Skip to content

Bridge the Digital–Branch Divide

October 13, 2017

Deploy technology to enhance personal service and create a competitive edge

There’s a tendency to assume that new ways of doing business will supplant what’s already in place, but people continually demonstrate a strong preference to supplement rather than replace.

Nowhere is this inclination clearer than in financial services. Digital advances in the form of remote check deposits and e-signatures have all but closed the loop on full-service automated delivery: The technology is now available so that consumers can open, access, and manage their accounts without ever stepping foot inside a credit union or bank. And yet, many continue to do so. Some accountholders conduct all their financial business in person, while many others choose to stop by a branch occasionally. Even those who rely exclusively on online access appreciate knowing that experienced professionals are available at the nearest branch whenever they’d like to consult on how best to achieve their financial goals.

For the foreseeable future, the branch—and the personal service delivered there—is here to stay. According to the 2017 FMSI Teller Line Study, average monthly transaction volume per branch increased 10 percent over the last five years, reversing what had been a steady 20-year decline. Despite some right-sizing in branch networks over the past eight years, U.S. financial institutions still maintain more than 91,000 offices.

For most of your accountholders, it’s not about branch or remote access. They want the best possible service via whatever channel they choose. To deliver on those expectations, seek out and deploy the most effective tools to maximize customer relationships across channels. Instead of focusing on digital over branch delivery, consider these five technology solutions to improve frontline service and efficiency.

  1. Appointment scheduling software

To acknowledge that their time is a valuable commodity, give accountholders a convenient means to schedule an appointment to open an account, apply for a loan, or seek guidance on financial matters. With advance notice through an appointment app, branch managers can adjust scheduling, if necessary, to ensure that a financial professional trained to handle the request will be ready and prepared for the interaction. In addition, appointment software offers useful data on the types and patterns of service requests at each branch to support staff scheduling and training.

  1. Lobby tracker software

Business runs on data these days, and lobby tracker software provides a wealth of information, when its electronic queue management system records the services accountholders want as soon as they walk through the door. Managers can use this data to manage service levels in real time by monitoring wait time and responding promptly to direct employees to the frontlines as lines begin to form.

Lobby tracker software also measures average assist time by employees, by branch, and across the organization, so managers can assess whether further training is needed and what impact changes in the approach to service may have on staffing needs. For example, encouraging member service staff to spend more time chatting with accountholders to identify their needs for additional products and services may increase sales but also require additional staffing during busy periods if customer interactions are taking longer.

Other useful data that can be gathered through these systems includes rate of product vs. service interactions, top products sold by branch, number of accountholders served and timing of visits, and cross-sells by employee and branch. With this data in hand, managers can more accurately determine the performance level of each branch to support the view of the branch network as a sales center. In addition, detailed information facilitates infrastructure planning to downsize or expand the branch network.

  1. Member service feedback software

While lobby tracker software captures information before and during service interactions, other automated systems invite members to rate the service they received as they head out the door. Friendly kiosks with simple, engaging rating systems can capture service performance data instantly, providing more immediate evaluations of customer service in greater volume than mailed or online surveys. Faster feedback means managers can act more quickly to correct service lapses.

  1. HR software

The use of technology to help optimize human capital is on the rise, from prehire through leadership development. At many financial institutions, turnover is highest among frontline employees. Losing staff, especially quick turnover within the first few months, is costly in terms of hiring and training expenses—and in lower levels of productivity and member service as new employees learn on the job. The best way to reduce turnover is to hire the best candidates. Predictive analytic software can pinpoint characteristics of top performers and help identify applicants with those traits.

As noted previously, lobby tracker software can help monitor and manage employee productivity and identify training needs. Automated surveys measure employee engagement, especially shorter “pulse” surveys that offer staff regular opportunities to share their views on the work environment. Talent management systems are designed to facilitate development of career tracks to enhance employee satisfaction and retention; to optimize performance management; and to identify and help groom tomorrow’s leaders.

