For most of us, everyday banking starts with a mobile app. Who really has time to go to a branch during the week? Apps are the main window through which we see and experience our banks, and what customers think about banks is critically important to their success. Looking at balances and paying bills is stressful enough without a bad banking app to make it worse. So what makes a banking app really exceptional?

Luckily for us, customers are more than happy to share their honest feedback via app store reviews. We read 100 customer reviews from the top 5 largest banks in the U.S. (Chase, Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank) and looked for the most frequent words to see what people are really saying. Here are 7 takeaways from what we found.

Takeaway #1: “I do all possible banking on this mobile app.”

Good Apps = Great Loyalty

Unsurprisingly, app was the most frequent word used out of 100 reviews. Many customers proudly stated that they haven’t been to a physical branch in years. Banks have invested much time and knowledge into making full-service websites that are mobile responsive, but users still want a banking app option. Banks that are able to deliver the same features across all channels are rewarded with greater loyalty.

Takeaway #2: “Recent updates have improved the app a lot!” and “I’m not a happy camper with the latest update.”

Only Update When Necessary

Another common word was update, but users were divided between praising mobile app updates and begging for previous versions to return. Updates are fantastic when they deliver value to the customer and obnoxious when they break features that people depend on. Frequent service updates can also convey the sense that the banking app is unstable or needs a lot of fixes, which weakens customer trust and confidence.

Takeaway #3: “It would take less time to drive to a branch location and get the help of a teller.”

Make It Quick

No one wants to sit for 20 minutes waiting for a photo of their check to upload, only to be told that the process failed and they’ll need to try again. Customers care about saving time and if the mobile banking app prevents that with confusing or frustrating functionality, then customers will abandon it for another bank. If you think that sounds extreme (“Our customers can use our website instead”), read through some app reviews. It’s surprising how often users declare that they are switching banks specifically because of a bad mobile app experience.

Takeaway #4: “I just want to log in, take care of simple tasks and log off.”

Make It Easy

Customers don’t talk about their banks in terms of services, branches or benefits the bank offers. They talk about their accounts and how they log in. For most people, that’s all a bank really is – the means with which they access their accounts and manage their money. So flashy design elements, while pretty, are not appreciated by users when they make it more difficult to get basic banking tasks done. Common wisdom says that form follows function, and this holds doubly true for banking services.

Takeaway #5: “Fingerprint sign in capability, please!”

React Quickly to New Technology

Many reviews cheered the addition of fingerprint authorization capability for its ease and added security. For mobile apps that didn’t have fingerprint login, reviewers demanded that banks add it ASAP. Users are aware of the features that are out there and want access to them now – another word reviewers like to use. They are not shy in pointing to other devices or even other banking apps as examples of superior experiences that match their expectations.

Takeaway #6: “This banking app still doesn’t work well with my phone.”

Design for Many Devices

Insert your smartphone of choice (we looked at the Google Play store, so the reviews were all for Android devices). Customers know that their choice of device may be the reason apps don’t work, and they call it out in reviews with the expectation that banks will create a fix. The reviews show that users are willing to post again and again in these review sections until they receive a response from their bank. Don’t expect customers to switch devices based on banking app experiences. They’re more likely to keep their phone of preference and switch banks instead.

Takeaway #7: “Make sure your mobile app doesn’t waste my time.”

Create Personalized Experiences

Note the use of your in the takeaway sentence. Customers feel like they are speaking directly to the bank via these apps and expect immediate answers, just as if they were talking to a teller in person. Customers want mobile experiences to fit seamlessly into their lives. Most of us start and end the day with our smartphones, and in the hours between we use them to interact with the world around us. Companies are granted access to those personal experiences through mobile apps, and that means the normal rules of customer-company interactions are held to higher standards.

So What Makes an Exceptional Banking App?

Users expect banks to expand the best parts of their customer service to every available channel. If the app freezes, is slow to load or interrupts other phone functions, users aren’t going to switch devices or return to branches simply because the customer experience might be better there. They’ll switch to a bank with an app that does work. Nearly half of consumers are likely to change financial service providers because of advanced mobile technology, according to the 2015 Makovsky Wall Street Reputation Study.

There are, however, still certain parts of finance that people feel more secure managing in person or on a computer. The mobile app is often the first touchpoint, and after a great experience there, users want to encounter the same at every other touchpoint banks offer.

Exceptional banking apps, then, are those that offer fantastic “first impressions” and establish customer trust within daily routines. Customer experience is the heart of innovative digital business, and apps that create useful, enjoyable experiences for people will always win out.

Omnichannel: More Than Just a Buzzword for Banks

Today's customers expect personalized experiences and access to their bank 24x7, no matter what channel they use. Learn why banks need to connect with their customers at every digital touchpoint and what strategies can help banks achieve the omnichannel goal.

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