Onboarding shapes customers’ first impression of a bank and has the potential to influence the long-term success of the relationship.
In-depth qualitative research is needed to map an ideal onboarding customer journey, in order to ensure a consistently relevant experience through all touchpoints and moments of truth, by tapping into the customers' needs, expectations and pain points.
The Onboarding challenge
Onboarding is definitely one of the biggest challenges for a bank within the customer
at the outset of the relationship, insight on the new customer is still to be built up
switching is still quite easy: "strings" entailed by owning products yet to come and
relationship still "shallow"
Making customers tick even before getting to know them, is not the easiest of the tasks.
Yet, as they say, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression: Onboarding
shapes customers’ first impression of a bank and has the potential to influence the long-term
success of the relationship
Opportunities and pitfalls of Onboarding
Together with trouble shooting, the onboarding phase (account opening and the 3 up to 6
months that follow) is the moment-of-truth with the greatest impact on advocacy, share
of wallet and ultimately on loyalty:
onboarding can turn to be a sort of "grace" period, a moment when cross-
selling potential is at its highest: it has been estimated that 75% of all cross-
selling takes place in the first few months of new customer acquisition
but unfortunately attrition rate is as well: new customers are the least satisfied
and the most likely to leave; indeed, studies show that customers are three times
more likely to show attrition during the first ninety days of opening a new account*
*Source: J.D. Power & Associates 2013 U.S. Retail Banking Satisfaction StudySM
Provided that churn is avoided, the challenge of avoiding the "great decoupling"
between acquisition and cross-selling is at stake.
Plenty of evidence is available that
"fully engaged" customers – as opposed as merely "satisfied" – show much
higher repurchase rates
the lack of a consistent and meaningful value proposition through all the
relevant touchpoints highly hinders the likability of customers to convert their
purchasing intentions into actual purchases
The challenge is twofold then:
- What makes customers tick? What has the power of making a new customer "engaged"?
- What is the experience to be delivered through all the relevant touchpoints during the
The bank certainly know the % of prospects dropping out after the first contact, of
customers becoming inactive or leaving the bank after opening the account, and even
the touchpoints involved and consulted before deciding not to go ahead with a purchase.
What the bank doesn't know is WHY, i.e.
- what the customers' expectations were at any given touchpoint
- and how the experience provided by the bank failed to deliver vs. these expectations
In-depth qualitative research is therefore needed to map an ideal onboarding customer
journey, in order to make sure for the bank to deliver a consistently relevant experience
through all touchpoints and moments of truth, by tapping into the customers' needs,
expectations and pain points
In-depth qualitative research
Ethnography - more than group discussions - certainty is the most promising approach:
research in behavioural economics has shown how relying on respondents'
recollections often leads to misleading results
not only because memories deteriorate over time and become less reliable
but above all because whereas we make our decisions mostly driven by Kahneman's
"System 1" – emotions and feelings, we tend to justify our behaviours in terms of
"System 2" – rationality.
Beware of recollections!/1
Therefore it is crucial to
gather customers' feelings and feedback as close as possible to the actual
individual experience they have had
get real: no vague tales but slices of life full of details regarding touchpoints and
processes the customer was involved into
o whenever possible (when it doesn't cause interferences with the customers'
experience), direct observation by Episteme researchers is granted
o in other cases, self-ethnography by respondents is required
Beware of recollections!/2
What form of observation is to be preferred depends on the touchpoint(s) especially investigated
in each interview
Due to practical considerations, it is not feasible to shadow a panel of customers
during their whole onboarding period and strictly monitor what happens, however, the
methodology is inspired exactly by this philosophy.
The ideal customer journey is an abstraction rooted in the actual experience of a
number of customers, each of whom
1. is interviewed on their overall expectations and approach to banking, in order to
attribute each individual to the relevant archetypes and persona
2. is especially selected to provide their story and point of view on a specific
moment and experience within the onboarding process, in order to avoid getting
generic recollections devoid of actionability
Shadowing different people in different touchpoints
In other terms, instead of shadowing a group of people for the whole onboarding period, we get
the same accuracy and actionability by shadowing a well varied sample of individuals, each on a
specific moment/touchpoint/experience within the onboarding period.
In particular, the sample should include customers
who have just opened the account
who have considered opening the account at the bank's but have eventually decided not to
who have opened the account for a month or so
that are considering a purchasing decision or have just made it or have decided not to
customers at the end of what is typically considered as the standard duration of the
onboarding period who have or have not been fully activated
customers at risk of churn (e.g. have filed a complaint) or who have just left the bank
before the end of the standard onboarding period
Building the sample/1
Customers will be both from the bank's and other players' customer base, in order to discover
best practices also coming from the competitive environment
Journey mapping has to be done also from the organisational point of view, in several
1. Current onboarding customer journey as delivered by the bank must be used
as a constant reference
2. All relevant quantitative data available from different internal sources (CRM,
contact center, complaint logs, online behaviour) must be analysed
3. The point of view of the sale force must be also integrated to get a precise picture
of how the bank concretely deals with prospects and newly acquired customers
Integrating the bank's point of view
Overall research design
1. Analysis of internal
data and current
The bank's point of view
2. Interviews with
and sales people from the
The customers' point of view
interviews with the
bank's and competitors'
Bridging the bank's and the
customers' point of view
4. Workshops with the
bank's team owner of
the project in order to
fine-tune and develop
the ideal onboarding
journey coming from the
research on customers,
turning it into an
integrated into the