How banks have transformed the in-branch customer experience
How retail banks have transformed the in-branch customer experience
Heightened shareholder scrutiny, regulation and volatility in the global financial markets has brought to the fore the issue of how to regain back trust, in particular in the banking and financial services sector. The deployment of automated teller machines and self-service technologies brought about significant changes globally with financial analysts and commentators predicting the demise of the traditional retail bank branch. These commentators iterated that other technologies and channels would supersede the requirement for human interaction as menial transactions could be made online by the user. This was introduced with the aim of enhancing operational efficiencies within the financial sector and that this would lead to a reduction in the number of branches and head count in each location.
Technology at the cost of customer intimacy
However, customer intimacy requirements were not aligned with the pace and growth of technological innovation which ensued. This lead to a foray of problems when customers needed to speak with a member of the team to advise on mortgages and other requirements. Those heading up the banking teams did not match the resource and level of knowledge required with the potential customer and their interaction preferences.
Due to this misalignment, retail banking customers voiced their concerns throughout the following business economic cycles and banks began to lose their credibility. They were not able to evolve with the key channels which their customers used to connect and communicate their needs and take into account their unique individual circumstances. Banks were unable to leverage the most appropriate communication channels and had to start getting cognisant of how to optimally develop cross channel relationships and meet customer expectations while doing so.
Aligning customer intimacy with new in-branch experiences and technologies
Similar to many stores in the high street, in recent times, the shift in power has aired more towards the customer with banks beginning to tailor their offerings and communication methods to the preference of the end user, that being the consumer. They have upgraded their retail branch networks and have turned them into hubs for customers in that they are able to connect and relate to an offering outside of the branch through the use of digital signage. They have also enhanced and extended the way they communicate with customers particularly with voice recognition and mobile banking.
Adoption of mobile banking and payments
The retail banking landscape has changed an incredible amount and customers are demanding faster and simpler access to banking services when and how they want. In a recent FT article, HSBC highlighted that current account customers visited their branch 427 million times in 2015, less than half the 895 logins on a mobile app and predicts that the number of branch visits is expected to fall to 268m by 2020, while mobile usage is on track to reach 2.3 billion logins. It has not been without its challenges as banks have also had to tighten up security to ensure that people can easily access their accounts in the knowledge that it won’t be accessed by anyone else. Customers often want to have the option of knowing that there is someone there at the end of the phone or in a branch if they do have any questions.
Increasing footfall and conversions in-branch
Bearing Point revealed that in order to increase footfall and conversions in-branches, banks are starting to use digital signage to advertise tailored campaigns towards different age groups and have changed the layout and designs of their retail branches to accommodate for changing tastes. They also went on to highlight that local branches quickly help staff in the branch to distinguish customers between different segments, this ensuring that their best customers receive more personalised attention. Social media has also created a formidable opportunity for banks to develop business, gain feedback and come up with new propositions based on real time information.
Through the use of a concierge service, now seen in HSBC and Barclays branches, customers can avoid queuing and no longer have to worry about interacting with a machine with best in class queue management and appointment booking systems in place. This has enabled the team to be able to inform staff when the next appropriate specialist will be available to meet their needs and have that much sought after level of intimacy. While customers wait, they are able to log in on the Wi-Fi network or else make an appointment and come back at a time which is more convenient for them. Mortgage interviews are also being offered via video link by Lloyds Banking. This is just some of the ways that banks are trying to evolve with the times.
Align customer expectation and staff expectations with the business model
One of the biggest challenges for retail banks has been to align customer expectations, which can often be demanding, with the increasing number of channels available which your brand is expected to have a presence on. It is also the level of expertise and training required for staff and the pace of technological innovation. To help encourage staff to engage with customers, they need to be educated in how certain packages and technologies might suit their customers’ needs and what the benefits will be. This will assist consumers restore trust in the high street bank.
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