Businesses are used to providing employees with interactive systems that allow them to query and analyse data, but offering customers that same degree of interactivity is rather less common, especially in the consumer space.
However, a recently launched service from UK bank Lloyds TSB is based on the idea that extending analytical functions to customers is a way to improve engagement and loyalty.
Money Manager is a free, web-based service that allows account holders to conduct simple analyses of their expenditure. For example, they can group payments into various categories – e.g. shopping or home – and plot charts showing their overall spending over time.
Lloyds is not the first to launch such a product – online banks First Direct and Egg already offer similar functionality. But its decision to do so reveals that the evolution of company websites from passive information portals to feature-rich online applications is becoming a mainstream concern.
“Lloyds TSB sees the digital channel as a key driver of customer engagement,” says the bank’s head of digital, David Fleming. “This is just one step in our digital transformation journey which will deliver enhanced online services to customers.”
The project to build the system was led by Lloyds’ digital transformation team, which coordinated development resources both inside and outside the organisation.
It began with a simple proposition: that visualising finances in an easy way would help customers understand their spending habits. The team started with a generic design for a personal finance management system, and worked iteratively with the business to develop what Fleming claims is a “market-leading” solution.
“The requirements phase made heavy use of visualisation and iteration to ensure the buy-in of the stakeholders,” he explains.
“We also conducted a number of research activities to gain customer insight and feedback on the proposed solution.”
Using existing foundations
The system was built using Lloyds TSB’s existing Java-based web infrastructure. Some of the data is drawn from systems that already existed, Fleming says, but it also required new repositories to be built. “We leveraged some existing analytics capabilities, which were enhanced,” he adds.
Money Manager has been rolled out to customers gradually, starting at the beginning of the year, and is now being promoted with a TV advertising campaign. “Due to the scale of the platform and the nature of customer usage of the service, the solution needed to be designed and tested to meet high levels of scalability and availability,” says Fleming.
He says that more than half of customers using the service rate it as either excellent of very good, although if testimonies from customers on consumer forums are to be believed, Lloyds TSB was still ironing out some bugs after launch.
Money Manager can be seen as the culmination of a number of trends shaping customer-facing IT: consumer appetite for data visualisation; the increasing interactivity of websites; and the application of Agile and iterative web development methodologies to outwardly visible systems.
Fleming says the collaborative nature of the development project kept it focused on the benefit to customers: “The Money Manager service was a true example of the business and IT teams working together to deliver something that was clearly customer driven.”