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Redefining the Customer Experience

ING Direct USA president and chairman Arkadi Kuhlmann discusses the user experience with BS&T.

ING Direct USA president and chairman Arkadi Kuhlmann built the Wilmington, Del.-based direct bank's reputation on the foundation of a simple, enjoyable user experience. As a subsidiary of Netherlands-based ING Group, ING Direct USA has grown from a small upstart founded in 2000 to a US$90 billion financial institution with more than 7.7 million customers nationwide. One of Bank Systems & Technology's Top 10 Innovators of the Decade, Kuhlmann spoke with BS&T -- just days before McLean, Va.-based Capital One Financial Corp. announced that it would acquire ING Direct USA for billion -- about how to build a banking experience that satisfies customers.

What does it take to achieve a banking experience that resonates with customers across all delivery channels?

Kuhlmann: It's all about reengineering the product or reengineering the process or reengineering the customer. The goal is to provide the same sort of experience that one would expect in the retail environment, whether in a store or anywhere else. Make the customers feel like they're in a retail mode and eliminate the friction points. Like our slogan ("Save Your Money"), you want to save them money, and if you can't save them money, save them time and make the experience as simple and straightforward as possible. Look at the automotive industry, for instance. It's not about what makes the car work, but how it feels to drive it. There are a lot of people who don't want to look under the hood of their cars or might not know how their cars work or how to fix them if something goes wrong.

In the banking industry we have to do a very good job of making it simple and straightforward on the experience. We need to try and make things transparent and easy for our customers, and I think the banking industry can do a lot more to make things easier from the front to the back as opposed to from the back to the front.

What's an example of a delivery channel that banks could reengineer with simplicity and ease of use in mind?

Kuhlmann: There's nobody who likes an 800 number. All the self-service, all the data you have to enter -- it's difficult and challenging to do the work yourself to get to a call center representative. But the whole point of call centers was to make it easier for customers. The problem was, the process wasn't reengineered; it wasn't made easy. I've never found anybody in America who loves an 800 number. But you could love it if it's simple, intuitive, straightforward and easy to use.

Or look at mobile. A mistake that we made that we should learn from as an industry is, when the Internet came along we took branch processes -- manual, paper-based processes -- and just copied them onto a website. We didn't reinvent anything; we made it cumbersome and difficult to use.

Going to mobile, a lot of banks are going to make the same mistake. They will try and paste online banking into the mobile interface. They're not actually making the process simpler, the product simpler, so you can navigate and actually do things easier on mobile. They don't understand that mobile is not Internet banking or a website on a cell phone. The banks that understand that that's a different interface are the ones that are going to win at this game.

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