Friday, May 11, 2007

The Lines Between Small Stuff and Big Stuff are Blurred When it Comes to UX: PNC Online Banking

Last week I changed my settings on my online checking account on which email account I want alerts sent to. This seemed pretty basic. I also recently had a problem with a bill not getting paid, so I set up automatic payments so this doesn’t happen again. Things were in place so that this week I would get emails letting me know what automatic bill payments were going through. Or so I thought.

Three days after making all these changes, I received 4 emails at the wrong account letting me know bills were going to be paid. This error caused me to question a lot of things related to my checking account. I had to go online and confirm I made the right changes, which occurs in four different areas of the website. I then had to call the bank to make sure that this wasn’t going to impact pending payments and to find out why this happened. The reason I was given was that changes I make online take a few days to make it to the bill processing center. What does that mean? Why wasn’t a simple message there in context when I made the change that stated this?

This experience made me think about the product lifecycle of building large and small components and what companies focus on during the process. The big component here that the bank had to build was the setup up of automatic transactions that had to happen at a pre-defined time. Building that took a lot of people and money. The small thing was the email notification. This could have taken a single developer and probably didn’t cost them much. Unfortunately, it seems as if connecting these databases together wasn’t that simple and may have had some cost. Hence the lag between a customer making changes to one database and the changes rippling to the database that actually sends out the emails.

Clearly during the meetings and budgeting for this project focused on the larger issues as most do. Unfortunately the customer’s experience doesn’t care what it took to build. When I had a problem with the simple email notification, I had cause to not trust that they would still pay my bills. There are a lot of simple, low cost solutions PNC could have done here, but that means that someone had to make the user experience an important part of the product lifecycle to have identified this. There was no bug here, so QA or Certification probably wouldn’t have caught this. A good UX designer could have spotted this and put in a message reading, “The changes may take a few days to take effect” and my expectations would have been set and no other dominoes knocked over. Their brand would have still been intact. Customers judge a product’s brand on the overall experience regardless of complexity to build.

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