  1. Forecasted scheduling and workforce optimization software

Staff scheduling software automates the most cost-effective alignment of staff to branch traffic and activity patterns, based on data from core processing systems and platform systems such as lobby tracker software. Working together, these systems facilitate efficient scheduling of full- and part-time staff to hold the line on operating costs while improving service by more accurately scheduling the right staff to be in the right place at the right time. In addition, automated scheduling provides for time-blocking frontline staff schedules for secondary duties such as sales training and outbound sales calls.

Innovations such as these systems will continue to up the ante on consumers’ views of what constitutes high-quality service. Many accountholders will continue to appreciate a full range of options for interacting with their primary financial institution. This embrace of choices is evident elsewhere: Even as Amazon dominates online retail, expect to see more physical storefronts bearing its logo to sell goods shoppers prefer to buy in person. As Ron Miller notes in a recent TechCrunch article [https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/15/technology-cant-replace-the-human-touch/], self-driving cars and restaurants with automated systems to take orders and deliver meals will serve a purpose but won’t replace people’s desire to get behind the wheel or choose a more traditional dining experience.

“Technology marches relentlessly forward, and it would be foolish to argue otherwise, but some things remain fundamental, and people-to-people communication will continue to be one of them,” Miller contends. By setting aside an either-or view of delivery channels in favor of deploying digital systems to work to improve branch service, your organization can keep pace with accountholders’ expectations for best-in-class service across the board.

This article originally appeared in Credit Union Business Magazine

 

 

The New and Improved Retail Branch Experience

September 25, 2017

As technology in banks and credit unions evolve so does the consumer. And when it comes to visiting their financial institutions, the patterns of consumer behavior are changing according to a new study from Kronos. The recently conducted FMSI Appointment Study offers insights on which transactions bring people to branches and when they prefer to consult on their financial needs.

The study conducted by FMSI analysts validates the crucial role that branch service plays in omnichannel service delivery. Despite the changes in the industry with advances in remote delivery facilitating mobile loan applications and access to a full range of services online, many account holders still look for the face to face experience with financial professionals when conducting their business. Additionally, consumers appreciate the option to schedule an appointment at the financial institutions that include appointment-scheduling apps among their mobile offering, according to the research. The study found that branch visits by appointment outnumber walk-ins during several prime business hours.

The FMSI Appointment Study analyzes proprietary data on nearly 1,500 appointments scheduled at more than 160 branches located across North America in February 2017. Applying findings from this snapshot of consumer behavior may help your institutions improve branch service and performance and simultaneously evaluate the usefulness of offering account holders the option to schedule appointments for branch visits.

Identifying consumer preferences

One of the main objectives of our analysis was to identify patterns in time and day of the week preferences for scheduling appointments. When looking at ­­­branches in this study, visits by appointment outnumbered walk-in traffic during the morning and late afternoon hours. The most common hours to schedule appointments were at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and 4 p.m. In comparison, walk-in traffic was typically low in the morning and most prevalent around the lunch hour, tapering off through the afternoon.

Fridays have traditionally been the busiest days for banking due to the fact that it is payday for most people, and this was a pattern that was reflected at branches included in the study. Visits by appointment outpaced walk-ins at these locations on Fridays, Saturdays, and Thursdays, suggesting that accountholders take advantage of the option to book appointments on days when they expect the branch to be a busy place.

The study also quantified appointments kept vs. no-shows. The vast majority of accountholders who took the time to schedule an appointment showed up and met with branch staff. During the study period, 84 percent of appointments were assigned and completed, 12 percent were canceled before the appointment, and only 4 percent were no-shows. Of those no-shows, 43 percent occurred during the 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. time slots, suggesting that it may be helpful to send reminders the day before appointments.

A key and final focus of the Appointment Study was to identify the types of services requested by consumers scheduling branch visits. According to the research, the majority of the appointments involved lending consultations, including consumer loans, mortgages, auto loans, and home equity lines of credit. This finding highlights the continuing role of the branch network in generating revenue by bringing in new loans.

