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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.

The Power of Data

February 16, 2018

Just received the below email from my fitness tracking software, and it made me think of all the ways financial institutions could be doing similar customer outreach.  An argument can be made that more than any other industry, fin serve companies have the the most robust data available to them. How are you using it now to influence customer purchases, and plan to use it in the future?


Kronos Exhibiting at 2018 CUNA GAC

February 14, 2018

Kronos is excited to be participating in CUNA GAC, the premier event for political impact in the credit union industry.  As you know, the event will be held on February 25th through March 1st in Washington D.C.  Please stop by the Kronos booth #144.

We are also hosting a dinner on Monday, February 26th – 6:30 – 9:30 PM at a legendary restaurant just steps from the White House.  Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll share the details.

Report Targets ‘Top Ten Workforce Management Mistakes’—and Solutions

February 7, 2018

Effective workforce management is at the center of every financial institution’s drive to optimize delivery of its products and services while operating as cost-efficiently as possible. Automated solutions can bring together the resources to achieve that balance, from navigating complex labor laws to recognizing top performers and putting their talents to work where they are most needed.

A new white paper from Kronos, sets out the “Top Ten Workforce Management Mistakes in Financial Services” and offers recommendations to overcome those pitfalls in a way that improves organizational performance and business results.

A key takeaway is that applying the best practices offered with this list can simultaneously streamline the many processes involved in deploying full- and part-time staff across multiple sites and engage employees in fulfilling routine, but critical, tasks.

Supporting HR management on the move

Advances in digital workforce management tools allow staff and managers to use the same kinds of technology they use in their personal lives—namely, their smartphones—to drive communication, efficiency, and convenience in the workplace. By investing in systems facilitating easy access, employers can equip staff with an easy way to punch in and out, submit timesheets, request leave or time off, and view schedules from their mobile devices.

Mobile access to work schedules, HR information, and other notifications can also benefit financial professionals stationed at multiple branches or calling on existing and prospective customers in their homes and businesses. And managers can more efficiently manage scheduling and staff assignments when they are not tethered to the back office adjusting schedules, reviewing time sheets, and accessing reports on their desktop computers. Whether they are at the main office or traveling from branch to branch, managers can keep pace with updating schedules, reviewing reports, approving time-off requests, and monitoring performance metrics.

Optimizing schedules—and sticking to them

Automated workforce management tools provide a wealth of data to improve branch traffic forecasting and scheduling so that the right people are in the right place at the right time, the white paper notes. Note that “optimized schedules” don’t translate to bare-bones staffing that leads to employee burnout and high turnover, but rather schedules that meets accountholder expectations for prompt service without increasing employee idle time when branch traffic regularly tapers off.

Replacing manual and partially automated systems put in place over time with uniform digital solutions can ease employee and manager frustrations, increase productivity, improve morale, and enhance external service across channels and internal services between employees and among business units.

Planned and unplanned paid time off adds to the complexity of developing and sticking to optimal scheduling. According to a SHRM survey the total direct costs of employee PTO are about 15.4 percent of payroll, which rises above 20 percent with the addition of indirect costs associated with lost productivity. Applying technology to manage PTO can help ensure that absence and leave policies are adhered to consistently and accurately and in a way that reduces the impact on labor costs and productivity. Employees value paid time off and job-protected leave and expect those benefits to be administered fairly and equitably.

Schedules designed to support sales and service goals and reduce idle time only work when employees adhere to them. Automating time and attendance reporting can aid in monitoring compliance and quantifying the impact of new scheduling practices. By evaluating service and productivity metrics through the application of sophisticated analytics, managers can measure the impact of digital workforce systems and scheduling strategies and make changes where indicated.

Ferreting out inefficiencies through integration

Nothing perpetuates unnecessary costs and lost opportunities to improve service and productivity like a hodge-podge of manual and semi-automated HR systems put in place through the years and across various departments. A piecemeal approach to monitoring compliance with ever-changing labor regulations may pile on top of these inefficiencies—and put the financial institution at higher risk of costly violations.

