans, depositing and withdrawing money and making transfers to third parties, the list of actions and journeys in banking is vast.  

Developing quality journey maps requires a perception shift for banks to go beyond simple touchpoints to understand customers' end-to-end journey, which can be a big undertaking. However the benefits of this understanding are also noticeable. With this foundation service delivery can be innovated and developed in ways that provide the customer with a more cohesive, logical and enjoyable banking experience.  

Organizations can also encounter challenges utilizing journey maps to make sustainable changes due to the commitment and effort required to change existing systems, redevelop policies, while at the same time minimizing risk and maintaining trusted relationships.

Often change efforts initiate with a great sense of enthusiasm, only to be held back when faced with the complexity of implementation. To mitigate these challenges, efforts to understand and change existing systems must move at an appropriate pace that is manageable and not overwhelming. Pick small wins, communicate clearly and often, and don't expect to change the whole system all at once. Many small shifts to different journeys will lead to radically improved customer experiences over time.  

Going digital

There are great opportunities, as well as risks in going digital with banking services. As banks rely so heavily on trust and security, understanding the customer journey and making shifts can be a gradual process as not to compromise existing relationships. The challenges involved with going digital involve considering a range of different ways in which services can be used. For some banks offering digital services, this means a thorough understanding of the regulatory environment in which they exist in and how they will be able to manage and prevent their services from being used for illegal purposes, such as tax evasion.

Driving cross-departmental collaboration

Banks are well known for having siloed departments and established ways of working. When one hand doesn't know what the other is doing, there is a risk that the customer experience of our services can be fragmented and difficult to navigate, on top of this we can lose out on efficiency in delivering services, cutting into our bottom line. This is where new players in the banking market are really able to make an impact as they are often smaller and with the use of agile methods and service design approaches are able to quickly adapt and modify their service delivery to meet customer needs.

Existing banks are required to embrace these new customer-centric approaches and develop functioning cross-department teams to solve innovation and CX challenges.

Journey maps offer a great opportunity to create a central location for data management and foster collaboration between different departments. By adding data lanes and KPI data to journey maps we can create useful tools for improving the way we work together to deliver better services.  

In summary

There are many applications for how journey mapping can assist our understanding of customer experience and service delivery in banking.

By developing great persona's we are able to understand and communicate who our customers are - what their personalities are like and how they prefer to engage with banking services.

By mapping out the experiences of these different personas we are able to have insights into areas of service delivery that are open for disruption and innovation. Digital-only banks are already capitalizing on insights from this customer journey and developing innovative solutions to people's banking needs such as peer-to-peer lending, digital-only banking, and fast personal transactions.

Emerging technologies and innovative platforms are also changing people's experience and expectations of banking, though intuitive UX experiences, reduced cost services, and removing the need for physical banks organizations are able to increase the accessibility of banking services for whole new markets of people.

Sitting at the foundation of all this innovation lies an understanding of customer experience. As the world continues to evolve and change, organizations who are able to manage, organize and extract insights from this experience - using tools such as journey mapping, will have a competitive advantage for crafting better services and addressing their customers needs.

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