Additional categories specified when scheduling appointments included new membership enrollment, account services questions, business services, credit card issues, and requests to have documents notarized. Overall, the ability to find out in advance what services were requesting facilitated scheduling to ensure that qualified service professionals  were available to complete those transactions and consultations.

Applying the findings

The implementation and use of appointment-scheduling apps in financial services shows that banking and credit union branches are just additional examples of how technology is changing the retail experience. Companies like Sprint and Apple also offer their customers the option to schedule appointments rather than stand in line at a store, and McDonald’s is experimenting with touchscreen kiosks where customers can place their order and take a digital location device so that their meals can be delivered to their tables. Starbucks and Subway offer apps that allow customers to pay for purchases and accrue special discounts and other promotions. Such innovations as these  are optimizing personalized service that acknowledge customers’ preferences, save them time and/or money, and reward loyalty.

The results of our study suggest several management strategies to improve frontline service and branch efficiency and productivity:

Make the omnichannel experience an easy one. For all the current enthusiasm for mobile and other remote channels, keep in mind that account holders tend to embrace new services without relinquishing their expectations that other options remain in place. Offering a mobile appointment app underscores that your institution offers a full range of channel options—and makes all of them conveniently accessible. Even customers who rely on mobile and online access for routine transactions may appreciate the option to schedule appointments to seek guidance from financial professionals on more complex matters.

Optimize your frontline resources to drive service and revenue. Inviting account holders to schedule branch appointment saves them time and simultaneously provides branch managers with valuable data for smarter scheduling. Financial professionals trained to provide specialized services can be scheduled to meet demand and be ready to serve with the appropriate materials lined up in advance to streamline the interaction. As a result, employees spend less time waiting for work, and the right staff are available to serve the right account holders at the right time, increasing branch efficiency and productivity and enhancing revenue production.

Take a data-driven approach to improving sales and service. Appointment-scheduling and lobby tracking software provide useful information about what services account holders want and when they are most likely to visit a branch for the kinds of interactions that result in increased sales. Detailed information about branch traffic patterns can guide decisions about scheduling, sales training, and marketing based on demand for services at each location.

Data for this study was gathered from financial institutions that use the Kronos FMSI Appointment Concierge and lobby tracker software. Additional analysis and management tips based on the FMSI Appointment Study are included in a new white paper available on our website, https://www.kronos.com/resources?industry=banking.

 

This article originally appeared in The Financial Brand

The Reliable Branch

September 20, 2017

This article originally appeared in CBInsight

Personalized customer service has always been a top priority of community banks. Although that mentality still reigns true, modern-day customer service has evolved and employees are looking into different ways of helping their customers.

These days, customers are looking for more than just familiar face from their financial services providers. They require a wider range of products and services, a full array of delivery channel options, and account access whenever and wherever they want it. On top of that, customers continue to appreciate traditional, old-fashioned personal service. This is especially true of consumers more inclined to take their business to a financial institution that claims to be different from its competitors. If a community bank promises to put customers first, the frontline service it provides should clearly demonstrate that commitment.

What do community banks need to do to satisfy their customers by successfully creating the amalgam of modern-day banking and individualized attention? Several timeless aspects of one-to-one personal service, combined with technological tools for branch management, can help target the types of transactions and guidance customers are seeking so the financial professionals staffing each branch can anticipate and deliver on those needs.

Different customers, different branch. Branches tend to reflect the character of their surroundings and, in general, the types of customers who choose those locations. Branches in family-friendly neighborhoods serve different needs than a branch with a prime spot in a business park. And neither serves the same type of customers as the office within walking distance of residential developments that cater to active seniors.

A demographic survey can sketch in the outlines of the types of services a branch can expect to be in demand in its market area. Using data from the core processing system and lobby tracker software can supply more detailed information about customers’ requests for service so frontline employees can be trained and scheduled to be on hand and fully prepared to deliver the services customers expect when they walk through the door.

