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Monkey Memo is an extension of Monkey Insights, an expanded format with a focus on more in-depth discussions of a specific topic. Just like Monkey Insights, Monkey Memo is based on “Little-Data” factoids pulled from a vast array of actual digital-channel usage data, over 10 million monthly logins covering 650,000+ active users and 450 banks and credit unions. Monkey Memo will explore the data in a qualitative and expressive way, forming opinions and providing useful information on relevant topics in the digital banking space.

The Design X-Factor. It’s not all about the screens. Great design is also about the total customer experience. Increasingly, banks and credit unions are waking up to this. Aesthetically pleasing screens must be accompanied by a progressive approach to policies and procedures because those factors dramatically influence customer satisfaction.

60% of negative App Store comments are about frustrating policies and procedures. 10% are about lack of communication. Comments aren’t necessarily about screens, nor look and feel. That 70% means a bank or credit union has the ability to dramatically influence their account holders’ digital experience just by being more thoughtful about, ahem, potentially wacky policies. 70%. That’s a huge percentage.

The Project: App Store & Google Play Review Analysis
Great banking app design is about several things: great graphics and imagery, user-friendly screens and uncluttered features that make basic banking seamless. Great app design is also about the X-factor. Malauzai has begun preliminary research on Google Play and App Store feedback. Deep down, we all know those App Store rating “stars” must be telling us something but it is debatable what we can really learn from those type of scores.

Some very well-known industry pundits (Ron Shevlin, @rshevlin) recently called into question some research based on “the stars.” Read the comments, because in those comments there is gold. The verbatim comments are qualitative in nature but can be grouped and organized to decipher their meaning in order to better understand what people are really saying.


After thorough analysis, here is what we discovered regarding Google Play and App Store ratings:

• 60% of negative comments were about something that was implemented (by choice) by the bank. The bank is enforcing a policy or a procedure that the customer does not like

• 30% of negative comments were about legitimate bugs in the system

• 15% of the overall comments were positive. Negative comments far outweigh positive comments in the App Store by 500%

• 10% of negative comments point to poor communications. The banks are not telling their customers about changes until after they happen and

• 85% of comments can be traced to a recent update in the past 15-20 days. Updates cause comments to dramatically spike. The rate of comments increases by 350% when an update or major app change occurs.

What do reviews really mean and what can you do?
In this initial research effort, the average rating for the mobile banking app was 1.5 stars. Most star ratings are low by the way. In fact, the whole process of store reviews is somewhat suspect as a mechanism for “rating” a mobile banking app. Most happy users unfortunately don’t leave reviews. People take to review sites to air their frustrations. Overwhelmingly, people who are upset post comments. Even worse, Apple’s App Store does not let you comment on the review, which is just kind of bad social media practice. You can follow up on comments on Google Play which helps manage the process, the critical piece to managing feedback. Don’t squelch the comments or remove them. Rather, respond and take the opportunity to turn negative reviews into thankful feedback and find solutions.

60% of the negative comments are about policies and procedures. “Why do I have to keep the check I just deposited for 2 weeks?” “Why do I have to register every time I use a new mobile device?” “It said I would get a code via email to use the app but I never got it.” For that last one we discovered the bank didn’t have updated contact information for their account holders so users weren’t receiving the code.

Bank Policy & Security Protocol vs. The Design X-Factor
Oh, and many reviews were followed by or preceded by “I’m leaving the bank.” People really don’t like these “little” inconveniences. And they have no idea these policies are universally there to protect them. Isn’t it obvious that we do these things to stay compliant with FFIEC guidelines and security protocols? Ms. and Mr. consumer don’t you understand that compliance and risk management take precedent over customer experience? Don’t you all get that regulators really don’t care about App Store ratings?

Well, shame on us! Duh, to the financial service industry. It’s us, not them. There’s a disconnect. The consumer shouldn’t have to interpret anything. They don’t give a hoot about FFIEC or security. They just don’t want to be inconvenienced. This is our world. This is what the X-Factor is about.

Compliance vs. The Design X-Factor
60% of the time people complain it’s not a screen issue or a bug but a policy enforced by some over-righteous compliance officer, sorry compliance resource people, I know you play an important role in your organizations. It’s just you get a bit over-zealous, right? My last compliance resource at a previous job began every meeting by asking us to “bring down the login screen.” As if the only way to truly protect the bank was to 100% remove digital access. It was a brilliant and simple plan and would have been arguably 100% effective. Because if you can’t log in you can’t have fraud or service issues, riight. Brilliant.

Lack of Communication vs. The Design X-Factor
10% of the negative comments are traced to poor communications. People get upset if you are not telling them about an app upgrade or a new feature. This just makes sense! Obviously, if you are having a planned outage or are doing anything in advance, COMMUNICATE! Send a short, simple email. Post an in-app notice if you can but send SOMETHING. This review category is surprising. It’s also so easy to fix. And it was not limited to customers and members. Employees seem to be in the dark too. Several comments said that bank or credit union staff had no idea what was going on either. Wow. When an account holder asks, “Why is my app not working” and a customer service rep responds, “I don’t know, neither is mine,” that’s bad. Communicate early and communicate often. Use all your channels from branch to statements to call center. Train your internal staff and BE READY. Internal readiness is a good thing, and can take 10% of negative comments right off the table. The fact that most comments come in just days after an update or major release supports the case to communicate early and often when you launch a new app or a new major feature. Be proactive, be on top of communications and ahead of complaints.

The Design X-Factor. Everyone talks about the total customer experience and this is a great example, a practical example of what industry pundits mean. App Store feedback can be synthesized and processed. What we find may be surprising but really not shocking. Most comments are insights into frustrations about the way the bank or credit union works. The apps contribute with their share of bugs, but the Design X-Factor has a greater impact. Credit unions and banks must moderate. They must manage the tension between a great customer experience and staying safe and complaint. Not an easy task.

By studying the data and staying diligent, a financial institution can take fate into their hands and proactively manage this tension, hopefully always falling on the side of great customer experiences. The X-Factor can drive change in a mobile banking landscape devoid of differentiation. And customers win in the end.