CIBC’s mobile efforts have been given an A by Forrester Research.

When the Cambridge, Mass.-based market research firm recently evaluated the mobile apps released by the “Big Five” Canadian banks (CIBC, Bank of Montreal, RBC, Scotiabank, and TD Canada Trust), the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce came out on top, earning what Forrester called a “Mobile Banking Benchmark” score of 80 out of 100 for providing user-friendly mobile services across a wide variety of touchpoints, from downloadable smartphone and tablet apps, to wearables, to services delivered via third-party messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger.

“Digital banking strategy leaders need to deliver mobile banking services that not only exceed customers’ current needs and expectations, but also anticipate their future needs and enable them to improve their financial well-being,” Forrester researchers Peter Wannemacher and August Du Pont wrote in the report, which was released in May.

“CIBC has led in mobile banking for years and continues to enhance its services,” they said. “In the past year, CIBC has rolled out in-app search and branch appointment scheduling, while also improving its mobile marketing and cross-selling.”

More importantly, the authors wrote, CIBC refuses to rest on its laurels: While already offering best-in-Canada cross-channel guidance and navigation on its mobile app, the company’s digital team continues to develop new features such as an app-wide search function that helps customers receive answers to their questions while also guiding them to relevant features, such as marketing and product research tools.

On average, Canada’s leading banks received an overall benchmark score of 69, with second-place winner Scotiabank earning 70 and Bank of Montreal receiving the lowest score of 58.

2017 Canadian Mobile Banking Benchmark scores (click for a larger version)

Wannemacher and Du Pont were quick to note that each of the Big Five offers customers a sturdy foundation for mobile banking that meet basic needs and expectations, providing such features as text message-based interactions, a mobile-optimized website, Android and iOS apps, tablet support, person-to-person (P2P) payment support, mobile wallets, and online billing support.

However, they added, few provide tools such as contextual help, fraud reporting, and app-wide search.

“Our benchmark reveals a relatively sorry state for Canadians looking to complete service tasks in banks’ apps,” Wannemacher and Du Pont wrote. “Digital banking teams in Canada need to focus on improving mobile customer service in the next year.”

The authors’ evaluations of each bank’s mobile capabilities consisted of a five-step process:

  1. A defined customer scenario: Wannemacher and Du Pont identified three common banking scenarios (find and view a recent transaction; send $20 to a niece for her birthday without her account number; and research the interest rate on a savings account), and attempted to execute each of them on each bank’s main iPhone app.
  2. A usability component: A heuristic evaluation, based on Forrester’s own digital user experience review methods, that relies on trained experts performing key customer scenarios to evaluate ease of use.
  3. Updated criteria that aligns with changing customer expectations: “Forrester’s Mobile Banking Benchmark is a moving target because the needs and expectations of customers gradually evolve,” the authors write. “In addition to incorporating an explicit usability review, we made several other changes to reflect how mobile banking is becoming a platform for customer engagement and creating value for customers.” In other words, banks that fail to improve their mobile services will typically score less than they did the year before.
  4. Mobile service scores: This year, Forrester included 39 functionality criteria and 15 usability criteria in its Mobile Banking Benchmark scores, with each criterion measured on a scale of -2 to +2 based on how well the mobile apps meet customer needs.
  5. Ranking the banks: For each bank, Forrester was left with both a functionality score and a usability score, weighing the former to ensure that, in general, the mobile features that customers were likely to find most important had the largest impact on a bank’s overall score, which was ultimately based on a 100-point scale.

In case you’re wondering, here’s how each bank scored in each category:

2017 Canadian Mobile Banking Benchmark category scores (click for a larger version)

As for what banks can learn about reaching mobile customers from CIBC and the best-in-class efforts of its competition, Forrester offers a few tips:

  • Offer convenient login options, such as fingerprint identification.
  • Provide money management tools, which Forrester predicts “will ultimately be embedded at the heart of digital banking.”
  • Make it easy to move money and pay bills; Scotiabank, for example, allows customers to easily transfer money within messaging apps.
  • Let users take photos to simplify tasks; to cite another Scotiabank example, an eReceipts function offered by the bank connects receipt photos to a customer’s transaction history.
  • Offer self-service features, which allow customers to initiate or complete requests without having to interact with bank employees. “Canadian banks are behind their peers in other countries here,” Wannemacher and Du Pont wrote. “USAA in the US, for example, offers in-app buttons for customers to contest charges and cancel cards.”
  • Allow customers to set up, receive, and manage a wide range of alerts.
  • Enable secure messaging within mobile banking apps.
  • Use apps to guide customers to nearby branches, human consultants, and ATMs.
  • Identify your mobile banking strengths and weaknesses – perhaps by hiring a consultant – and stop pretending mobile banking is just for transactions.

“To win, serve, and retain customers, digital teams at banks need to not only meet customers’ current needs but also create new sources of value,” Wannemacher and Du Pont wrote, noting that “leading banks will help customers manage their finances more effectively by helping them understand their financial situation and providing tailored advice based on it.”

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