Make business personal. Customers want to be treated like people, not account numbers. Lobby tracking software invites customers to sign in and state their business. Access to this information up-front facilitates queuing and gives financial professionals the information they need to greet customers promptly and personally.

Keep it short and sweet. On the other hand, overscheduling staff results in employees standing around idly when branch usage is low and can increase costs for community banks. By monitoring branch traffic, they can more effectively schedule full- and part-time employees to be on hand during periods of peak demand.

The 2017 FMSI Teller Line Study, which analyzed patterns in more than 16 million branch transactions at banks and credit unions across the country, found that mornings are generally less busy than lunch hours and afternoons. Community banks can combine core processing data with information from lobby tracker software to conduct individual branch analyses of types and volumes of transactions to better align scheduling with customers’ banking habits.

Try using this friendly greeting: “I’ve got everything ready for you.” For the most part, the technology supports discussed thus far to improve branch service delivery operate in the background, but one new automated tool is designed to connect directly with customers. Busy people appreciate the benefits of appointment-scheduling software as it ensures that their time spent in the branch is being used efficiently and effectively—no waiting when they arrive and any preparation, such as having the right forms and documents lined up, completed in advance. Appointment apps also supply useful data for branch managers to track what types of transactions and guidance customers are seeking.

There’s more to service delivery than service. Staff scheduling software can help community banks reduce idle time among branch employees and identify blocks of time where secondary duties, such as outbound sales calls, can be assigned with the aim of enhancing revenue production.

The teller line study quantifies the impact of smarter scheduling and other strategies to improve branch efficiency on teller productivity and labor costs. According to that analysis, tellers working for FMSI’s top 10 clients, based on productivity measurements, handled an average 20.3 transactions per hour, compared to the 13.1 average for all banks included in the study. Labor costs per transaction for top performers averaged 94 cents, compared to $1.30 for all banks.

Fully understanding customers and their banking preferences and their habits —what brings them to a branch and when and where they prefer to conduct these transactions—can help community banks personalize customer interactions, reduce wait time, and schedule staff more efficiently. While technology has pushed customers to redefine high-quality service, it can also help deliver on those expectations branch by branch.

Webinar: Is it Time to Take a Closer Look at Branch Efficiency?

September 14, 2017

Branch-based transactions are on the decline — so what can your bank or credit union do about it?

Register for our webinar to learn how certain trends are influencing today’s branch evolution throughout the financial industry — and hear about one customer’s experience in transforming their branch model to be more efficient, productive, and aligned with today’s customer needs.

We’ll explore the results of the FMSI 2017 Teller Line Study — which tracked more than 16 million teller transactions at banks and credit unions across North America — to show how transaction volume and teller processing labor cost data can be used to maximize workforce optimization, reduce operating costs, and improve sales and service levels.

In addition, our guest customer from QNC Bank will share their branch transformation experience that went from traditional to more customer-friendly with an emphasis on the technology customers want.

Presenters:Chad Davis, Senior Industry Marketing Manager, Kronos
Dale Wentz, EVP/Chief Retail Officer, QNB Bank

Personal, Personnel: Reinventing the Retail Branch in 2017

August 29, 2017

This article originally appeared in BAI Banking Strategies

By Kevin Steel, Industry Principal, Kronos

In recent years, consumers have increasingly turned to online and mobile banking channels to fill their banking needs. In fact, 62 percent of consumers now conduct most of their banking activity online or via mobile apps—this according to a report by Fabrice Albizzati, “Reinventing U.S. Retail Banking: Keys to Creating the Omnichannel Bank Branch Experience.”

While the rapid adoption of digital banking has led to a sharp decline in branch traffic, it doesn’t necessarily signal the imminent demise of brick-and-mortar banking. That said, it highlights the need for branches to change with the times. What’s more, this transformation forces banks to rethink their approach to hiring, staffing, managing and engaging employees to balance customer expectations with economic realities for sustained competitive success.

