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Member-First: The Importance of the User Journey Mapping and Personalization

The “member experience” has always been a founding principle of credit unions. That personal relationship has been where credit unions have excelled compared to other financial institutions. But as our world has become increasingly more digital, so has banking, and the need to come into a branch for services has all but gone away. How do you provide a member-first experience in the digital age? One of the most powerful tools at your disposal is a simple process called user journey mapping. 

What Is User Journey Mapping?

Think of the user journey map as a timeline of all touchpoints between a user and your product or service. It’s a visual representation of the visits a user makes to your branch, app, or website, from when they identified a need, to researching solutions, to finally reaching a decision.  

The user’s journey can be broad or narrowly defined based on what you’re trying to uncover. At one extreme, an “end-to-end” map shows the complete journey from a new prospect to a loyal end user over a long period or lifecycle. On the other hand, a simpler map may illustrate the steps a user takes to complete a basic task such as opening an account, applying for a loan, making a payment, or recovering a username/password. But regardless of the scope parameters, the goal of a user journey map is to set steps in context while identifying the motivations and frustrations that influence the user’s behavior at each step.  

Customer loyalty is more important than ever and cannot be taken for granted or lost because you assumed you knew your users’ needs. One survey by Mobiquity found that 70% of respondents said they would “switch banks to get the best overall experience.” With today’s increasingly competitive banking landscape, banks and credit unions can’t afford to presume what their users want – they need to know for sure. So, for a bank or credit union, user journey mapping is essential to better understand user needs so that you can refine the process to align products and services to their needs better. It removes the guesswork by replacing assumptions about what may appeal to users with empirical data.  

You’re Likely Already Journey-Mapping, Just Informally

From an improved branch layout to an entirely digital platform, you’re making several assumptions about your customer’s wants and needs. User journey mapping simply provides a way to make those assumptions credible using accurate information. By formalizing the process, you can identify any gaps, potential problem areas, or inconsistencies. And while this isn’t necessarily a challenging exercise, it’s a critical one to ensure your bank or credit union is optimized for your users’ needs. 

How User Journey Mapping Works

Although there are ready-made templates available, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach that must be followed. Typically, journey mapping will cover the following key stages: 

1. Define the persona 

Who is your targeted end user? One journey map might explore the challenges of senior users learning to switch from in-branch to mobile banking. Another might address the challenges of first-time bankers. 

2. Establish the scenario 

What is the target persona’s need? It could be narrow and specific (e.g., account creation or identity verification) or broad (e.g., making contactless payments overseas). According to Elry Armaza, the Filene Institute’s custom research director and a contributor to the Filene study, your goal should be to ensure that each journey is tailored to the member’s thinking process.  

“It flips the script,” Armaza says, “by compelling decision-makers to start with people’s needs, motivations, goals, and expectations.” As you follow each persona through its behavioral journey, you’ll find common patterns you can use to tweak your operations, offerings, and delivery. Armaza refers to this as a “needs adaptive” member journey model. 

3. Set the goal 

What is the definition of success for the journey in question? It might not always be revenue generation. Some banks and credit unions will be looking to improve efficiency, reduce the number of complaints, or eliminate the frequency of human error, for example.  

4. Map the journey 

For each persona>scenario>goal, the map should illustrate the end user’s various steps—from initial discovery to decision or purchase—weaving in the emotional context behind each choice, the frustrations posed by obstacles, and the pain points that are triggered. It’s no coincidence that these steps essentially correspond to those found in a traditional marketing funnel—both processes involve narrowing focus towards a defined objective. And while all journeys will vary, they typically follow five actionable steps from start to finish. In the example below, we outline the steps taken by an end user searching for a cross-border currency solution. 

  • Awareness: The person books a vacation and realizes that the currency used in their destination country is different. Mood: excited and empowered, which is a mood that vendors need to capitalize on. 
  • Consideration: They search online for the best way to transport money in-hand overseas. A retargeting ad from a bank or credit union pops up on their browsing screen. Mood: confused. They start to experience decision fatigue. 
  • Evaluation: They use an online price comparison tool to see how their bank’s travel wallet rates and fees match up to competitor banks and fintech solutions. Mood: irritated. They learn some surprising truths about the cost of using their cards abroad. 
  • Testing: The user downloads a few of these apps onto their phone and deletes those that do not offer a fast, intuitive sign-up procedure or are incompatible with their region. Mood: inspired. The user feels as if they are taking more control over their finances.  
  • Decision: The end user decides to go with their bank’s travel wallet because, at the last minute, they receive the offer of a gift card and discount travel insurance for linking their account to the travel wallet. Mood: delighted and surprised with an unexpected reward that feels personalized.  

5. Evaluate and optimize

With a clearer view of the end user journey through its ups and downs, internal teams can identify critical obstacles and roadblocks that need fixing and untapped opportunities that require action. For example, if a large number of end users are researching travel insurance bundles provided by their bank, but few are actually purchasing them. The bank might see an opportunity to add more consideration-stage content (e.g., price comparison tool, testimonials) to its self-service portal to drive more conversions.  

Member Feedback

Feedback from your members is how you’ll verify that the assumptions you’ve used in your journey map are correct, but that’s not its only value. Mike Neill, founder, and CEO of Servistar Consulting, explains that your user journey map should help you quantify your members’ experience with your platform in three ways. “The base level is ‘you met my need,’” he says. “If I can go onto that mobile banking app and transfer money from one account to the next, it may have taken me 5 minutes, or it may have taken me 30 seconds, what I needed to get done.” 

