Future of Investing

How Fidelity uses design thinking to approach customer pain points

  • Finance companies often talk of harnessing customer data to better approach pain points, but the challenge often involves asking the right questions.
  • A design approach is a better way to understand the sources of friction, say Fidelity executives.
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How Fidelity uses design thinking to approach customer pain points

For finance companies, the discussion often centers around how to use data keep customers. But asking the right types of questions may be the best way to mine customer insights to really understand the pain points.

“Empathy is where design thinking begins,” said Doug Roerden, vice president for user experience design strategy at Fidelity Investments, speaking at the Customer Experience for Financial Services Conference in Boston on Monday. “There’s no denying that empathy gives us a deeper understanding of customer needs and wants.”

Finance companies often fall into the trap of thinking for the customer before gaining a deeper understand behind what’s driving dissatisfaction, he said. “We become unknowing victims of projection and confirmation bias;  we see everything as a nail our hammer can hit.”

As Tearsheet reported last month, banks and finance companies are moving away from “managing” the customer experience to thinking of it as more of a design problem. These include working with customers to create products, diversifying hiring teams, and using a more open approach to iterating the ideas. And they’re putting serious resources behind it, with recent examples including Spanish bank BBVA training 1,000 staff ‘ambassadors’ to spread good design practice, the launch of USAA’s 120-person design studio in Austin, and Citi’s FinTech unit, which has the mandate of innovating on mobile-first solutions for consumer banking.

Fidelity has been innovating in the design thinking space for almost 20 years, with the creation of Fidelity Labs in 1998, an innovation lab that tests emerging technologies to help grow new products, services and businesses. According to the company, Fidelity Labs created its 100th patent last year, and its achievements include the first internet-based 401(k) in 1999 and the first investing app for a smartwatch three years ago.

There are three ways to get a deeper understanding of a customer’s feeling about their experience with a company, and this can be done through observation, interviewing and participation, and the learning must be done through qualitative as well as quantitative methods, Roerden said.

Looking at the end-to-end experience and connecting that back to the basic human needs of the customer is why companies like Apple have succeeded, he added. To better customer needs and wants, it goes back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, including physiology; love and belonging; and self-actualization.

This involves continuing to ask the customer what drives their behavior, and asking them to be a part of the personalization process to help them understand it better.

“The five whys — It’s a dead simple method to uncover useful insights — you ask a user when they explain things to you to dig a little deeper to get the root understanding, even if you think you already know the answer,” said Josephine Holmboe, creative director for user experience design at Fidelity.

Self-actualization, for customer experience professionals, means getting to the point of establishing a relationship with a customer and getting to the root causes of the friction.

“When a customer walks into a bank, there are two points of view: The mortgage lender may be thinking about rates and how much the customer can afford, but the customer is looking for something else,” she said. “They’re looking for a secure and safe place to raise a family — their concerns are far more personal and go much deeper than mortgage rates.”

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