Despite the growing popularity of alternative banking channels, customers continue to value face-to-face transactions and interactions. In a 2016 Accenture study, 86.7 percent of banking customers said they expected to still use physical bank branches two years in the future. And of those respondents, 47 percent said they would do so because they receive more value through human interaction. These findings indicate that branches still constitute an important component in a retail bank’s overall channel strategy. But given the physical branch’s high-cost infrastructure, the time has come to reinvent the branch model to align with changing customer demands and fiscal constraints.

Back to Work: Workforce Management Reconsidered

As branches evolve, banks must rethink their workforce management practices to balance customer service with operational efficiency. The focus no longer rests on how many full- and part-time employees banks need to staff their branches; rather, it’s now on what roles employees should fill and how to optimize staff productivity and engagement. With this shift in focus, traditional approaches to hiring, staffing, managing and engaging employees will no longer suffice. Leading-edge workforce management practices—and supporting technology—can help banks deliver a superior branch experience while controlling costs and improving performance.

Customers Bid Adieu to Queuing

Remember the days when customers queued up at the branch for the next available teller? This familiar scenario is quickly becoming outdated as customers perform more routine transactions from a desktop computer or a mobile device. As a result, retail banks must reimagine the branch model to deliver a more engaging experience—one that creates profitable, long-term relationships with customers. Industries such as retail, hospitality and travel have raised consumers’ service expectations with innovative technologies and engagement approaches. Banks must make similar changes to deliver the kind of customer experience that builds loyalty and drives competitive success.

Forward-looking retail banks address these challenges by investing in comprehensive “branch transformation.” Many now implement new branch designs with open floor plans, beverage stations, hightech displays and self-service kiosks. In addition, more branches provide access to banking specialists in a consultative environment much like that of the Apple’s Genius Bar; this allows customers to pre-book appointments and avoid long wait times. Some branches even offer to send an employee to a customer’s home, office or other location to discuss loans, mortgages and other financial products.

Higher and Hire: Staffing the Reimagined Branch

The same old approaches to hiring, staffing and development simply won’t cut it in the branch of the future. After all, having the right employees who can handle more complex, consultative interactions will prove key to a great branch experience. That’s why more banks are shifting toward “universal agents”: bank employees who can provide a broad range of services rather than specialize as tellers, loan officers or personal bankers. This improves staffing flexibility but also means that banks must recruit employees with the appropriate skill set—including some sales experience—or develop existing staff to take on this multi-faceted role.

Optimizing the productivity of branch staff is also critical, especially given the steady decline in foot traffic. Roy Karon, president and CEO of BVS Performance Solutions, notes that some “banks are redeploying staff during slower-volume periods to handle product, account or loan inquires made via video on a cross-branch model.”

As these new service options gain traction, managers will need real-time visibility into customer demand in order to deploy staff for maximum impact.

Tech Innovation Supports Branch Transformation

Retail banks must not only hire the right people, but also manage them effectively to ensure a successful branch transformation. Implementing state-of-the-art workforce management technology, including automated tools for hiring, forecasting, scheduling and labor analytics, can help banks to:

  • Track, screen, select and onboard best-fit candidates to deliver a great branch experience
  • Generate accurate labor forecasts to avoid overstaffing and understaffing, which can impact service levels and budgets
  • Schedule the right people in the right place at the right time, and reallocate employees as needed to maximize service and minimize idle time
  • Gain real-time visibility into workforce trends and identify potential issues so they can take immediate corrective action

Prepare for the Branch of the Future Today

As retail banks work to reinvent their branches, they should take cues from other industries that utilize workforce management technology to improve the service experience. For example, as retailers install self-checkout stations and introduce appointment setting for in-store consultations, they use forecasting and scheduling software to staff the right number of people, with the right skills, to deliver a personalized and rewarding shopping experience. At the same time, mobile capabilities enable retail managers to reallocate employees on the fly to improve productivity and service.

