Financial Services

How to Map the Evolving Customer Journey in Financial Services

Teresa Ceballos
Product Marketing Manager
Claire Maiers
Director of Product Research

One of the most measurable and drastic shifts in consumer behavior due to the COVID-19 pandemic is how people manage their money. CNBC reports that 64% of Americans have changed their spending habits in the pandemic, including not-all-that-surprising data from Mint about how spending on certain line items was adjusted for the at-home economy (i.e. less concert and plane tickets, more athleisure and kitchenware) — as well as “revenge spending” that is occuring as the U.S. is opening back up.

Although the trend currently transcends all demographics, and the U.S. personal savings rate soared throughout most of 2020, we’re just seeing early signals of whether or not this behavior will continue post-pandemic.

Whatever the future holds for both savers and spenders, one thing is certain: Customers are looking to their financial services providers for increased support across various financial situations. This includes everyone from the 65% of consumers who say they want to make their new savings habits permanent to the 40% of Americans who don’t have $400 in the bank for emergency expenses. It also includes the small business owners who had to make critical decisions about getting and using their PPP loans, and the corporations that needed to closely monitor and adjust their cash flow in the volatile economy.

To provide that support that their customers want, financial institutions must first gain a greater understanding of their customers’ journey — how they decide that they need or want a financial product, what makes them choose the provider of that product, what makes them churn or keep that financial provider, and everything in between.

Enter the Customer Journey

Product and CX leaders have long used customer journey maps to visually compile the story of all the interactions between the customer and the brand. But we often hear from clients, even leaders in their industries, that journey mapping isn’t providing the full value they need it to in order to meaningfully impact product development.

To create journey maps that drive action and impact decisions made about product roadmaps, WillowTree approaches journey mapping in four phases. Each phase has a distinct output that centers on the customer journey, but also incorporates business value and technical feasibility. Each phase is aimed to closely align business leaders, UX teams, and engineering teams, avoiding messy handoffs and accelerating product development.

The 4 Phases of Journey Mapping

WillowTree addresses customer needs and pain points with four phases in our journey mapping process. Like any other aspect of digital product development, the process is iterative and goes through varying stages of fidelity, with different value-adds for the team at each stage.

Phase 1: Immersion Workshop

To begin a product strategy engagement, we start by talking to our client stakeholders across multiple functions at the company and subject matter experts on the user base and current product. The proto-user journey is often captured in a workshop, either in-person with many sticky notes when feasible, or virtually using a tool like Miro or Mural. The goal of this workshop is to gather assumptions that our client stakeholders might have about the motivations, needs, and pain points of their user base.

Phase 2: Qualitative Insights

Phase 2 shifts the focus to the user – to construct the current user journey, our research team begins by documenting the common tasks, pain points, needs and emotions that customers experience as they engage with the brand. We often accomplish this phase through qualitative research such as interviews, user observations, or contextual inquiry. After collecting a sufficient amount of data for each customer group, our team extracts common patterns that form a representative experience with the brand.

Phase 3: Quantitative Insights

Once we’ve constructed a user journey, we go back to users a second time to deepen our understanding and prioritize opportunities for improvement. One method that we often use is the Jobs To Be Done approach. In this approach, we quantitatively assess the importance of the tasks that we’ve plotted on our journey map. In addition, we measure customers’ level of satisfaction with accomplishing those tasks. By looking holistically at which jobs/tasks matter most and which ones have lower levels of satisfaction, we can identify the most important areas of the customer journey that need to be improved.

Gleaning these quantitative insights are some of the most exciting parts of mapping the user journey, because this is where we can uncover the biggest opportunity areas that the digital product could address for the user.

Phase 4: Future-State Journey Mapping

One of the most common questions we hear from our clients once they complete their journey map is, “Where do we go from here?” The current-state journey map that is created in the three previous phases provides a clear picture of users’ current unmet needs and satisfaction. But what about the features that don’t exist yet, or aren’t on this year’s roadmap? How can you create journey maps that not only capture the perceptions of today, but also the expectations of tomorrow?

WillowTree helps our clients create future-state journey maps (Forrester recently published the WillowTree approach as best practices in their research), particularly for our clients that are interested in exploring new technologies, such as voice. Future state journey maps can create alignment for teams by defining one clear set of goals that is centered in the user experience and business goals, rather than by technology changes for design trends. The latter should always be made in service of the former.

The past few years have propelled innovation at an unprecedented pace. To ensure a competitive advantage both now and in the future, banks can use journey mapping to better understand customer expectations and swiftly adapt to their needs. WillowTree can help. Contact us today to learn more.

Teresa Ceballos
Product Marketing Manager
Claire Maiers
Director of Product Research

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