We’d like to start by talking about Swiss Cheese. Please bear with us.
The Swiss Cheese Model is a scientific model which explains how a threat can be mitigated by adding more preventative measures, even if each of those measures isn’t perfect on its own. It gets its name from the image of a horizontal stack of swiss cheese – when the holes align, risk can still get through, but the more layers of cheese you add, the more the holes are blocked.
You can see a diagram here and you may be familiar with it from COVID pandemic guidelines: different preventative measures (social distancing, masks, test and trace etc) were likened to swiss cheese layers preventing the spread of infection. Each had their flaws, but together, they’re effective.
So, why on earth are we talking about this? Because your customer journey can be thought of in the same way – just in reverse. Each customer journey has a set of steps, and each one will have a chance of throwing up a problem that stops your users in their tracks. The more steps you add, the greater the chance that a user will have a problem progressing through that journey, even if each individual step has a >95% success rate.
A recent McKinsey article argued that this is why we need to stop thinking about customer ‘touchpoints’ and start thinking about the entire customer journey end-to-end. Imagine you’re a broadband provider that requires users to pass through a dozen different steps before they can get online. Customers will need to deal with multiple different departments and processes, including in-person installation. Even if each of those processes individually has a high success rate, the length of the journey increases the risk of a user running into problems.
How, then, do you solve this problem? How do you get all your slices of swiss cheese aligned so that customers go from start-to-finish with the minimum obstacles possible?
We have some ideas from our own area of expertise: Payments.
Where the payments pain-points are
Let’s take an example that we see a lot when it comes to financial services. Every customer will usually submit a set of information about them like their name, address and background information that their financial services provider needs to gather. Then, a few steps later in the onboarding, the user goes through a Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering (KYC/AML) process, which usually involves entering the same information again. It’s a simple oversight that unnecessarily doubles the onboarding time for the customer.
Then there’s making payments. If your customer needs to use a specific reference to include when paying via bank transfer, that’s another step that’s adding complexity to your user journey. As for the speed, if that payment isn’t hitting the account instantly, you’re adding further delays to the user experience.
The core issues here are twofold. One is that companies have designed customer journeys around the information they need and the processes they have to complete, rather than what makes sense for the customer. That just adds more slices of cheese.
The second is that the steps that do need to be there (such as making a first payment) have not been optimised, so each individual step is more difficult than it needs to be. To build journeys that are truly customer-focused, businesses need to focus on both.
Getting your cheese slices in a row: removing the pain points
A modern, customisable payments infrastructure enables you to address both of these issues and remove weak points throughout your entire customer journey.
In terms of onboarding, an Account Information Service Provider can completely cut down the process via Open Banking. Instead of filling out long forms, the customer simply clicks a button to grant secure access to their bank account, your system obtains the information that it needs, and they’re done.
As for payments, providing unique payment reference numbers for each client can be completely eliminated by issuing all customers with virtual IBANs. We explain this in more detail in another blog of ours, but the process sees money going directly to the customer’s account with no manual reconciliation – so it benefits you as well as your users.
Every customer journey is only as strong as its weakest step. Creating a smooth journey from start to finish, as opposed to shiny and exciting touchpoints, is what your customers will value most.
Fortunately with the right payments infrastructure, you can have shiny touchpoints and a smooth end-to-end journey. Swiss cheese never looked so good.