Integration can stem these operational, management, and regulatory weaknesses. “Unified workforce solutions provide a holistic view by integrating HR, time and attendance, scheduling, and more to create a single employee record that is updated in real time,” the white paper suggests. “This visibility allows managers to make more informed business decisions in the moment—from reallocating frontline employees to meet higher than expected demand to adjusting agent schedules in order to avoid unnecessary overtime in the contact center.”

To maximize efficiency gains across the organization, financial institutions should consider workforce solutions that integrate with existing payroll, finance, or ERP systems to connect HR information to other business metrics. A data-driven approach to workforce management supports a proactive approach to both day-to-day operational decision making and long-term strategic planning. How can scheduling practices be fine-tuned to meet sales and service goals cost-effectively? How can onboarding and training be improved to enhance job performance and retention? How will the future labor force differ from today’s employees in terms of range of responsibilities and desirable skills and attributes? The business intelligence hidden in disconnected systems may hold the answers to those crucial questions.

Putting your best staff forward

“When exceptional service really counts, you want to put your strongest performers where they will have the most impact on sales and service,” the white paper emphasizes. “But if you are not tracking the right metrics, you may not know which employees you can count on to consistently drive business goals.”

Performance analytics solutions track useful workforce metrics, such as transactions per staff hour worked or labor costs per transaction in a branch, to measure individual productivity and effectiveness. Managers can apply those insights by scheduling top performers with the right skills where and when they are needed.

Recognizing high-performing staff for their contributions and showcasing their talents prominently may also aid in retention, which in terms increases customer loyalty and fuels growth by wielding a “customer-first” workforce as a key differentiator in a fiercely competitive business sector. Toward that end, another useful element of automated workforce systems is the ability to measure employee satisfaction and aid in identifying what workplace practices and policies deliver on their expectations for a good place to work. This strategy circles back around to employees’ affinity for HR systems powered by state-of-the-art technology.

Managing a diverse financial services workforce is a complex undertaking that can cross the line into service and productivity setbacks when organizations persist in using multiple, siloed manual and semi-automated processes. As the white paper concludes, financial institutions that augment workforce management with advanced tools and integrated systems gain “real-time visibility and data-driven insights to effectively control labor costs, improve productivity, minimize compliance risk, and drive employee engagement.”

This article originally appeared in CUInsight

New Infographic Shows Importance of Optimizing the Bank Branch in a Digital World

January 31, 2018

This infographic explores how bank branches are improving the account-holder experience and engaging employees with innovative digital workforce solutions.


Download this infographic to learn more about how improved lobby management, along with time-saving digital tools, can enhance the account holder experience — and how focusing on employee engagement initiatives, robust scheduling, and workforce optimization can create a workforce inspired to support the success of both customers and the organization.

A New Retail Experience

January 22, 2018

apple store_2665

I took my kids to our first Apple store event this weekend, and we all had a great time!  The free family-friendly event titled, Kids Hour: Creating Music with GarageBand (see details below), was informative, fun, and best of all sales agnostic.  Never did I feel any pressure to buy products from Apple, and left the event feeling impressed.  All-in-all it was one of the better retail experiences of my life.  It challenged all my preconceptions around visiting a store.  How can financial institutions successfully hold similar events?  It’s a great time to piggy-back off the efforts and investments Apple is putting forward.

In these long winter months, where families with little kids are looking for something to do to get out of the house, I for one will be looking for other retail events that I can take my kids to.

More details around GarageBand event

This Kids Hour celebrates music by teaching kids how to create exciting tunes and beats using GarageBand on iPad. First we’ll cover rhythm basics, and kids will get hands-on with creating their own drum beats. Then we’ll show them how to use Live Loops to make their very own rock, hip hop, or EDM track. Kids can bring their iPad or we’ll provide one. Recommended for ages 6 to 12.