The move to digital by many consumers as a result of COVID has caused financial institutions to re-examine their digital strategy. Credit unions are considering expanding, refreshing or switching to a new digital banking provider to deliver services that better meet the needs of their members. To fulfill your digital strategy and compete to retain existing and acquire new members in the digital channel, here are a few key questions to help you qualify prospective digital services providers. Whether you are adding a new product/service or conducting discovery for a new digital banking provider here are the tough questions to ask to ensure the product/service meets the specific needs of your digital strategy. After all, it is critical to have digital partners and not just providers.
How deep is your integration to my core?
This is a big question that is often overlooked. Most digital services providers can furnish an integration to your core platform. However, providers that have programming experience with your core processor create a better experience for your credit union and your members.
- Your credit union benefits because the digital application completes the work through the core. This means your staff is not doing rudimentary back-office processes to complete the tasks that the digital banking platform should be completing on its own.
- Your members benefit because the process is faster and the experience is better.
- You can present more detailed information from the core which means your member self-service strategy is more productive.
Very few digital providers have product and programming teams that understand the detailed information that can be extracted from the core. The robustness of account information presented through the digital application is dependent upon the depth of the core integration.
What parity between exists between your online and mobile channels?
Today’s digital user demands that there be no confusion when switching between the online and mobile channels. Friction and confusion caused by each channel having different functionality or layout results in consumer abandonment. And in today’s digital environment, first impressions mean EVERYTHING. If a prospective provider cannot offer the same functionality and presentation in both channels, then move on. Many digital providers focus solely on the mobile channel, but there are still plenty of users in the online channel. Channel user preference can be a competitive advantage if both channels are offered and there is parity between them.
Describe any flexibility my credit union will have with customizing our UI/UX?
Every credit union is unique. Your prospective digital services provider should therefore be prepared to discuss your unique business objectives to effectively design and deliver customized solutions for your credit union. This means a provider needs a flexible approach to UI/UX design. Proper design enables your credit union to create a unique digital platform to meet the strategic goals of your organization. If the prospective vendor’s answer to this question focuses on having the colors of the application match the colors your credit union’s brand, then move on.
The only way to truly support your brand is to create and continually enhance a platform designed by you. The cookie cutter approach where the digital platform looks the same for every client does not work anymore. In today’s competitive environment, your credit union needs to differentiate itself from other financial services providers. Digital banking providers should enable a flexible, tailored approach that is affordable for credit unions of all sizes. When considering a provider, go differentiated or go home.
What is your pace for new release deployments and your process for testing?
Does the provider have new releases at a snail’s pace? How about every three weeks, with continuous rapid deployment of new functionality? Can each credit union push out a revised version of their platform once the functionality has been verified by their team, or do they have to wait for quarterly “general” release dates?
Your digital services provider should furnish robust test strategies and a testing environment for your credit union for each new release. What is the extent of their automated testing system, to supplement the QA department’s work? Note that any provider that says their internal QA department handles all testing is limiting your ability to meet the rapidly changing demands of your membership. With a differentiated product, you want to be able to test fully to ensure that the deliverable meets YOUR objectives. The provider’s development and testing approach is important because it will affect the timing of delivering new functionality to your membership.
What is your process for third-party selection and integrations?
A credit union’s third-party integrations serve to further differentiate their digital banking offerings. A properly implemented digital strategy with third-party options can enhance the member experience, expanding relationships well beyond the basic offerings. Your digital services provider should offer integration to any third-party that you select and be able to add that functionality when you want it. Any provider that dictates the third-party providers you can use or takes 12-24 months to integrate a provider is simply unacceptable. You should demand that your app have the third-party features that you want regardless of the provider’s other clients, and regardless of whether the third-parties YOU select compete with offerings from your digital banking partner.
In addition, does the digital provider research potential new third-party offerings to enhance your platform? A digital partner will provide third-party options based on industry and retail trends. Finally, a digital partner should be vendor agnostic, offering several third-parties to fulfill a product need. The choice of which third-party the vendors used to supply services for your digital channel should be yours and not the dictated by the digital banking provider.
The demand for digital services has never been greater. It is crucial to select the best provider for your credit union’s strategic needs. Your digital channel requires differentiation to retain existing users and attract new ones. That differentiation requires that your digital platform has the ability to quickly add enhancements based on the features you need. The third-party vendors to support those vendors should be your choice, and should be implemented in months instead of years.
Today’s digital banking users require a digital baking experience that supports their needs, and your credit union requires a digital banking experience that meets the goals of your strategic plan. The term “fluid process” has often been used to describe plans that can be quickly modified based upon changing business conditions. 2020 highlighted the need to operate using a fluid business model. Since digital strategy has become the most important driver in many credit union strategic plans, a digital platform that is stagnant will be an impediment to that institution’s business goals. Asking the right questions when considering a new digital banking provider is crucial to your digital success. And your digital success is likely a critical factor to meet the strategic goals of your credit union. Choose wisely!