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Latest Amazon Deal Shows Us More Complex Sales Require Brick and Mortar

April 19, 2018

Amazon Best Buy Photo

Bankers take note, that a deal between Amazon and Best Buy announced Wednesday where Best Buy will exclusively sell Amazon Fire-edition smart televisions, is a clear sign that more complex sales require face-to-face interactions.

Much like conversations between lobby service representatives and account holders in the branch, there are many more in-depth conversations consumers want to have when buying a smart TV that don’t go well online.

Whether your talking about connectivity or compatibility of a smart TV or the terms of a HELOC, this Amazon/Best Buy deal relays that comfort and familiarity of a physical presence clearly still has significant value for many consumers.

Learn how financial institutions can take these critical interactions to the next level with lobby management software.

Kronos Recognized for Leadership in Customer Success

April 18, 2018

Krons Customer Service Award

This blog often covers the importance of customer service.  To show we practice what we preach, I wanted to announce here that for the 18th consecutive year, Kronos is an honored recipient of the NorthFace ScoreBoard Award.

Bob Hughes, chief customer and strategy officer, Kronos says, “At Kronos, putting customers first is the philosophy that drives everything we do. With 40 years of experience helping organizations make the most of their people strategy, these honors demonstrate the commitment of our teams to serve as advocates and partners who are dedicated to ensuring Kronos customers are successful.”

Learn more about the award here.

Building Loyalty Through Branch Service

April 12, 2018

Maintaining an excellent branch experience is still one of the best ways to retain existing account holders and grow their loyalty. Unfortunately, as many financial institutions have discovered, filling a branch with a bunch of employees does not guarantee good customer service.

Pinpointing activities that make a quantifiable difference in the branch experience can be difficult in a world that historically has had little automation. Consider implementing some of the key processes below to achieve higher service levels and more satisfied account holders.

Use managers to manage, not fix. When account holder wait times become long, a quick fix is for branch management or teller supervisors to jump onto the teller line. A more effective use of management (as well as lobby representative) time is to engage in account-holder-facing activities such as greeting, asking and answering questions, soliciting feedback and generally building a better rapport with the account holders in line. This helps pass the time and reduces the length of time the account holder perceive they have waited. Limiting the amount of time managers spend on the teller line also allows them to be better observers and coaches for their frontline staff.

Plan for idle time, or the time when staff members are inactive and waiting for account holders to come in the branch. These periods are often under-managed, leaving extremely valuable personnel standing around being unproductive.

Tellers are often given the vague direction to work on a number of nontransaction activities when traffic is slow or non-existent. Consider using this time for outbound account holder service support calls or special projects. Using scheduling engines to provide employees with more specific direction on precisely which nontransaction activities should be completed during exact times can significantly increase productivity during identified idle times. The enhanced forecasting process establishes better accountability for tellers and minimizes unproductive time that might exist from current scheduling processes.

Conversely, having your staff focusing on the account holders during peak transaction times reinforces to account holder that the financial institution respects their time and appreciates their business. One of the most undesirable outcomes of a branch full of staff focusing on completing nontransaction activities during the wrong times is that it can lead to poor service. Identifying and managing the specific idle times in your branch leads to better service and increased productivity.

Optimize schedules. Scheduling efficiently hour by hour for peak staff optimization and service is a challenge for most financial institutions, many of which are working from outdated spreadsheets. However, historical data proves that accurately forecasting traffic activity, and scheduling optimally for peak-period coverage, is entirely possible. Financial institutions that achieve this goal generally do so with the help of business intelligence, gleaned from streamlining the extract of core-processor transaction data (one of the most powerful but underutilized resources available). Optimal scheduling results in better service and, as bonuses, more satisfied employees and a lower labor cost per staff transaction.

Forecasts may suggest that you increase your utilization of part-time staff to help fill the peak transaction periods on your teller line. Once you know exactly when you need part-time staff in front of the account holder, you can find the talent to achieve your goals. Students, young parents, older workers and others with scheduling flexibility are frequently willing to work shifts as short as three to four hours.

Inspire positive outcomes. Even with the right number of employees in your branches at the right times, there will be unavoidable crunch periods. To help staff stay positive during these times, give them the tools they need to show grace under fire. Train staff to remain calm and good-humored under a variety of conditions. Role-playing exercises, where one or more employees play the part of an unhappy account holder, can be a very helpful teaching aid.

Develop performance incentives that reward staff both individually and collectively for providing great service.

Use peer-to-peer comment cards (where co-workers fill out cards documenting great performance that they witnessed in ­other staff), as well as mystery shoppers to provide further insights into which personnel are excelling at service even during busy periods and which need further mentoring.

Making these few changes can garner you a wealth of service improvement.

The Itty Bitty Bank Branch

April 3, 2018

Even as automation is changing the way people and organizations connect, there is still a need for brick-and-mortar branch locations, staffed with employees who can help customers with complex, higher-value interactions such as opening accounts and applying for loans and mortgages.

In regards to the extra expense that comes with this non-digital approach, some banks, like PNC Bank and Eastern Bank, have explored more cost effective approaches to maintaining a physical retail presence.

These innovative approaches are far from mainstream, but interesting nonetheless. Only time will tell how wide-spread these types of branches will be in the future.

Whether the branches are massive or micro, the importance of integrating digital technology within branch operations can be the real difference maker when it comes to the overall account holder experience.  Having just two customers ahead of another, can lead to a 45 minute wait.  Learn more how lobby management applications can improve service, productivity and sales in the branch here.

