Smart technology continues to change the behaviors and expectations of all consumers, from baby boomers to millennials. It’s a fact that’s part of our lives now, and it’s certainly true regarding the ways consumers currently view the bank branch.
But, although branch traffic and transactions are decreasing as customers enjoy the autonomy of digital channels, they still want to visit bank branches—they just expect more when they do. So in order to meet their expectations, banks should consider a total branch transformation.
Keep in mind there really isn’t one “right” branch strategy; however, there are three crucial factors financial institutions must combine in order to pull off the optimal 21st century branch transformation: the people, the place and the technology. Below are some innovative tips for integrating that combination into your unique strategy.
As more customers deposit checks via mobile banking, transfer funds via online banking, and withdraw cash via free-standing ATMs, what’s left for your branch staff? Many institutions have begun driving banking expertise down to the front lines with a new branch role—the universal banker—who specializes in everything and helps customers with more complex needs.
In an ideal world, institutions could specifically hire new candidates for this role, who, at a minimum, possess the following experience, knowledge and skills:
- Sales experience and the ability to build customer relationships
- College degree in a related field, like finance or management
- Firm grasp on all bank products and services
- Knowledge about the bank’s technology
- Motivation and ability to handle both service- and sales-oriented customer issues
Your institution needn’t jump in with both feet, but rather start with a slow, methodical approach. You can pilot the concept at select locations—ideally those with a younger customer base in a more urban area—to see what works and what doesn’t. Also, identify branch personnel who excel at customer relationships and product knowledge, and determine the appropriate ratio of universal banker-to-teller. Lastly, understand that branches with an older customer base or set in rural areas may not be ready for this change, or even need it at all.
Most descriptions of the universal banker share this: the freedom to get out from behind a desk and move through the branch to assist customers on their terms, be it physically (take a deposit) or digitally (assist with online or mobile banking).
Unfortunately, most branch layouts are not set up for that type of movement, as Aite points out in its report, Rethinking and Rightsizing the Retail Branch: “Some retailers have become sophisticated at designing their stores as destinations. Bank branches, on the other hand, have been designed as transaction centers.”
Each institution must decide how to make their branch layout more of a destination and less of a transaction center, but they should at least:
- Open up the floor plan to encourage movement and energy.
- Remove or limit barriers to interactivity. In Evolution of the Universal Banker, ABA Bank Marketing states, “the driver of success for the model is the floor plan that eliminates barriers between the teller and platform sides of the branch.”
- Create education spaces with sample smartphones, for instance, to demonstrate your technology to customers. This is especially important for helping customers who lack confidence with digital channels to overcome their hesitancy.
- Ensure your new design represents you and your customers. Your brand image should accurately reflect whatever changes you make.
While increasing the efficiencies of your staff and branch layout are essential, your bank won’t reap the most benefit from those improvements without investing in technologies that elevate the customer experience. This can be accomplished with cost-effective, enterprisewide solutions.
Technologies that can help complete your branch transformation include:
- Core platforms that feature tablet integration, allowing the universal banker to move around the branch while maintaining access to all core processing services. This combination of technology and portability significantly boosts staff efficiency while providing customers with a more personalized branch experience.
- Banking-specific CRMs, integrated into the core platform, provide the final piece of the branch transformation puzzle through a real-time, holistic view of the customer. This next generation CRM—which Aite describes as “a foundation” of branch transformation—allows institutions to track, view and analyze customer interactions across the entire bank, and for the duration of the relationship.
Ours is not the first industry to be disrupted by technology. Your financial institution can either fight against that disruption—maintaining the potentially fatal status quo—or evolve along with it, ensuring its future. Combining the three elements discussed here might be your best chance for survival. For more tips on executing an optimal branch transformation, download CSI’s free white paper, Today’s Branch Strategy Determines Your Institution’s Future.
Steve DuPerrieu is vice president of channels and analytics for CSI. In his role, he provides leadership for CSI’s delivery channel strategy, which includes digital banking, payment services, business and analytics software, and branch/retail delivery solutions.3 - Readers Like This Post