Plumbing, Painting, Contractors – The Focus On UX


I recently had a bathroom remodeled. The contractor I used was a known to me.  I have used him for most of the projects at the house over the last few years.  Lately, however, his quality of work has diminished as his prices have increased. Because I travel too much to audition new talent, I hoped he would make a comeback on this project.

He did not.  In two particular areas, the plumbing and the painting, he did about as poor a job as he could.  A number of follow ups had to be scheduled for the plumbing and the paint is still not remedied as I am reminded each time I take a shower and notice the white of dry wall peeking through a thin coat of flat ash grey.  I only have myself to blame.  I should have taken the time to consider another contractor, one who understood and cared enough to take care of the seen and the unseen.

It used to be that availability was the bellwether of payments.  In other words, it was all about the plumbing.  It had to be – and still has to be – able to support the highest level of demand around the clock, every day of the year.  Lately, though, there has been a lot of discussion today UX and rightly so. A variety of studies have shown that consumers had rather switch than fight their way through a poor UX.  These findings extend beyond the more “typical” areas in which UX has dominated the conversation, such as websites, online banking, mobile apps.

Payments is now an area that feels the pain when cardholders are subjected to situations that complicate their lives instead of providing more convenience.  We have commented here in The Edge and in articles we have been asked to author for industry publications about this phenomenon.  The advent of EMV in the USA is an excellent example of how UX impacts payments.  Changing from a swipe to a dip wouldn’t seem that big of a deal and if that was the only change, perhaps it would not be.  However, there are other variables involved and that is why to date the UX associated with chip cards still troubles a significant number of cardholders when they checkout including some of us in the payments industry.

Widespread adoption of mobile payments, even delivered by the likes of Apple who is known for its uber cool UX environment, continues to be something just around the corner largely because using a smartphone to pay for a purchase isn’t as easy in terms of the UX as using a card is apparently even post-EMV.  The challenge around meeting the expectations consumers have about UX is adapting to how these expectations evolve.  Moving at speed while still minimizing risk can be very difficult for financial services providers both because these companies operate in a highly regulated industry and operate a highly complex infrastructure that connects to other highly complex systems.

This complexity is how payments happen and it is commonly referred to as “the plumbing.”  Without the plumbing there is no user experience to be had.  If my contractor had gotten the paint right but left the plumbing in disarray, then I would have been even less dissatisfied.  After all, what is a bathroom about, if not plumbing?  In the financial services industry, organizations must get both the plumbing and the UX right.  It is not an “either/or” proposition but “both/and.”   

Unless an organization focuses on the plumbing along with the paint, the money spent keeping pace with what the consumer expects is going to be insufficient for establishing a competitive advantage.  To be clear, the paint and plumbing thing is just an analogy.  Analogies, even good ones, are limiting in nature.  The analogy being made here is not perfect either.   Painting a wall is generally a lot easier than creating an excellent UX (unless you are Michelangelo).  And modernizing the systems use to deliver services to customers will require more than a plumbing license.



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