Banking Customer Journey


The Banking Customer Journey represents an extract from a comprehensive human-centered research on the Swiss retail banking landscape that we conducted in 2016 in cooperation with Asteroidea, a strategic advisory, to enable a holistic view on the banking customer experience.

The initial intuition that sparked the research was the lack of trust in banks and bankers exacerbated by the recent financial crisis, as well as the pressure on banks to cut costs, trim services and automate wherever possible. Moreover, new financial providers entering the market bring customers who no longer consider banks as offering critical advantage over newer types of banks or technology corporation. Financial institutions are living in a crucial time that forces them to quickly adapt to higher standards in order to stay relevant in the market. Providing not only financial services, but real, consistent and effortless experiences is becoming a major requirement to acquire new, retain existing or win back lost customers.  

We found evidence of this through our extensive qualitative research conducted across Switzerland. We indeed found out that customer’s opinions regarding banking are at an all time low. Our team of interdisciplinary researchers conducted over 150 in-depth qualitative customer interviews and 60 branch visits to different banks. We identified six main steps through which customers go for any banking service or product, may it be a mortgage or an investment. Each of these steps represents a touch point between the bank and the customer, be it physical or digital. Additionally, for each step we have selected four key touch points that clearly differentiate one bank from its competitors. 

Let us now walk you through the journey, which starts on a subconscious level. Before the need for a banking product arises, the customer unwittingly gathers a subjective perception of the different banking providers through word of mouth, presence or partnerships. In the case of Credit Suisse for example, many respondents unconsciously associated it with the banking crisis without being able to give substantiated explanations for it. Raiffeisen on the other hand has managed to position itself as a local, customer-oriented financial institution that is very much valued for its regional focus.  

The customer-to-be will then start to actively research and compare different potential providers and services. Touch points such as proximity, communication, visual identity and transparency are now becoming increasingly important. Post Finance customers for instance seem to face many problems when trying to gather information in a regular Post office. On the other hand, UBS consistently applies a modern and appealing visual design throughout different channels and media.  

Next, customers engage in a first contact to become familiar with the bank and its practices to make a better informed choice. Despite an increasing number of customers saying they would consider going digital-only for all their banking needs, the majority still values the physical branch experience. This means that, among other factors, the physical space is still key when designing the customer experience. For example, customers visiting a Coop Bank complained about the space feeling dusty, cold and untrustworthy to an extend that they would avoid having to come back. Standardization and empathy are equally relevant. For instance, ZKB’s customers-to-be receive their very own profile summarizing specific needs and potential solutions customized by an advisor, instead of standard marketing leaflets.  

When customers become used to and appreciate the bank’s reliable, up-to-date service and support,  they’ll no longer accept one-size-fits-all solutions, but rather demand personalized service based on their history. Small cantonal banks like the BCV perform better when it comes to anticipating their clients specific needs and offering customized solutions. Sudden changes, such as being charged for paper statements that were free up until this point, can really throw off long-term customers expecting continuity. 

Lastly, whenever a customer decides to end the relationship, it is the banks’ responsibility to maintain a cordial relationship and ensure a consistent customer experience. Many banks seem to neglect the importance of these last touch points: a seamless transition, friendly farewell, feedback requests and follow-up offers. Instead, the majority of banks charge their customers closing fees for long and tedious termination processes without realizing, that no matter how well-designed the previous banking service has been, this will be the last and remaining impression customers take away from their banking relationship. Many former GKB customers seem to be so content with how their bank handled the account closure process by requesting honest feedback to improve its service that they would consider coming back and even recommend it to friends and family.  

In conclusion, the future holds various challenges, but also tremendous opportunities for banks that understand the needs and behaviors of their customers. and can truly add value to their customers’ lives. Optimizing and redesigning their customer experience along the steps of this Banking Customer Journey could represent the first step to becoming a bank of the future. 

by Linda Armbruster, Design Partner


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