 

New Infographic Shows How to Steer Clear of Costly WFM Mistakes

March 20, 2018

Working from Home

Make no mistake about it: your people are your most valuable competitive differentiator. But are you fully leveraging workforce management processes and technology to engage employees, maximize sales and service, and drive better business outcomes?  Check out our this about how you can steer clear of workforce management mistakes that can impede your competitive success.

  • Optimize staffing, manage absenteeism, and minimize compliance risk
  • Keep employees engaged and empowered to do their best work
  • Gain visibility into the workforce and how it affects business performance

Download the infographic now.

Toys ‘R’ Us Downfall: Poor Retail Experience to Blame?

March 15, 2018

Toys r us

As the never ending debate in banking around the importance of the branch in a digital age continues, another major retailer will be shutting its doors for good later this year.  Most would quickly jump to the conclusion that online shopping is to blame here, but as this recent CNN article, Amazon didn’t kill Toys ‘R’ Us. Here’s what did, points out–the store experience is the real culprit here.

Citing a retail consultant and the CEO of Toys ‘R’ Us, the article highlights the degrading conditions of the stores and lack of sales associates as key reasons the stores lost its appeal to consumers.  Furthermore, mounting debt accumulated by the retailer prevented it from making the necessary investments to turnaround these issues.

What sort of investments are you making to your branch network?  Perhaps you have plans to redesign some locations, implement a new sales training program, or purchase new lobby management technology, like appointment software or lobby tracking applications.  Whatever your plans are, I would consider the lessons Toys ‘R’ Us can teach us around the importance of the retail experience.

 

The Continuing Desire of Consumers to Use Bank Branches

March 2, 2018

When you scan the headlines from the business world, the news about bank branches seems grim, as many are about branch closings.

Managers of the financial institutions from these stories often cite the changing nature of customer behavior.  And yes, transactions are down dramatically, with volume dropping 34% since 1991, according to the Kronos FMSI Teller Line Study. Banks and credit unions, in response, are consolidating branches, reducing their total branch count. They are also converting branch offices into ATM-only stations or drive-through-only facilities.

What’s behind the branch closures across the country? Banks and credit unions built far more branches than needed since the early 1970s. What’s the culprit behind consumers’ recent behavioral shift? Mobile and online banking, of course. But is that the end of the story? Far from it.

Based on recent Kronos FMSI research, we predict that the branch will not only be alive and well in the next 20 years, but will also continue to play a critical role in both securing new account holders and growing wallet share. With a deeper understanding of the demographic and socioeconomic backgrounds of your branches’ customers, it’s possible to customize each branch with a specific purpose for your target audience.

Think about the types of retail businesses that truly have vanished, or all-but disappeared. Book stores and music retailers are no longer a significant part of the U.S. retail economy because consumers who entered those stores had little need for an expert’s advice. That couldn’t be farther from the truth when it comes to a customer’s need to manage his or her personal finances. That’s your trump card; think about the best way to create situations for face-to-face interactions between customers and the financial-service professionals you already employ.

The types of interactions vary. Some branches remain transaction-heavy – plenty of your customers still come into a branch to conduct their business. Other branches are more geared toward sales conversations. So, the best way to know how to approach your branch strategy is to know crucial details about each branch. Learn the types of demographic and socioeconomic users of the area. Who are the main nearby competitors? If a branch has a large Baby Boomer population residing nearby, for example, customize that branch’s offerings for those generational members.

To take advantage of the continuing desire of consumers to use branches, consider deploying a variety of three branch models, each with different levels of technology and staffing considerations. These are the models that we predict will be the most prevalent in the years to come:

Personalized experience upscale. This model will typically be staffed with universal associates, to maximize the potential for success in attracting and cross-selling more affluent account holders. Universal associates can do it all, from running transactions to having a conversation about a home equity line of credit. These branches will be staffed with employees who have higher levels of expertise and more extensive professional backgrounds, all of which likely equates to higher employee costs.

There are branch activity-tracking software products in the market that are especially ideal in this type of branch. They track and measure how long each worker speaks with a consumer and their cross-selling efforts, giving managers a better assessment of an employee’s revenue production.

Self-directed technology. Here is the branch model that could see the most significant growth rates over the next 20 years. This model is built to use the least amount of space, an essential consideration in an era when reducing your real estate costs is a top priority. This model also offers the potential for hiring fewer employees.

The technology embedded in this branch model will allow a bank or credit union to cater to members who want fast, easy, secure transactions. These branches will use the latest in banking technology, such as smart ATMs that are smaller and less expensive than traditional ATMs, but come with additional features like the ability to choose the denomination for cash withdrawals. Branch appointment software, which is gaining popularity in the market, now helps management reduce or eliminate teller lines and drive loan traffic to the branch.

Traditional. The traditional branch model will remain an industry standard, even in an era of branch closings. The vast majority of branches fall in this category and they handle an average of 7,700 transactions per month, according to our Teller Line Study. Many traditional branches have even experienced higher transaction volume in recent years and are typically the best fit for most account holder segments.

The traditional model utilizes the classic division of labor, such as teller windows, roped-off lines and desks and private offices throughout the building. When a customer and an employee have an in-person conversation, this branch model shows its effectiveness. Those interactions help the branch increase its deposit totals and loan activity.

While it may look traditional on the surface, this model can still be powered by technology to increase its effectiveness. Similar to the personalized experience upscale model, traditional branches can also benefit from leveraging scheduling and tracking software to improve staffing efficiencies and customer experience by reducing wait times.

To meet the round-the-clock schedules of many consumers, some traditional branches may benefit from later weekday closing times, or extended weekend hours. Others may need to close earlier. Consider having an hours-of-operation analysis done by a third party, which can help plot the best times to keep your branches open.