Mobile banking with new smartphone – log of an odyssey

Since my current smartphone shows clear signs of age, I bought the latest model of a well-known manufacturer from Cupertino. Thanks to modern technology the setup went smoothly and I enjoyed my new gadget. Everything was great - until the activation of my mobile banking apps threw me into a deep crisis.


Finally coming home after a long working day, a small package lies on the table: My new smartphone has finally arrived! As I unpack it, I feel some respect thinking about the setup of my new phone – until I remember that the days of manual setup using extra software are long gone.


I scan the quick start screen and place my old smartphone next to the new one. This screen reminds me a little bit of the mycelium spores in Star Trek Discovery and it seems equally sophisticated to me: It works, my new phone synchronizes!


Done! The user interface of my new smartphone now looks exactly like the one of my previous device. All apps are working and I am relieved. Only the wallet still needs to be updated. But even that is really easy: Simply scan your credit card with the camera and OCR does the rest.


Actually I could put my new smartphone aside now, after all everything works. But it is new! I feel like a child on Christmas Eve and want to test my new toy extensively. So, let’s try out my mobile banking applications. At this point I don’t realize what a disaster this thought would cause.


I open the first of my mobile banking apps, let’s say App A. It says that I have to reactivate the application. Actually a good thing, I presume. Security is very important for banks, as not everyone should be able to access my accounts. Therefore, a reactivation is certainly reasonable and can’t be that difficult. So, let’s go! First I have to enter my password. Hold on, my password? Of course I can’t remember it. After all, Face-ID usually makes sure that I can log in without any problems on both my cell phone and on my computer. I have locked myself out!


I’m trying not to panic and stay calm. The app recommends that I contact customer service to unlock my account and request a new password. At this very moment I remember what time it is. No way customer service is going to be available. And even if someone could be contacted at this time, I really don’t feel like listening to on-hold music. So I close App A and turn to the next of my mobile banking applications, App B.


Here, too, I am asked to log in. Fortunately I know this password – so nothing can go wrong anymore. Immediately I am told to activate my new smartphone. To do this, I have to log in to the e-banking system via my desktop simultaneously. All right. When I go to the e-banking settings, I find out that only one mobile device can be activated at a time. In other words, I must first deactivate my old device before I can activate my new one. Well, so much for the topic omnichannel, I guess. Anyway, I deactivate my old smartphone and then work my way through the activation process. With one eye I follow the instructions on the mobile display, while with the other eye I look at the cryptic characters on the desktop that I’m supposed to type into the phone. I begin feeling dizzy. Despite all my efforts, a message finally appears in e-banking: “We will send you an activation code by mail.” I close this app as well, getting annoyed.


There remains app C to save my evening after all. And guess what – it worked! I managed the activation successfully. However, the process reminds me a bit of the Odyssey by Homer. There was absolutely no trace of any good user experience. In this app I had to enter my password and even my contract number as well. It’s like a miracle that I actually found both data somewhere. After a few attempts, some swearing and with the help of e-banking I finally got a code to activate my new cell phone. Heureka!


Of three mobile banking apps, I was only able to fully activate one. A miserable result. Disappointed, I put my new smartphone aside. This cannot be.


Even when lying in bed later, I can’t get the whole thing out of my head: Why is it so complicated? Why is the customer not standing in the center of such a process? Has no one ever put themselves in the user’s perspective to create a straight forward user journey? After all, it is a common scenario that banking customers activate a new cell phone. And why is the whole thing technically implemented in this way? Because there are significantly better alternatives. New procedures such as auto identification make it possible to re-identify customers within seconds. Or how about including the communication habits of the users into the user journey? Mobile banking could easily be expanded to conversational banking by integrating a chat.


My thoughts slow down, sleep overcomes me. That night, I dream of how I simply identify myself digitally with my cell phone camera when activating a mobile banking app and how I can reset my password at ten o’clock in the evening thanks to a chat bot.