Sybase 365 Mobile Services Survey on Mobile Banking (Feb 2008) asked the top 100 banking institutions in the world what they see as the main reasons for customers not undertaking mobile banking (mBanking). Not surprising the most common reason was compatibility, meaning the interoperability with different handsets, and restrictions on the device and/or the network that the client must use in order to use the mBanking service.
Mobile banking? I think not. (CC)
Growing or not, most handsets today do not offer an intuitive browsing experience, in a way that made the iPhone so famous. The majority of them support a rather non-intuitive browser with a non-integrated experience.
Most mobile services, mobile banking included, either require the use of a mobile web browser over their “regular” website or installing a dedicated client for a specific service.
Source: Bank of America press kit.
Installing a client implies many problems, for the user as well the service provider. While the service provider troubles are “just” adapting (“porting”) the client software to different handsets and different networks, one may argue that any installation is too much work for the average audience. In most cases, users need not only to install the software, but also to maintain it by installing updates and “patches,” and to configure it to their network so that it would actually work.
With the mobile browser the main problem is the unfamiliar experience (again, iPhone not included). For modern people, who are used to online services utilized daily over the PC, web browsing is common. You just click the browser, type the URL, fill the user/password and that’s it. Not to mention you get a set of really cool accessories to help you navigate your way, like a big screen, a keyboard or the old faithful mouse.
But mobile browsing? A totally different ball game:
Web browsing on a Nokia mobile handset running S60.
- Click the mobile browser. But where the hell is the browser? Dialing out is easy but, unless your handset supports shortcuts, launching the mobile browser is not trivial.
- Wait until you’re connected
- Struggle to insert the URL with the (in)famous multi-tap mode (or the T9, if you’re lucky). Even using the “favorites” becomes much more complicated…
- Navigating through a “virtual window,” which is larger than what your mobile screen can show most of the time
- For drill-down menus and other features in the web page you are supposed to use the arrows and the “OK” button
It doesn’t take long before you throw the handset, screaming “Give me my PC back!!!”
The funny thing is that using the mobile handset for web browsing currently gives you NO advantage whatsoever over traditional web browsing. The current solution is not integrated with the basic phone functions at all. You can’t use your contact list, for instance, for filling personal data. You can’t use the “Send” and “Clear” buttons, for instance, as means to start and stop a session.
For many users it seems that the only reason to use mobile web browsing is the fact that there is no alternative. But there actually is, and it even existed before mobile web browsing. You can use video calls on your mobile handset as a means to “communicate” with the web service, in this case the bank’s website.
A mobile banking service that is implemented through video calling and not through mobile web browsing is not a thing for the future, but a real alternative. And it solves many of the problems mentioned above:
- Intuitive and fast access: The subscriber just dials a number for the service or a premium fast code and the service is immediately accessed.
- No client needed: All video telephony functionality is inherently supported, including bi-directional video interaction between the subscriber and a service. Client software does not have to be installed on the handset.
- Simple Navigation: In a video call service, menus for selecting options (known as Video IVR) are easily implemented using live video and one-click DTMF tones for browsing and selection. This is very easy and intuitive.
- Simple and familiar billing method: You actually understand what you’re paying for (per-minute, per-call, per-service) and you don’t need to keep count of how many bytes you downloaded or how many web pages you have accessed.
- Bi-Directional Video and audio interactivity: Interaction is always real-time, bi-directional, and with audio and video, which can be forwarded, recorded, etc.
For example, a video portal can be utilized as an access point to a bank’s contact center application, with real agents responding to the subscribers using video conferencing, in case a more personal care is needed.
Bank of the future. A Microsoft ad.
Just like in the case of the visual contact center, the future of the mobile banking experience should be the same as, if not better than, stepping into the bank. But even today a successful mobile banking service should be enticing, easy to use and reliable. Considering the existing solutions, it seems that a video based service should be the preferred way of communicating with your bank when you’re mobile.