Banks should invest in branch technology (Part 1)
In the UK alone, 461 bank branches are expected to close in 2017, partly because of changing customer preferences.
This trend has also contributed to the success of the UK’s new challenger banks, which are outdoing their High Street peers in terms of customer satisfaction levels. However, in the US, bank branch visitors are reported to be more satisfied with their in-branch experiences than customers who only use online and mobile banking platforms.
For a number of not always fathomable reasons, UK customers still claim to want easy access to bank branches. Backlash against closures has, in some cases, been strong enough to drive the growth of alternative solutions to cost-cutting, like mobile branches. So, how can banks keep branches economically viable, without the support of US-style fees, but with the added complexity of falling traffic? And what technology is being used by British banks to improve the in-branch experience to maintain footfall?
Firstly, they must uncover and understand what makes a branch attractive to a customer over time. In Australia, for example, a significant percentage of customers say they would permit a price premium if this means they can find the legendary service levels of yesteryear where they were known and loved. We also know that customers are willing to pay to reduce the time and inconvenience of ‘dealing with financial stuff’, and branches can offer salves here every bit as good as technology.
In terms of the delivery of retail banking services, it is critical to combine the technology with ‘expectations of a branch experience’ in an effective and cost-efficient way. In a recent study from Pegasystems, ‘The Future of Retail Financial Services’, senior banking and insurance executives suggested that branch-based avatars, the use of beacons, and facial recognition will all help improve branch customer satisfaction by helping to streamline as well as personalise the branch experience.
The use of beacons can help to ensure more timely assistance and a seamless flow through the premises, by alerting staff when customers enter the branch, while simultaneously analysing customer propensity to use self-service kiosks and ATMs.
By providing staff with tablet technology, banks give them greater flexibility in how they can serve their customers and can make the branch a less formal environment, for example by using them to find information or demonstrate tools to customers. Using technology like tablets contributes to the modern omni-channel experience and can make the activity of banking a more enjoyable and quicker task.