A short tale about online banking service design

Once upon a time, you went to your branch and ATMs to manage your affairs. You had your bank card, you had you, you had the person behind the counter, and they would do most of the work for you.

If necessary you might call the service centre. In the beginning it was quite simple, but at some point you had to remember a pin, but this was specific to ‘telephone banking’.

Then we got online banking on the web. Nice. Just had to remember your unique customer number, hard+to+guess password and the pin code (but the pin code is not the same as the telephone pin code!). Do-able. (Probably rife with security issues from weak passwords and people forgetting all the identification pieces).

You still got paper statements, and you knew which branch you were registered at.

Then came apps. Slick! FaceID! Super slick!

Gradually all you had to do was login with FaceID on your phone. Very simple. Got rid of paper statements too. You hadn’t been to your ‘local branch’ for years, you vaguely recall it might have merged with another.

But wait – what if you needed to find something like your IBAN number because your mom wants to send you some money? Eventually found it after trying to navigate the bad IA of the app. 90% of the choices were of no interest.

Oh but now I also needed to find my bank address (you sometimes need for Iban). Where is it? Nowhere!

Had to find the chat feature. Took an hour for them to respond with the information I did not need – the Iban number. I wanted my bank address TO HELP with Iban transfers.

Asked again for it, and posed the question of WHY IS IT SO HARD TO FIND, and in the meantime:

Googled for the answer to “how do i get it”. The only answer to be found on the banking website was the branch locator feature, which didn’t help.

I tried to call. But I could not remember my ‘telephone banking’ pin.

Tried to login to the website. Could not recall my ‘online banking’ pin.

Another hour later, the customer agent gave me the address I needed, and closed the chat. I hope they took note of the top task I was trying to accomplish.

Why am I ranting about this? Because what used to be very simple to do (find out what my branch address is) is now almost impossible due to the service design of using online banking. It is an example of something that has fallen into a gap between the past and the present, and whilst it’s not a common task for me it is probably a bit of information that customers would still need to know now and then. It is nowhere to be found without considerable digging.

Some user research into top tasks might have unearthed this need, perhaps some content modelling around international bank transfers, and finally some solid IA+UX to have this information easily available. It probably is documented someplace in a research study, but has been overtaken by putting things into the UX that I do not need – new products, new offers, new ways to do this and that.

Conceivably I could have found the information quicker if I had walked to my nearest street branch and asked them at the counter. And that’s going back to the past to retrieve something that I still need.