Improving the Consumer Payment Experience


I’m continuing my look behind the scenes at Capital One to see how they are using technology, innovation, and design to create a better banking experience. Last week at Money20/20, I spent some time with Tom Poole, Managing Vice President for Digital at Capital One.

I heard Tom speak on a panel called “The Role of Mobile Wallets in Streamlining Online and Mobile App Payments” at the conference, and I asked him afterward about his comments in the panel. I also recorded the interview for a Breaking Banks podcast.

Poole sees three types of mobile wallets. First, are the kinds from tech giants that are focused on paying at the point of sale and leverage the capabilities of their device, such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. Second are those from merchants that focus on their loyalty programs, such as Starbucks.

Finally, there are mobile wallets from banks, and Poole thinks banks have unique advantages in information and control. The bank authorizes the transaction, so they are the first to know when a transaction was approved, what it was for, who it was with, etc. That information can be leveraged to notify the customer on duplicate charges, or if a recurring charge jumped 50% from the month before, or that a trial period expired and they are now paying a recurring monthly fee, and so on.

There is a lot of buzz in the industry about making payments “frictionless”, but that’s not always a good thing. “Everybody wants to carve out steps that feel unnecessary or not value adding to the payment,” he says, but “there are times when friction is a good thing. Sometimes I need to be told that I’m about to pay for something that would completely be off of my radar screen.”

In fact, customers like certain kinds of “friction”, like notifications that give them knowledge and insights about where their money is going. “It appalls anybody paying five dollars for a subscription to a website they’re no longer using and don’t have need for.”

Poole says that the great thing about the customer experience in payments is that none of it is about the payment, it’s all about the information and experience that surrounds that payment. So his team is focused on making sure customers get the right information at the right time to make better decisions, and they work to bring in resources to help them save money and save time.


Tom Poole, Managing Vice President for Digital at Capital One


Many of the themes around experience design and a Test and Learn culture that come up in my interview with Scott Zimmer, Capital One’s Global Head of Design, also came up with Tom Poole. He described their user labs inside their buildings, and how his team uses them to find out how customers actually interact their products, sometimes finding that some of their “great ideas” turn out not to resonate with customers.

They use low fidelity prototypes and mockups to get more honest reactions from users. Customers often don’t want to insult the feelings of the team if they are presented with something very done and polished that obviously took a lot of work. Even with that amount of preparation, it still might be the wrong experience, so they pay a lot of attention to how real customers are reacting to finished products too.

Poole described an example where customers thought a “Tap to Pay” button on their mobile wallet app was broken because it took them over to Apple Pay. It turned out that they were looking for full bill pay functionality behind that button. So the team relabeled the button to read “Apple Pay”, and now the button did exactly what customers were expecting.

This insight also caused the team to add a link to bill pay, which was in the Capital One main banking app, a feature that they originally had no idea that customers would want in the mobile wallet app. “Two sources of customer frustration gone,” Poole continued, “but it took a lot of fine tuning to realize exactly that consumer expectations about what the app would do, and what we as designers thought it should do, were totally different.”

Even with all of that effort, customer experience and service design are still more art than science. As Tom Poole put it, “There are a thousand ways to mess up a feature, and really only one or two to get it exactly right”.


Thanks to Capital One for sponsoring these posts and podcasts and for providing access to their team, but all of the opinions expressed are still mine, all mine. For more information about Capital One, visit