Preparing for Growth
It was early 2014, and Advantis, Oregon’s 5th-largest credit union, was in a tough spot. The institution had experienced significant growth, and their online banking initiative had taken off. Members were jumping on the digital banking bandwagon, but there was a problem. The user experience and limitations of their current digital banking platform were preventing Advantis from meeting member expectations. According to Kevin Wilbanks, eBanking Support Analyst at Advantis, “It was obvious our members wanted and expected more.”
Kevin should know. He joined Advantis in 2014 and saw firsthand how member adoption of online banking was exploding. According to Kevin, “We were approaching 60,000 members and we needed a better solution. A platform and a partner that could grow with us.” Needless to say, Kevin and his leadership team were concerned about their online banking experience and they needed a new platform and partner. Kevin said, “Not only did we have the wrong solution for our needs, our partner wasn’t able to help us as quickly as we needed … and we didn’t have the development resources in house to make the enhancements that were desperately needed.”
That’s when Advantis went in search of a new digital banking platform and partner. And that’s when they found Alkami. “The choice was obvious. Alkami’s platform was highly flexible and customizable. Their team understood our business goals and they were willing to jump in to help us deliver the enhancements we needed. Plus, they were continuously adding new features, widgets and functionality to the core platform. It became apparent that Alkami was the partner we were in search of and they had the platform that our members clearly wanted.”
Improving User Experience
In less than a year, Advantis had converted from their old system to Alkami and the institution went live in January 2015. With a new platform in place, the leadership team at Advantis had lofty goals and visions for what they wanted to accomplish. However, they knew if they were going to fully capitalize on what Alkami had to offer and deliver a superior member experience, they would have to increase the amount of time and attention they were spending internally on the credit union’s online banking strategy.
Kevin said, “Leadership at the credit union knew that we needed to apply more focus on digital banking and the partnership with Alkami. They wanted a dedicated person to manage this initiative and the relationship. That’s when I took on the role of eBanking Support Analyst and really started digging into the experience we were providing our members.” Kevin wasted no time before he began delving into the wealth of member feedback Advantis had captured over the years. “We are very big on member feedback and we go out of our way to try to get as much of it as we can. So, I spent a lot of time analyzing the results for our online banking surveys. One issue that quickly surfaced was that our members were still having difficulty finding and getting to the information they needed. The user experience could still be optimized.”
After seeing these results, Kevin remembers thinking, “We are so lucky that we converted to Alkami when we did. With our old system we would be stuck. We couldn’t do anything based on this feedback. But because Alkami’s platform is so versatile, we can actually do something about it.” That’s when Kevin started thinking about formalizing a process for leveraging member feedback to guide user experience design. Kevin knew he didn’t have the resources or expertise to make this happen, so he immediately reached out to Alkami. He was pleased to discover that Alkami had a UX Design and Development Team on staff. “Fortunately for us, I learned that Alkami was fully committed to user-centered design and they had this expertise in house.”
That’s when Crystal Lacuone, the Advantis account manager at Alkami, introduced Kevin to Alkami’s user experience leader. “When I first met her, it was apparent that she knew what she was doing. She had a wealth of experience in this area and quickly explained how proper user-testing and design should be done.” After that meeting, Kevin was impressed and ready to move forward. However, there was another step in the process that had to come first. Kevin said, “It became obvious that our executives should be involved in this initiative. After all, we were going to provide a third-party vendor with direct access to our members. That’s a pretty big deal. We also didn’t want to start something that we couldn’t finish. That meant we needed to secure executive-level commitment before we even got started.”
So, Kevin and Alkami began documenting their strategy and making arrangements to present the game plan to the leadership team. “I had never been through a process like this. What was I going to do? Walk into our executives and say, hey, this is going to be great, but please don’t ask me any questions that I can’t answer,” Kevin said as he reflected back on this important phase of his journey.
“That’s when Alkami’s user experience leader came to rescue. With her extensive experience, she was able to explain our plan to the executive team in a simple and convincing way. A way that ensured that they could trust me and the Alkami team with the process. Helping our leadership team understand the plan was critical to getting the buy-in we needed.”
After meeting with the leadership team, Kevin and Alkami got the green light to proceed and immediately went to work. The first step was to define the ideal profile of members who Advantis wanted to participate in the user experience testing process. “This was a challenge considering we were starting with our 73,000-plus membership base. However, we quickly narrowed down our target members based on age, user activity level, features utilized, and historical member feedback.” With a target member list in place, Alkami developed a new digital banking survey designed to capture specific feedback about the current user experience. After analyzing the findings from those surveys, Alkami’s user experience team set up one-on-one phone interviews with members who responded to capture even more insights that could guide the design process. Kevin recalls, “She was probably one of the best interviewers I’d ever met. She knew exactly what questions to ask and how to surface actionable user experience insights. Through those interviews, we recruited 10-15 members who were willing to participate in live, on-site user testing sessions. That’s when the real work began.”
Learning Users Needs
Based on the surveys and interviews, Kevin and Alkami had isolated specific user issues that they needed to focus on. Some of those related to speed and performance, the login process, transaction history as well as the biometric security and SnapShot features. With the critical issues identified, Alkami quickly developed initial UX designs that could be used in the initial testing phase.
The next step in the process was to schedule and coordinate the live user testing sessions with members on-site at the credit union. According to Kevin, “Alkami managed and coordinated all of the logistics and had their designers, developers and product managers on site to conduct the user testing. Within no time, they had a real testing environment set up in a private room with computers, cameras — the whole bit. It was impressive.” Then the Alkami team got to work interviewing members one-on-one, watching them use the digital banking application, asking usability questions, and based on their answers, making real-time design modifications. Kevin remembers that experience well. “It was incredible to see how they captured user feedback and were able to act on it … right then, right there.” Kevin was also impressed with how Alkami was able to surface actionable insights from members. “They were asking our members questions like, ‘How does this process feel to you? Is this experience better or worse than what you have today? How does it compare or contrast?’ They knew precisely how to guide them through the interface designs to get the feedback we needed to optimize the overall experience.” Kevin went on to say, “Because Alkami was on-site, we were able to go through testing scenarios with one member, get their feedback, iterate on user interface designs based on that feedback and then test a new design with the next member. It was so efficient and effective.”
After the testing was complete, Alkami quickly completed the final designs and moved into development and production. “It only took a couple of months before the new user experience was live for all of our members.” Just a few months after the launch, Kevin and his team conducted additional online banking surveys to gauge reactions across the entire membership. “The survey results since we implemented the new user interface indicate that we hit the mark, and the response from members has been extremely positive.”
According to Kevin, the best part of this journey was that, “We learned a lot about user-centered design and even more about our members’ digital banking expectations. The members who participated told us it was a great process and experience. Some of them even said that they hope we do more of it, and if we do, they would love to be involved again.” The entire journey, from Kevin’s first conversation with Alkami’s user experience leader to implementing the new designs within the Alkami platform, took less than a year. “Because we took a disciplined approach, we were not only able to meet and, in many cases, exceed member expectations — we were also able to make it happen in a very reasonable timeframe.”
When asked what insights he would share with others about his experience, Kevin said, “Take the risk, take the leap even if it’s scary and you’re not sure. It’s definitely worth it. Just make sure you have a partner like Alkami that knows what they are doing. A partner that has a disciplined process in place to guide you through the journey successfully. Without Alkami, we would have been flying blind. We could not have done this without their team and the flexibility of their platform. It was definitely worth it to go through this formal user experience design and development process. The survey results from our members are proof of that.”