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

The “member experience” is central to credit unions, and in theory, it’s a key differentiator between CUs and their rivals: banks and (increasingly) digital-only fintech platforms. In practice, it’s ever more difficult to provide a genuinely superior user experience. Increasingly they’ll choose to bank digitally, so getting to know them face-to-face is not the option it used to be. 

If the financial services sector wants to meet the needs of an estimated 216 million digital banking users by 2025, it cannot afford to take the “business as usual” approach. Traditional institutions are embarking on a digital transformation journey, coming to grips with new tools for gaining insight into end-user behavior and new platforms for delivering a more personalized member experience. 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 a user has with your product or service. It’s a visual representation of the visits a user makes to a branch, app or website, on their way from identifying a need and researching solutions to finally reaching a decision. 

The user journey can be as broad or as narrowly defined in scope as required. 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 of time or lifecycle. On the other hand, it may illustrate the steps a user takes to complete a simple task, such as opening an account, applying for a loan, making a payment or recovering a username/password. Crucially, a user journey map sets those steps in context, articulating the emotional and rational motivations and frustrations that influence behavior. 

For the bank or credit union, user journey mapping is essential for better understanding user needs in order to refine delivery and better align products and services with the market. It replaces assumptions about what may appeal to users with empirical data. In an increasingly competitive banking landscape, there’s no room for second guesses and end-user loyalty cannot be taken for granted. As one survey by Mobiquity found, 70% of respondents said they would “switch banks to get the best overall experience.” 

You’re Likely Already Journey-Mapping Informally

Every new initiative you roll out at your credit union, from an improved branch layout to a whole digital platform, makes a number of assumptions about your customer’s wants and needs. User journey mapping simply provides a way to formalize those assumptions, getting them out on paper – or its digital equivalent – so you can see them, grasp them, and identify any potential problem areas or inconsistencies. It’s not a black art, or even an especially demanding skill set. According to longtime industry consultant Mike Neill, founder and CEO of Servistar Consulting, “Member journey mapping is a learnable, replicable process, and it’s easily taught.”

How User Journey Mapping Works

Although there are ready-made templates available, there is 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 the end user that the process is targeting? One journey map might explore the challenges of senior users who are learning to switch from in-branch to mobile banking, for example. 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 Campbell’s 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 begin to find common patterns that you can use to tweak your operations, your offerings and their 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 journey, the map should articulate the various steps the end user has to take 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. 

These steps largely correspond to those found in the traditional marketing funnel, and that’s no coincidence. Both processes involve the narrowing of focus towards a defined objective. Journeys may vary, but for an end user searching for a cross-border currency solution, for example, the steps might be:

  • Awareness: The person books a vacation and realizes that the currency in their destination is different. Mood: excited and empowered. Vendors need to capitalize on this mood.
  • Consideration: They search online for the best way to take money overseas and are later served a retargeting ad from the bank or credit union. Mood: confused. They experience decision fatigue.
  • Evaluation: They use an online price comparison tool to see how the rates and fees of their bank’s travel wallet 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 which 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 key obstacles and roadblocks in the process that need fixing, as well as untapped opportunities that need action.

For example, if a high proportion of end users are researching travel insurance bundles offered by the bank to its account holders, but few are actually purchasing them, then 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 map are correct, but that’s not its only value. From Mike Neill’s perspective, 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 I can transfer money from one account to the next, it may have taken me 5 minutes or it may have taken me 30 seconds, but I got done 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 excessive effort, or take a step that was non-intuitive. He describes this stage of mapping as “effort auditing,” and it has to be an ongoing practice. Members’ expectations will only increase with time, which means a level of effort that’s considered acceptable this year may not pass muster next year.

The third level of member experience is to make member interactions a genuinely pleasurable experience. 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 important points to consider. 

Empathy and Imagination Are Foundational

At the heart of the mapping exercise is an ability to see a business process, not through the lens of your desired outcome, but through the eyes of the customer. This requires empathy and imagination, and it’s notoriously difficult 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 depending on the 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 .

Map Every Process

You might want to begin by mapping proposed new initiatives or your core processes, but over time, you should map every member-facing process at your credit union. Customers have come to expect seamless, friction-free service — and the bar is always rising — so without mapping, you won’t know which processes are costing 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, which requires constant revision and updating for it to remain accurate. 

Exceeding Expectations Is the Hardest Thing

In Neill’s view, the user journey map shouldn’t end when your member has completed all of the steps in the process. To him, “It ends where you understand from them whether it was a good experience or not.”

One outgrowth of that attitude is a mistrust of the status quo. 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, one day your customers will begin to find your offering disappointing, and you won’t know why.

The second result of that attitude is a willingness to go beyond the member’s expectations. “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

A top-quality digital platform can be a powerful resource in your quest to improve the member experience. 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 the Filene Institute’s 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 feel that they’re perceived and validated as individuals, not simply as a source of revenue. Predictive analytics, when used creatively, can create a startlingly perceptive level of personalization. That’s what drives the success of online platforms like Netflix and Amazon, and it can be just as effective in the financial sector. If your member has paid for prenatal classes and bought a bassinet, for example, it’s no great 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 journey map itself, the customer feedback that validates it and the predictive analytics that drives new processes and experience journeys — should, when used 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 then helps you 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, which in turn generates a greater flow of data for your analytics tools to work with. After a few iterations of the cycle, you’ll become deft at achieving “member delight,” or 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 deepens with time as you become more adept at the exercise. You’ll then find an increasing number of 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, for example, 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 tell you what they liked and disliked about each.

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, tight 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

Filene – Member Experience & Service Excellence

Filene – Member Experience and Service Excellence, Part 2: Do Strategies Focused on Member Experience Impact Credit Union Performance?

ChoiceHacking – How to Create a Journey Map

CX That Sings – The Customer Empathy Gap

PwC – Experience is Everything

Receeve – Why Banks need to map out their Digital Customer Journeys

McKinsey – Beyond digital transformations: Modernizing core technology for the AI bank of the future

Nielsen Norman Group – Journey Mapping 101

Global Banking and Finance – Redefining financial services with customer journey mapping