Why do consumers need the bank branch? After all, check deposits, funds transfers, account balance information – all these functions and more are now readily available to banking customers through digital channels. These offerings entice them to participate in a self-service banking experience, replacing many of the traditional functions of a physical branch.
And the shift of transactions away from the branch is dramatic. According to global consultant McKinsey & Company’s “The Future of US Retail-Banking Distribution,” more than 95 percent of banking transactions are likely to take place through direct or digital channels within the next five years. The firm also warns that when customers do visit a branch, the stakes will be higher: every interaction with each customer must be streamlined to demonstrate the value of the in-person visit. Also, there’s the added pressure that branches can be costly to operate, so banks are closely watching the return on their locations to determine the best mix of channels to offer.
So does this mean the end of the branch? Certainly not.
While many customers have utilized digital channels for their banking needs, not everyone is completely comfortable having their account serviced by a machine—and without a pair of human eyes overlooking their funds. And it’s even more important to customers that they are able to complete multiple tasks at once. In addition, there are high-value, complex banking transactions that still require the expertise of a knowledgeable banker.
Transforming Your Staff’s Capabilities
To help mold your branch into a more customer-centric institution, employees of the branch must be able to manage tasks in all areas within the bank. This means hiring, or training current branch staff to become, “universal bankers” who can handle customer needs in almost every department.
In a traditional branch set up, tellers handle routine transactions, then send the customer to other branch staff to complete more complex tasks like loan applications, servicing issues or account opening. This process is inefficient, and passing the customer between branch staff can be frustrating and time-consuming for them.
With universal bankers, the customer interacts with one person and receives a complete customer experience that builds engagement and tailors their visit to complete their needs. These interactions also establish a relationship, which opens an opportunity for cross-selling. Whether it is applying for an auto loan or assisting someone with mastering online or mobile banking, universal bankers can assist bank customers with nearly all of their requests.
Restructuring Your Branch
Currently the branch is seen as a center for transactions, as opposed to a destination where customers go to manage their financial needs. So, once you’ve transformed some of your branch staff into universal bankers, how do you transition your branch layout to reflect these changes?
Try adjusting to a more open floor plan that generates energy and keeps traffic flowing. This includes reducing bulky counter space like teller stations, allowing your universal bankers to move from station to station with ease. It’s also a good idea to create education spaces demonstrating your technology to customers. This is especially important for helping some customers overcome their uncertainty about digital channels.
Lastly, it is important that your layout changes reflect your bank’s mission and overall culture, and appeal to the customers you currently have as well as those you are trying to attract.
Utilizing Tech to Improve Employee and Customer Experience
A final area that can help boost branch performance is new technology. The addition of carefully selected, innovative technologies combined with even simple layout and design changes can create the desired effect: an open space in which the universal banker can assist any customer with almost any request using the latest technological tools at their disposal.
These technologies include:
- Handheld smart devices placed in designated areas to provide a self-service option for mobile and online banking users.
- Core platforms that feature tablet integration, allowing the universal banker to move freely around the branch while maintaining access to all core processing services. This combination of technology and portability of information significantly boosts staff efficiency while providing customers with a more personalized branch experience.
- In Lobby Teller (ILT) terminals, featuring large touchscreens and expanded note capacity, that allow customers to complete banking services well beyond the monetary transactions of the traditional ATM. For example, through the ILT, a customer can make a change of address, request a stop payment and much more.
- Banking-specific customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, integrated into the core platform, that allow institutions to track, view and analyze customer interactions across the entire bank, and for the duration of the customer’s relationship.
Optimizing the branch can breathe new life into your bank’s physical locations. By combining new technology tools, a cross-trained staff and a refreshed layout, the branch can become a cornerstone for providing the customer service and banking experience needed to compete in today’s marketplace. For more tips on executing an optimal branch transformation, download CSI’s free white paper, Today’s Branch Strategy Determines Your Institution’s Future.