Banking on the customer experience in-branch (Part 1)

As digitisation trends transform nearly all aspects of modern banking, banks are having to rethink how they interact with their customers.

Banking on the customer experience in-branch (Part 1)

Creating positive customer experiences is now high on the agenda for banks under pressure to reinvent how they operate. This requires a shift from a transactional mindset to one that truly puts the customer first.

A recent Digital Banking Report concluded that the objective of delivering a positive customer experience has been secondary to other bank priorities in recent years. It says that “for financial organisations to change this dynamic, and meet the evolving needs of today’s customers, there must be a move from cost reduction to customer experience enhancement.”

Whilst this is clearly starting to happen, there is now widespread recognition that to remain relevant, the bank branch network must also transform. This is reflected in our own study[i], which explored the expectations of banking customers across the UK. The solution for banks – as the research suggests – lies in innovative branch formats and technology investments, which customers believe will help build closer relationships between them and their banks by facilitating new in-branch customer journeys.

Re-assessing core customer journeys

Our study found that whilst many customers use online and mobile banking channels, almost two-thirds of people (64%) still value the fact that they can visit a physical branch, and a similar number (63%) feel that it’s important that there will always be bank branch staff to speak with on financial matters. This suggests that integrated journeys remain an important priority for customers, giving them the opportunity to have precious face-to-face time with banking staff, particularly when seeking advice from experts.

A key part of the process of putting the customer first in branch is deciding how to make branches relevant. Our research sheds light on how banks can make this happen, proving that the layout and format of the branch itself is key to meeting customer satisfaction requirements. Half (54%) of the survey respondents, for example, agreed that it’s important to have a bank with a layout and design that makes their visit simple and convenient. In addition, over half of the people we surveyed (57%) wanted longer branch opening hours that fit with their schedule and 54 per cent agreed that having new smaller concept branches in convenient locations such as shopping centres would improve their overall experience as a customer.

Some financial institutions are already working on changing their branch networks to meet these needs, experimenting with new branch formats in sites such as train stations and business parks, depending on customer demographics. The location, according to our research, gives banks the potential to reposition their brands by offering a variety of branch formats. This does not suggest that banks should move away from large flagship entities in high footfall locations, but should complement them by introducing others such as pop-up branches which focus on convenience.

However location alone is not enough and any new branch also needs to seamlessly operate alongside a banks other channels. This will not only make the customer journey more integrated than it is today but also gives banks the opportunity to create a more consistent, personalised service, connecting channels more intelligently.