The next level, he says, is “how easy did you make it to do business with you?”  He recommends reaching out to members and asking them to share where in the process — in their minds — they had to make an excessive amount of effort or take a non-intuitive step. He describes this mapping stage as “effort auditing,” and it must be an ongoing practice. Members’ expectations will only increase with time, which means a level of effort considered acceptable this year may not pass the test next year. 

The third level of member experience is to make member interactions genuinely pleasurable. Reaching that stage, which he terms “member delight,” requires your credit union to develop a mindset that focuses specifically on this goal. 

User Journey Mapping Considerations

Before you choose a guide and begin constructing your first map, there are a few essential points to consider.  

Empathy and Imagination are Foundational 

The overarching goal of any journey mapping exercise is to see the entire business process, not from your perspective with your desired outcome in mind, but truly from the customer’s perspective. This requires a bit of empathy and imagination, which isn’t easy to do. In Neill’s words, “look at the member’s journey from their initial thought — ‘I need to transfer money’ or ‘I need to apply for a loan’ — all the way until they have money in their account.” 

There is No One “Typical” Member 

The user journey will look very different from every individual member’s perspective. You’ll need to create different maps for each demographically meaningful segment of your membership, from aging and tech-averse boomers to youthful, mobile-first Gen Z’s. 

Map Every Process 

You might want to begin your institution’s mapping initiative by starting with proposed new initiatives, but over time, you should instill the habit of mapping every member-facing process at your credit union. Customers expect seamless, friction-free experiences — and the bar is constantly rising — so without mapping every process, you won’t know which processes cost you goodwill and members. 

It’s Not “One and Done” 

Journey mapping is a powerful tool, but like any tool, it’s most effective when used correctly. A user journey map isn’t something to create once and cross from your to-do list. It’s most valuable when treated as a living document that requires constant revision and updating to remain accurate.  

Exceeding Expectations Is the Hardest Thing 

In Neill’s view, the journey map shouldn’t end when your user has completed all the steps in a particular process. To him, “it ends when you understand from them whether it was a good experience or not.” And because customer expectations are always on the rise, Neill says, “you’ve got to be constantly looking at ‘how can I upgrade what I’m doing?’” Otherwise, your offerings will become out of touch, disappointing your customers, and you’ll have no idea why. 

And to truly exceed expectations takes a willingness to do. “Surprise me!” Neill says. “Make it amazingly easy or intuitive. Remember me. Remind me of my last transaction, and ask me if I’m sure. Reach back to me following that digital transaction and give me a one-question survey, just ‘Please rate us on our ease of use from 1 to 7,’ or something. Just make me say, ‘Wow, I didn’t see that coming.’” 

Surprisingly Good Experiences Start with Analytics 

In your quest to improve the member experience, a top-quality digital platform can be a powerful asset. Those eye-opening, grin-inducing moments when you exceed your members’ expectations are often driven by the platform’s predictive analytics tools. “Predictive analytics can provide the key to personalizing my experience in a number of ways,” says Armaza.  

“We see examples of that in the banking system already … [with software that] tracks credit card transactions and provides personalized alerts and recommendations, ranging from potential double payments to a vendor to completing travel plan notifications based on information shared directly from the airline itinerary from a flight ticket you bought with the card.” 

Your customers want to be recognized as individuals, not simply as a source of revenue. Predictive analytics, when used creatively, can create a startling level of personalization. Look at online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. They are successful partly because they use predictive analytics to make users feel that their Netflix account’s content was curated just for them and is unique only to their account.  

The same tactics can be applied in the financial sector. For example, suppose a member has paid for prenatal classes and purchased a bassinet. In that case, it’s not a leap to assume that congratulations — and potentially a review of the member’s financial goals and life insurance — are in order. 

The Virtuous Cycle 

The user journey map, the customer feedback that validates it, and the predictive analytics that drive new processes and user journeys should, when used all together, create what’s known as a self-reinforcing “virtuous cycle.” Your platform’s predictive analytics can help you identify gaps in your existing products and services and opportunities to surprise your members with personalized offerings. Your newfound expertise in customer journey mapping enables you to determine the best ways to implement those new or refined processes, and customer feedback critiques and (ideally) validates your efforts. 

Your improved services and personalized offerings create reasons for new and existing members to place more of their business with your credit union, generating a greater flow of data for your analytics tools to work with. After a few iterations of the virtuous cycle, you’re ability to achieve “member delight” will become second nature.  As Mike Neill summarized it, “help me in ways that I assumed you would not be able to do.” 

Journey Mapping Is a Beginning, Not an End 

The value of customer journey mapping only grows as you become more adept at performing the exercise. The more you use it, you’re likely to find more ways to use it. One obvious step is to apply the same mapping tools to your competitors’ offerings. If you want to know how your account-opening process compares to theirs, open an account on their platform and map the process using the same methodology. Better yet, ask a handful of outside volunteers to open accounts on each platform and report what they liked and disliked about each. 

Work Smarter, Not Harder 

To deliver the services your members need in the seamless, intuitive way they expect, you’ll also need the best available digital platform. We believe that Lumin Digital is that platform, with its combination of speed, integration, and analytic tools. Contact us today to request a demo and see how our software can bring your member experience to a new level. 

Sources: – Know Your Member: How Credit Unions Can Win Via Customer Experiences 

Terrostar Interactive Media – Does Your Bank Support the Customer Journey? 

Filene – Member Experience & Service Excellence 

ServiStar Consulting  

ServiStar Consulting – How to Keep Your Members Happy