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Empathy plays a crucial role in financial institutions’ digital experience by enabling customers to develop meaningful relationships with the companies they engage with. Specifically, a bank’s website needs more empathy and personalization typically associated with in-person banking. While functional requirements are important, audience empathy is equally crucial in creating an experience that fosters trust and loyalty.
Empathy can be cultivated by understanding the unique needs and goals of our customers and by providing relevant products and services to meet these needs. To be empathetic, financial institutions must have a full understanding of their customers’ needs and aspirations and of the factors that influence them. To develop this understanding, institutions must look beyond their own internal operations to identify the needs and goals of the customers that use their products and services. Financial institutions can achieve this by establishing exercises that lead to understanding empathy.
A few exercises that can be done to discover customer empathy:
1. Customer Journey Mapping: This exercise involves mapping the customer’s journey and experiences, identifying pain points, emotions, and needs as they interact with their financial institution. This helps you better understand the customer’s story, perspective, and feelings.
2. Adjective Cards: Adjective cards can help you identify the qualities and attributes that users associate with your brand and the expectations of your products and services. Adjective cards are typically small cards that contain single adjectives, such as “fast,” “friendly,” or “easy to use.” Ask users to choose the adjectives that best describe what they’re looking for so you can gain insight into what features and qualities are most important to them.
3. Role-playing Exercises: You can role-play as customers or have outside participants role-play as customers to understand their needs and frustrations better. This exercise allows researchers to experience firsthand customers’ emotions and thought processes. Adjustments can be made on the fly to see how making slight changes can affect the banking experience.
4. Customer Interviews: Conducting in-depth interviews with customers allows researchers to gain insights into their experiences, pain points, and needs. This exercise helps researchers develop empathy by listening to customers and understanding their perspectives.
5. Customer Observation (online): You can observe customers using your current website today to gain insights into their behavior, preferences, and needs. What they like and what they don’t like. This exercise allows you to see how customers interact with key pages and identify the difference between failure and abandonment on specific banking tasks.
6. Empathy-building Exercises: Researchers can engage in empathy-building exercises such as writing a letter from the customer’s perspective or imagining themselves in their shoes. This exercise helps researchers uncover new angles to show empathy.
Moreover, audience empathy can lead to developing a website that instills trust in the bank. The website must be designed to establish trust by providing clear and concise information about the bank’s products and services, security measures, and privacy policies. This can include displaying security badges, using SSL encryption, and requiring multi-factor authentication for sensitive transactions. The website should be transparent, with clear communication channels that allow users to contact the bank for any queries or concerns.
A common issue we see on bank sites that can immediately create a barrier and prevent trust with customers is that they focus too much on the transaction rather than the result or reasons for engagement.
When customers are applying for a mortgage, they are actually applying to get a house! We find that showing that there is a difference between a loan and a home affects the banking relationship. Buying a home is a big milestone in many people’s lives. Having a good digital experience that understands the customer’s position can help alleviate some of the stress associated with organizing documents, filling out forms, and getting approved.
Additionally, audience empathy can lead to the development of a website that fosters a sense of loyalty toward the bank. By understanding the audience’s behavior and preferences, designers can develop a personalized user experience that resonates. A personalized user experience can enhance the user’s emotional connection with the bank, leading to increased loyalty and advocacy. This same level of personalization has always been expected out of traditional branches, now the same should come from your website.
The bank’s website should also provide personalized recommendations and promotions based on the user’s behavior and preferences. This can include targeted products, personalized recommendations, or customized messaging based on the user’s journey and demographics.
One example of personalization that is a must-have on bank websites is to personalize around the customer journey. For example, a couple opening a joint checking account (a clear milestone) has an evolving financial path that should be considered. This couple’s next step is to find a home (hint: mortgage), then they may start a family (hint: HELOC, new car loan), with children (hint: college savings plan), etc. All of these points are opportunities for personalization around financial needs. Banks must be aware of all the different customer archetypes and their needs to map out financial needs. This is empathy in banking because banks show that they care by anticipating needs and being a financial partner.
Lastly, to ensure a professional and expert user experience, the bank’s website should be easy to navigate, visually appealing, and contain relevant and up-to-date information. Assistance and support should be readily available through multiple channels such as live chat, email, or phone support. A comprehensive FAQ section can also answer common questions and concerns that customers may have.
So long as finance is complicated, there will be a need for digital experiences that focus on guiding customers step by step and educating them along the way.
Designing a website for a bank that reflects the exact customer service expectations found within a traditional bank branch is critical in providing customers with a seamless and personalized experience. By designing a website with audience empathy, banks can create a customized user experience that fosters a sense of trust and loyalty towards the bank.
While you are here, check out our latest Sizzle Reel and Look Book (featuring a new bank design we did for Leader Bank) and some of our recent work.
May 16, 20234:30pm – 8:00pmOmni Boston Hotel at the Seaport
May 04, 202311:00am – 2:00pmGreater Boston Chamber of Commerce
Partner & CEO