Customer experience in business banking - room for Improvement


At the end of my street, there's an ad for a bank, titled 'Less BS. Yep, that's right, less Bank Stuff.' I walk past it often, and without mentioning the names of any banks here (to protect the innocent), I wanted to share my particular customer experience with 3 leading banks in Australia with one simple task - opening a business account.

The Test for all 3 banks

The scenario was simple (or so you'd think), and the same for each of the 3 banks. Open a new business banking account online - out of hours and ideally not to interact with anyone or a branch. Surely with the billions spent on tech infrastructure across core banking and innovation projects, this would be a simple ask?

Let me begin this short tale and let you decide which bank (without promoting any too much), provided me with the best experience. There are some simple learnings here that can be applied to every business...

Bank 1 (begins with a red W)

I've used this bank previously and enjoyed the experience of the mobile app and simplicity of its user interface, so it made sense to start here. The application online was super easy to do, with an easy to read and simple to follow user-interface.

I soon received an email with numerous attachments and the instructions to print and take to a branch for them to be signed, and then the account could be opened. They didn't make it easy to find a branch and schedule an appointment (why on earth wasn't there a button to schedule this!), - this was the beginning of the headaches. When I visited a branch,, I was shocked to be told that it's highly unusual to have paperwork 'like this' (whatever this means), and 'wasn't aware that you could open a business account online'! After I shrugged this off, conducted the signatures and set up the account, he stated confidently 'you're all ready to go'. I asked him what he did with the paperwork, to which he said it's destroyed now - such a disappointment for a bank that on its own website lists itself as 'Australia's most sustainable bank'. Erm...I don't think so.

Fast forward a few weeks, money was deposited into the account and thinking that everything was all set up, I tried to pay some bills from the account. Uh oh...It wouldn't allow this! What? Why I's all set up yet the transfer option wasn't working! So I had to ring - with over 6 attempts of being on hold and waiting long enough to speak to someone. Finally, I was told that there was an error in setting up the account at the branch and that they needed to make some changes. A few days later, this account was working but look at this journey and experience...far from ideal.

Online Setup: Good

Communication: Poor

Involvement with Branch: Poor

Speed to Banking: Slow - branch & phone interaction

Experience: Poor

Bank 2 (with a red star)

Completely new to this bank, I was now fascinated by how this bank would handle a business account setup. Similar to bank 1, the user interface was clean and straightforward. An email was received several days after the application to notify of account setup (better late than never!).

With my account number in hand, I tried to set up online banking. Here was the first problem as I realised I didn't receive any setup information. Parking my frustration, I leveraged the online 'chat' and spoke to a person quickly who responded that I needed a banking ID (which would come with my card).

I was hoping they would have sent this via email. I even double-checked my out of control inbox, and nothing was received. It seems that Bank 2 likes to play a guessing game with you!

Several days later, the debit card arrived (with the banking ID on the back) - with money already transferred to the account, I wanted to pay a bill again. With my trusty new debit card in hand, I tried to register for internet banking. Disaster hit, as every attempt resulted in an error message saying 'the system was unavailable...try later or go into a branch'. Having worked with tech companies, I get that these things happen, so I left it overnight, and it still didn't work the next day.

Resorting to online chat, I was told the basic 'have you turned it off and on again' questions (clear the cache, try a different browser, computer etc). I was finally told that they couldn't help me and the only option was for me to call a dedicated support team (of course, they were not 'capable' of getting them to call me).

Congrats to bank 2 as I did get through straight away. However, even they were not able to assist me as I was then told I had to head to a branch and 'give 100 points of ID and they will give provide me with a first time internet banking password'. Of course, I asked if they could do this and 'no this is the process' is what I was told. How with a coffee in hand, I entered the branch and I must say this is the first branch I've been into of this bank and I was shocked. It was like walking into a dreary grey bank in England in the 1980's...old, dated, drab and uninviting to spend any time there. In the middle of the afternoon, only one teller was working. She was on the phone and soon shouted 'I'll be with you soon' as she covered the mouthpiece to the phone. When she was done, I explained what the 'people on the phone' told me to which she looked puzzled and said 'I've never heard of that before'. After swiping the card and not asking for the 100 points of ID I was told, she issued me with a one time password for internet banking and a banking ID. I was perplexed as this banking ID was completely different to the one on the card which I was told would be able to be used for the online setup. When I asked why, she simple said 'I don't know...sometimes it happens, but use this bank id from now on'. For a bank that spends so much money on its corporate offices and has 'passion for customers' as its core value - I felt my experience of account setup, headaches with online banking and then having to experience the worst branch ever simply left me with a terrible experience.

Online Setup: Good

Communication: Poor

Involvement with Branch: Poor

Speed to Banking: Slow - branch & phone interaction

Experience: Poor

Bank 3 (orange from the west)

By now, as you can imagine with the experience of Bank 1 and Bank 2, I was doubtful that any authentic customer experience for business banking existed. I loved the cheeky dig of this bank in its ad at the other banks and decided I'd try it out as a final comparison.

In the same fashion, I applied for a new business account online. I was shocked - literally within 5 minutes I received an email with the account details and a big orange button that said 'start banking'. It even included some simple instructions that took me straight into internet banking. I transferred funds, and as a test immediately wanted to pay some out. In fear of the bank 1 situation, I hit transfer and bingo; it sent immediately. I couldn't have been a happier business bank customer if anyone tried!

Online Setup: Excellent

Communication: Excellent

Involvement with Branch: None needed

Speed to Banking: 5 minutes, completely automated

Experience: Excellent

So what do we learn from this?

I may not represent most people or the norm, but I think opening a business bank online is a pretty reasonable request these days. Bank 3 blew the other two banks out of the water in terms of customer experience. No delays, and within 5 minutes, my account was setup. I had simple instructions and could transact all without speaking to someone or dealing with a branch. It indeed was what I was expecting, but unfortunately, I was let down by the lack of poor customer focus and alignment from the other two banks. They provided me with an awful experience of missing information, having to chat with people online, then call and go into a branch that only added to the terrible experience.

As a leader in customer-centric thinking, I understand customer-centricity in any large business is challenging. Complexity exists with different systems, processes, and of course, different people and personalities.

However, I'd hate to ask how much bank 1 and bank 2 have spent on customer experience and journey mapping. It's a wasted investment that's left to fail at every step by poor communication, lack of alignment with branches and misinformation.

We can all learn by this - by not just modelling what we think the 'user story', but instead working with companies and individuals to independent benchmark and experience the journey taken by real-life customers. Ensure every-one of your customer experience programs and projects take into account the real customer experience not just at the beginning but multiple times and then use this to map improvements.

Congratulations to Bank 3 ... you indeed did provide an outstanding and straightforward banking experience, and many other organisations and banks have a lot to learn from you.