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5 min read

3 Tips to Head Off a Digital Banking Conversion Nightmare

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Ticking these best practice boxes will help keep the monsters at bay on conversion day.

It’s one of a banker’s worst nightmares: the digital banking conversion that was designed to improve the customer experience fails – locking users out of their accounts, not showing balances, making wire transfer features inaccessible…

It recently happened to a $25 billion bank in the Midwest. It happened to a prominent credit union in the Southeast. And it will happen again.

For a project that is arguably the most visible one a financial institution will ever pursue, the stakes couldn’t be higher, especially right now. In the fallout of Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse, customers are on edge. We’re living in a world where trust can snap overnight and social media has no off hours. For bankers, this means it’s more critical than ever to maintain customer confidence.

A financial institution can change its lending system. It can change its core system. But when it changes its digital banking system with all the connected ancillary systems, it’s messing with users’ cheese – where they go to log in to their digital banking platforms – and this has the biggest impact.

At Cornerstone Advisors, we’ve seen some stuff go wrong (and right). So here are three best practice boxes to tick to help ensure your digital banking system conversion doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

1. Pick your vendor and negotiate the support it will provide.

When your institution is choosing a vendor, don’t be coy. Drill into the ways the company will support the project.

There’s no room for grey areas when it comes to who does what and when. For example, if the vendor says it will offer “enhanced” call center support on go-live day, clarify what “enhanced” means. Eliminate fluff language like “you’ll have it” and clearly define what will happen and by when in the contract. Likewise, bank leaders will want to understand what users can and can’t do on the new system. The end goal is to offer better functionality and service, not worse.

Also, set a realistic timeline for a go-live date. At a minimum, your institution will want nine to 12 months out before introducing a new digital platform, and that’s only if you are working with an out-of-the-box provider. Plan for 20 months out if you’re using a robust software development kit that will require heavy customization.

The lead time will also help you train employees on the new layout and features, so they’ll be prepared to answer the inevitable user questions. (See #2.)

2. Communicate to users. Then communicate more.

Spoiler: Nobody is reading your snail mail about your institution’s upcoming changes.

The new system will be different – different log-ins, changed password requirements, special multi-factor authentication procedures, changes to browser settings, etc. When end-users are confused and frustrated – and they will be – it’s impossible to communicate too much to them about the changes.

So, tell them in advance of the impending upgrade and then remind them again – and detail if it will involve limiting certain kinds of transactions for a spell. Inform them of the upcoming change across all your brand’s channels (website, mobile app, social media).

Also, plan to staff up your call center for at least a week after the digital implementation. Even if everything goes well, expect an incoming flood of phone calls and emails. If nothing else, users will see that something changed and may inquire why. The person manning the secure messaging channel may need to plan to spend all day answering queries.

Your institution will also need to monitor social media over the go-live period, day and night, to respond to people’s questions and concerns as well as to provide updates. Depositors fleeing SVB in response to Tweets demonstrated just how quickly social media can lead to a disaster for a financial institution. Be proactive on social media so that negative commentary from disgruntled users won’t elude your firm.

3. Test across all channels. Then, test again and again and again.

Your customers aren’t behind the institution’s firewall. So, it’s important to test the digital experience in the manner they would use it.

Test not just by the device (mobile, desktop, tablet, etc.) but also by device type (Apple, Android, etc.). Watch out for features that break, like a wire transfer not sending. Trust us, it happens.

Also, don’t just test to be sure the system works … test to try to break it. Can you try to log in more than XX times and not get locked out? Can you initiate a transaction above a set threshold? Run these experiments.

Finally, verify whether your institution’s core technology can handle a load of your users logging into their accounts. Here, consider whether you are moving from a legacy digital provider using a batch process where added login volume wouldn’t hinder core traffic to now using a real-time digital provider that calls every interaction then and there and may fail to, say, send a payment as a result.

Pro Tip: As part of testing, run a pilot. And running a pilot for one day or the same day as the go-live date doesn’t count (yes, we’ve seen this happen). Instead, try running a pilot with friends and family for a couple of months to discover real-life issues – i.e., missing accounts, improper account linking, or failing money transfers – to resolve ahead of your conversion.

You’ll find things. For instance, one client discovered its digital implementation required users to authenticate on their computers first. The problem? Many were trying to do so with the mobile banking app, and they kept trying, locking themselves out of their accounts. A bad decision led to a population of users who couldn’t even see their account balances. Make sure you have the right project governance in place to be able to pull the trigger and stop unexpected things from happening.

So what?

If your institution’s strategic objective is to improve users’ digital banking experience but you don’t do a good job executing against it, you will be delivering a negative impact to your customers. Along your journey down the digital transformation path, never lose sight of the value of your people. The caliber of resources involved in the implementation and the level of attention they devote to the project can truly make it a success.

So, whether you are pursuing a new digital platform to improve the customer experience or to replace a sunsetting platform, make sure you use all your available resources to provide users something better than they had before.

And to all … a good night.

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