Over two decades automated teller machines have become an unqualified success. Surveys put use as high as 85% of households.

Home banking is still well under 10%, after years of false starts and restarts. That low penetration appears unaffected by the delivery vehicle, whether personal computers, screen telephones, interactive television boxes, or the Internet.

Could the ATM experience hold some transferable lessons that might accelerate home banking acceptance?

Here are a few:

Short learning curve. ATM operation has been so simplified that after one demonstration the customer can be an "expert" at the next visit to a machine.

Explicit instructions. Transaction processes that were not straightforward confused and discouraged the customer. The industry did well to streamline procedures.

No computerese. The self-service public has little or no experience with the terminology favored by computer system designers, such as "enter," "proceed," "key in," "shift," and "control." Eschew these words.

Quick gratification. Consumers grow impatient with unnecessary transaction details or delays; 10 or 15 seconds waiting for a response can seem like an eternity. Screen displays can be structured to minimize waiting times.

Also, users hate to read; take advantage of that trait to accelerate the action.

Motivational factors. Consumers will flock to "easy-access" mechanisms. They were so pleased with early ATM services that they often ran off with their cash without waiting for their cards to be returned. (That problem was solved by returning the cards first, before cash was dispensed.)

Cash availability-using smart cards that handle stored value-can be a strong motivator for home access.

Real-time data. Account inquiries are a must for consumers and small businesses. They will depend on their home screens for account-status reports, and these must be easy to get and up to the minute.

The public wants, uses, and returns to self-service at ATMs. The lessons from ATM deployment are directly translatable to home banking. If those lessons are taken to heart, there is nothing to stop home banking from approaching mass-market success in its own right.

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