When UI provokes fear: a banking error message

Share with others


I’m doubt that many companies want their customers to unnecessarily panic when using their service.  Yet that’s exactly what happened when I  used a Vancity ATM recently. 

It was a simple, straightforward transaction – a quick $20 cash withdrawal requiring just a few taps from the initial welcome screen.  However, when it came time for the machine  to dispense the cash, I instead got a very generic “Your transaction has been declined” message.  My card was then promptly spat out with no further information.  I knew my account was good for the $20, so what was up?  I tried three times because I could only think of one reason for this message —  that I must have hit the wrong button and accidentally added extra figures that would then put me beyond my daily withdrawal limit.

Then a second possible reason dawned on me. I had a flashback to when my checking account had been compromised and drained of all its funds. I had discovered this when I had tried to use my debit card and had also been given a similarly generic “declined” message.  Could it be the same situation?!  The hours upon hours that I had invested in sorting out that whole nightmare flashed before my very eyes.  Panic kicked in.

Thankfully, there was another ATM and I moved over to it, thinking that I would just try once more, and also double-check my balance at the same time.  My heart thumped loudly as the machine hummed after I selected “withdrawal”…and then it ejected my $20 bill. 

After all the panic, it turned out the other machine was just out of bills.  So solution time:

Why not just tell the user this upfront, and then disable the “withdrawal” option?  Or let the user know this via a message once that option has been selected?  Or – simplest fix of all – don’t use the word “declined,” which I’m sure never has positive connotations in association with one’s financial accounts.

Share with others