Planning for the Evolution of Your User Interface
Change. Think for a few minutes about how your organization views and accepts change. Think about how your employees deal with a major release in your data processing system. Do they feel they have the input they should in changing processes? Do they wonder who instigated these changes and challenge their effectiveness? Are they alienated by the process and feel put out by new education issues and the glitches that go with change?
But who cares, anyway? It's their job to deal with change! You pay them to deal with change, and understand the tools they have will eventually make them a better employee. Right?
If that kind of thinking doesn't work for credit union employees, I want you to think about what it will mean down the road when your credit union has a loyal user base of members comfortable with your Internet banking software. Imagine the grief that you will have when sixteen thousand people sign on to your new user interface for home banking. Looks different. Has new features. Guaranteed to work better. But it's all changed. Do you need a strategy, or is it just the way things go?
Credit unions are very sensitive to member surveys and service responses. Planning for change in your e-delivery channel should not be taken lightly. It's inevitable: you will change the interface. Our experiences to date are based on a portion of our membership that accepts that the Internet is constantly changing, and they enjoy it. But what does your future user base look like? How will we give members better insight into user interface issues?
One solution is to offer the member more choices. The credit union would concurrently offer several different "look and feel" faces to the same basic product functionality. Members can choose the interface that they prefer, with the preference stored as part of their home banking profile-and can move between the interface choices at any time, at their own pace. Maybe the only difference between the interfaces is what colors they see, or whether they use buttons or tabs, or the amount of graphical features included on the pages.
This strategy allows credit union members to feel a sense of control in the product they are using. At the same time, it gives the credit union the flexibility to stay current with competitive products and even potentially emulate their competition with options for their members. This takes away from the "all or none" risk of a new user interface release to your members, while also increasing the member's sense of a personalized relationship with the credit union.
The issue is not how you're going to solve this problem; it's whether or not you are addressing the problem now. For most credit unions, it may not even be the evolution of the user interface that causes the difficulty; it may be the problem of switching from one vendor to another. But unlike any delivery channel before, the intimacy of home banking with your member's ability to use it effectively will make change difficult, if not impossible for some credit unions. If credit unions are uncomfortable with data processing conversions due to their organization's ability to deal with change, imagine what it will be like when you are locked into a home banking user interface. What is your plan?
Remembering Your Audience: Educating End Users
In the beginning, Internet transaction banking sites were just visual extensions of most credit unions' audio response product. They addressed the Big Three: what is my balance?, what transactions have occurred this month? and I'd like to transfer money. This was a slam dunk. Members understood these processes and were ready to dive in with very little instruction or education.
But today's Internet member wants more. And today's credit union leader is hoping to transfer more and more employee costs for serving members to the Internet channel. Whether buying CDs, opening accounts, changing an address, or working with a payroll distribution, today's Internet transaction sites are beginning to offer real self-service options for members. If you wish to get your credit union CFO excited about this delivery channel, show them how cost center activities can be transferred to your Internet delivery channel. But all of this will be more complicated and not as self-evident as the initial Big Three.
Some will argue that the Internet member is used to navigating Internet web sites with very little help or instruction-if your user interface uses consistent web styles and navigation aids, the member will not need any extended education. I believe these people are missing the point. If our home banking products are to become more readily accepted by our general membership, we cannot continue to think that all users are Internet savvy or keeping up with current web styles. We must educate and provide consistent information on how to use the tools, and sell members on the value we provide.
For most of us, our first concerns were how to help members who were having trouble reaching our Internet services: how to deal with different browser versions, security concerns, and PC platforms. But as our services increase, we need to deal with how and why we have added new options. Members will starting asking questions like, when will the credit union respond to my application for a loan? What does it mean when I submit a change to my payroll transfer? What's going to happen if I click this button?
This requires an evolutionary strategy. Do you have an education tool that is going to grow with your product? Do you have an author? Do you have a way of gathering the information necessary to complete an on-line help system? Do you have a system for updating help to keep up with changes in the software? If you are using a third party, how will you interact? Does your third party solution answer these questions? Have you asked your organization to deal with these questions?
As a full service data processing and home banking solution provider, CU*Answers deals with the issues of implementing e-strategies for credit unions every day. If you would like more information about how CU*Answers answers the important questions raised in this series of articles, please contact Randy Karnes (firstname.lastname@example.org). We are also interested in your ideas and comments