Online application process scaring off bank customers

When it comes to pressing the proverbial “easy button” to complete a bank’s online account application, a majority of customers are saying “see ya later” to the sometimes 15 or more screens required to complete the online app process.

For those already using an online channel, tasks such as making payments, transferring funds and looking at account balances are working just fine. But, as reviewed by consultant Adam Bookman for an article in BAI Banking Strategies (Losing customers at “NEXT,” June 21, 2011), research by Javelin cited fewer than half of people who tried to open an account online were able to do so, while the majority actually abandoned the effort.

For banks trying to attract new customers through online (and potentially more efficient) self-service channels, such statistics don’t bode well for the first impression a 15-page online application makes on a demanding and mobile-savvy consumer base.

Bookman actually analyzed a number of bank sites with online applications and cited the following as reasons for the high abandonment rate:

  • Consumers generally will accept about a 7-screen online application, but many banks have apps with twice as many screens to wade through. Contrast this to the one-click buying process on
  • Some apps don’t allow a user to pause part way through and return later to complete the process.
  • Users can lose data if they pause too long and time out (while they frantically run upstairs to find a spouse’s social security number from the files), or if they hit the browser’s back button and get the warning message, “do you really want to resend form data?”
  • Many apps do not visually inform a user of current stage in the process (like a percent complete, or screen 2 of 5).
  • Some forms don’t tell a user up front what information is required to complete the form.
  • Many forms require current customers to completely fill out field after field of personal data, even though that data already resides at the bank.
  • Some apps do not offer the option of seeking help, such as a live chat function.
  • Many customers are required to complete different types of online applications for assorted products and services at the same bank (loan or deposit products, mortgages, insurance, trust and investments).
  • Some banks actually require users to print the app and complete the process in a bank branch.

To be fair, banks are dealing with unprecedented regulation and compliance, which in turn requires an avalanche of mandated paperwork.

Further complicating the situation, banks often work with a myriad of internally developed and third party systems and technology to offer the very products and services customers demand.

The resulting problem? Each product offering (such as deposits, personal loans, mortgages, insurance, trust) often has a unique set of online account opening processes, documentation and compliance.

As this article illustrates, at a time when banks are rebuilding reputations, fighting for market share and pursuing the holy grail of “one view of the customer,” what many offer in return is a customer-experience disconnect in the way online account openings are handled.

Bookman succinctly captures the essence of the problem: The concept of “Please Start Over” is not a promising bid for customer satisfaction.


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