Banks, ATMS, and Horrible User Experiences


Note: I'm pretty much going to rant about a bank experience I had. Lessons aren't obvious, but if you're designing something that's pretty dang important... make sure you have failsafes built-in.

I went to my local ATM yesterday to deposit a couple checks. I know, I know... why didn't I just use my phone? Turns out banking phone apps have limits on how much you can deposit through the app and I was well past that limit. ATM was a logical second choice if I didn't want to have to make visit to a teller.

Generally, this type of visit is quick.

  1. Pull up to ATM
  2. Insert ATM card
  3. Type in PIN number
  4. Press DEPOSIT, select account.
  5. Insert checks (optical reader will automatically figure out amounts)
  6. Receipt, and on my way!

Problem started around step 5. I put my checks into the reader where it proceeded to give me a "PROCESSING YOUR DEPOSIT" screen. Normally, this process takes 10 seconds.

Ten seconds pass...
Then a minute...
OKAY.. five minutes...

I'm starting to get a bit freaked out because I put a couple good sized checks into a machine and it's not doing anything!

Next step is to try to call someone. My bank provides a 1-800 number for customer service. Turns out, there is no logical path for "OMG THE ATM STOLE MY CHECKS AND IS FROZEN". And really, there is no path for "I request to speak to a human who can properly direct this call."

30 minutes into my freak. I turned two other folks away because ATM was borked. All of a sudden, the screen flashes and pretends like NOTHING HAPPENED AT ALL. "Would you like to deposit the checks?" I pressed the go button and the ATM spat my checks out and told me to have a nice day. Wat?

I also had a decent "check hold" on my account, which is normal when checks are processed. The bank is still investigating what the issue might have been.

I'm pretty fortunate that I decided to stick around - or else someone might have been able to swipe my checks. Why doesn't the ATM go into "maintenance mode" or something after five minutes of not responding? Thirty minutes is way too long to wait for any sort of respond.

On another note, why is there physically no way to talk to a human on the phone? At a minimum, I wanted the bank to have an option to "Press 0 if you just need to talk to someone."

Blah. What horrible user experiences have you had with technology?

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