Are fintech and challenger banks continuing to affect traditional banking systems? And how has this changed the customer and banking experience? Are customers happier with the new systems than the old ones? Many fintech products and services are promising, but they still have a way to go.
Over the last few years, many more fintech (financial technology) banks and e-money institutions, such as Monzo, Revolut and N26, have been cropping up. All of them are seductive and appealing, with clean graphics and a personable tone. Built for and during the age of apps, they haven't had to play catch up like older banks, meaning their UI (user interfaces), UX (user experience), and CX (customer experience) are friendly and well thought out.
Features like budgeting tools and saving pots are easily accessible, and services like freezing a card or reporting it stolen are leading the way. They appear to have their users in mind, so far fulfilling what they claim to be driven by: giving the customer more control over their money.
Revolut's motto is an upfront "One app, all things money", and N26 is confident it could be "The first bank you'll love".
So, what's stopping customers from making the switch for good?
People are undoubtedly becoming more open to new options, and it's true; many seem delighted at what the new fintech models offer them. But for some reason, many aren't ready to jump ship from their old bank just yet.
To understand this better, let's look at the areas where fintechs often fail.
The minimum a bank or financial service product should do is allow you to access and use your money; this should be a non-issue. While traditional banks may have problems with this from time to time, they have something to their advantage; age and experience. With fintech banks, imagine you get a notification that your money won't be available for 48 hours. It's the weekend. The chatbot is only giving you vague information. It's frustrating and, more than that, worrying no matter if you're a new user or a loyal one.
I experienced it with Monzo last year. I received a notification that I wouldn't be able to withdraw any funds or pay anything into the account after that afternoon until sometime the following week. Unfortunately, the chatbot could only get me so far, and more information on what was causing the problem was way harder to get hold of than it should have been. So I just had to wait it out for the weekend.
They did resolve the issue eventually, and it hasn't happened again. I later learned it was an issue outside of their control. But because of their lack of communication on the topic, I no longer felt secure or happy about keeping funds with them.
The experience I had with Monzo last year is not a problem that's unique to them. Other banks, including Revolut, have had several instances when their customers could not access their funds or make payments. But, once again, there seemed to be a problematic disconnect in communication, with Revolut not taking the time to explain to customers why the platform froze their accounts.
Customer support is probably the most significant area fintech and challenger banks are failing in. Many prompt their customers to talk to a chatbot when they have a question. Often, you’re sent straight to FAQs; and only after this do they direct them to a human.
The wait time also varies, with while some offer more immediate support and prioritising premium customers, it frustrates you if you're not one of them. Some banks, including Revolut and N26, give higher levels of support for paying and customers of their top tier products.
With smaller, less-established banks, such as Tide and Kontist, this customer support is not only severely under-resourced, but can be entirely non-existent.
Customer service and the security of knowing a business is reachable at any point if you have a problem – especially about something as vital as your money – is a deal-breaker for many people. The idea of keeping all your funds in a bank account where should something go wrong, the people with the power to fix it may or may not be contactable, is a big issue.
So, who is doing it well?
According to Forrester, CX is defined as "how customers perceive their interactions with a company." Though there are still teething problems, the two brands that stand out as taking a hands-on approach to pleasing their customers are Wise (previously TransferWise) and Monzo (yes, despite my comments above).
Why does it work? They're obsessed with customer experience, putting the customer's journey at the forefront of their missions. They make sure that support is readily available and prioritise the basics: account access and payments.
These are the functions fintechs cannot skimp on; they're what gives their users confidence. A confident and delighted customer is what all brands strive for, so what are these two brands getting so right?
Something as simple as warning customers if there might be issues. For example, during Brexit votes, TransferWise let its customers know payments would be limited. Just that warning alone allowed customers to feel safe and cared for.
Easy international transfers, without hidden costs
I use both Monzo and TransferWise to transfer GBP to Dollars and Euros regularly. It's the cheapest and fastest exchange; the exchange rate is always apparent. It arrives within minutes and makes managing my money more straightforward, and generally, my life is just easier. This is somewhere traditional banks fall short, with many only offering the option to transfer internationally via the desktop versions of their sites and usually with much worse exchange rates and extra costs.
Ease of communication
On Monzo, you can browse through their very well thought out help section. (I know I complained about FAQs earlier, but Monzo's are better than most.) If you can't find the correct information, you can talk directly to someone from their service team. They'll send a transcript of your conversation along with an answer.
All the fintechs out there are trying to make a brand or product that people like so much they can't stop talking about. So it makes sense then that their business models should emphasise, and put their energy into, creating the best customer experience without over-promising.
The balance between the product and the customer experience is key to a successful product or brand.
It's OK to release a shiny new card or feature. Still, it just won't have the reach without prioritising the customer journey. If anywhere, this is something old banks looking to expand and take advantage of digital systems should keep in mind. Without good support functions and a consistent brand voice, neither fintech nor old traditional banks can.
Want to capture more market share?
We help challenger fintechs navigate the product adoption curve and transition from start up to established player.