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Why Can’t Our Transactions Be More Like a Turbo Tax?

TurboTax has set the bar for how digital transformation can provide customers with a delightful experience, even when they’re performing an activity as onerous as calculating their tax return. Instead of using an archaic and technical paper document or a PDF document, we can now easily navigate most personal tax situations and do so via a great digital experience. Which begs the question: Why aren’t all those other common financial transactions that we’re obliged to complete this easy? Why do they all still seem to be so—well—taxing?

In the world of digital transformation, there’s a spectrum that ranges from “Delightful Customer Experience” at one end, to “Regulatory Document” on the other. The more you allow the actual regulatory document to be exposed to the customer, the less delightful the experience becomes. What makes Turbo Tax so great is that the user is able to provide the necessary information through an intermediary process, without ever interacting with the regulatory document.

That sounds simple enough. But if you attempt to perform any number of financial transactions with a major bank, financial services firm, or insurance provider, you will quickly realize that not everyone has caught on. Even digitally-savvy companies like GEICO still require a combination of online forms, calls to agents, and potentially a blizzard of paper to complete a homeowner’s insurance policy. Why can’t it be better? In other words, what’s the big holdup?

Answer: The big holdup, for most of these firms, involves as many as seven (7) key roadblocks:

  1. The Demographic Problem
  2. The Process Problem
  3. The Business Case Problem
  4. The Technology Problem
  5. The Content Modularization Problem
  6. The Compliance Problem
  7. The Digital Transformation “Tunnel Visiion” Problem

Before I say a couple words about these roadblocks, let me clarify the terminology. “Digital transformation” is an empty signifier that’s become a catch-all for all things digital. Digital transaction management is what I’m really talking about. But to judge from what I’ve been hearing in the industry and across Doculabs’ consulting clients, that term doesn’t seem to have caught on. So for the sake of clarity, when I say “digital transformation,” I mean capturing data digitally from the point of origination, and then if/when a regulatory document needs to be created within the process, it can be, but it is abstracted from the customer experience for as long as possible.

Here’s a brief description of each of the seven key roadblocks, which I plan to discuss in detail in a series of upcoming posts.

1. The Demographic Problem. In a highly regulated environment where the client base is older (e.g. Trust or Wealth Management), you will commonly hear something like “Our clients expect white-glove service.” These same clients have no interest in going online or in using email, according to the financial reps who service them.

2. The Process Problem. This is a big one. In a process like new account opening, the part of the organization that handles the customer-facing interactions for onboarding is generally totally separate from the group that processes the data downstream. Often there are multiple groups which support the different line-of-business systems and workflows for those processes. And then there is the group that manages the actual forms which capture the client data and memorialize the agreement with a signature. And all this is on top of the complexity of the system and process issues resulting from organizational mergers and acquisitions.

3. The Business Case Problem. Partly as a consequence of the Process Problem, many organizations don’t have a good idea of how much a process like new account opening is costing them, beginning from the moment a customer begins working on an application until the account is authorized for activity. There are big hard-dollar savings here, but even when organizations attempt to quantify it, they find that the necessary metrics aren’t being tracked.

4. The Technology Problem. Legacy environments tend to comprise a complex array of tools for capturing and transferring customer data. Even in the most disciplined environments, it’s difficult to align under standards and build a consistent infrastructure that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to implement and support.

5. The Content Modularization Problem. Traditional form design is not capable of supporting reuse of common components across form types and channel types. Achieving digital transformation requires reconceiving the content at the component level, then rebuilding the information architecture so that these modular components of content can be re-used across multiple forms. In addition to enabling content re-use in multiple templates, this approach ensures that any change to a given component (e.g. a logo, a data element, or even a block of text like regulatory language) can then be replicated across all the templates which contain that component.

6. The Compliance Problem. Compliance / Legal departments have a range of openness to digitizing processes, based on the corporate mandate. But as a rule of thumb, these constituencies have tended to error on the side of the conservative, more paper-based, side of the spectrum. This leads to many process and support issues around data ingestion, because it forces the business and the forms development groups to multiply their process for each iteration of a data capture task.

7. The Digital Transformation Problem. If the organization does have a digital transformation group, it tends to be focused on low-hanging fruit, e.g. the customer-facing web site and the marketing functions. To the extent that these things impact core business processes, most firms to date have made only the front end of the process more delightful for the client and haven’t begun to address changes to the back-end process. I will argue later that this creates a scenario where the real benefits to both the client and the organization are not realized and will likely go even longer without being addressed.

So there you have it: the seven roadblocks that keep firms from being able to provide their customers the fully digital transaction and delightful experience for which TurboTax is now the standard. In subsequent posts, I will expand on each of them and—more important—discuss just how your organization can go about overcoming these roadblocks to digital transformation and start providing the experience your customers are now coming to expect.