With its increased focus on consultative services, the branch of the future requires a more flexible and innovative approach to managing and engaging employees. Modern, integrated workforce management solutions provide the automated tools and real-time visibility needed to optimize your biggest asset and primary differentiator for competitive advantage and better business outcomes. That asset, without doubt: Your employees.

New Teller Line Study Reveals Developing Trend

August 22, 2017

This article originally appeared in Credit Union Today

By Chad Davis

Financial institutions across North America are seeing a new trend. Over the past five years, the average rate of transactions per branch increased 10%, reversing a 25-year decline, according to the 2017 Teller Line Study from FMSI, a Kronos company.

The study which analyzes more than 16-million teller transactions at credit unions and banks, found that the rate of transactions per branch increased from 7,000 in average monthly volume in 2012 to 7,700 this year.

This increase may be the result of a consolidation in branch networks as financial institutions aim to correct “overbranching” that resulted from the significant surge in office openings stemming from the 1970s. The FDIC reports insured financial institutions operated 91,851 branches in 2016, down 8% from the peak 99,550 offices open in 2009.

Although monthly branch volume remains well below the 11,700 average transactions reported in the first FMSI study in 1992, the plateauing of branch traffic declines suggests that personal interactions remain a need for financial services customers. Yet the challenge for credit unions  providing that service more cost-effectively still remains.

Costs Increase While Productivity Falls

Despite the increase in transactions per branch, teller labor costs have increased by 147.9%. The average labor cost per transaction has rose from 48 cents in 1992 to $1.19, and productivity, which is measured by average transactions processed per teller hour worked, have declined from 18.4 to 14.9.

While credit unions are processing more transactions per branch, their labor costs per transaction have also grown more quickly than community banks since 2013. Banks still hold the lead over credit unions, at $1.30 per transaction on average for banks compared to $1.16 for credit unions, according to the most recent study. But the gap is narrowing: Labor costs per transaction at credit unions jumped 17.2% over five years, compared to a 6.6% increase for banks.

Using Analytics for Action

When analyzing their own data on branch traffic volume and patterns, credit unions can more accurately align staff schedules with member preferences for prompt service.

Tools such as core data processing systems provide substantial data about the types and timing of transactions to help staff deployment, and staff scheduling software can assist full- and part-time staffing to meet peak service demands and increase work efficiency. Smart scheduling and the application of data analytics in managing branches are the top two management tips offered in the teller line study.

Aside from the routine transactions analyzed in this report, branches remain the go-to channel for customers looking for answers in resolving problems or guidance in making financial decisions.

The study highlights industry research demonstrating that the branch consistently outperforms online channels “in terms of enhancing product understanding and reducing future problems.” Those higher-level conversations position the credit union as a trusted financial advisor and serve as a springboard for increasing sales of the products and services members need to achieve their financial goals.

Chad Davis is Senior Industry Marketing Manager, Financial Services Practice Group, Kronos, which is a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. Kronos industry-centric workforce applications are purpose-built for financial institutions of all sizes. He can be reached at chad.davis@kronos.com.

FMSI 2017 Teller Line Study Now Available

July 27, 2017

The FMSI 2017 Teller Line Study highlights transaction volume and teller processing labor costs and shows how banks and credit unions are responding.

 

FMSI 2017 Teller Line Study

Over the past 25 years, the banking industry has witnessed a costly combination of steady labor cost increases and continued branch traffic declines. Average monthly volume for teller transactions is down 34.2 percent since 1992, while teller labor costs for the same period have risen a staggering 147.9 percent, forcing financial institutions to respond.

By analyzing transaction volumes, pay rates, labor costs per transactions, and part-time employee utilization, institutions can gain insight into how they can maximize workforce optimization and reduce operating costs.

You’ll see how branches are evolving and identify issues that executives and frontline management are facing, including:

 

  • Assessing the impact of mobile and online banking
  • Taking a closer look at the sales-centric branch
  • Reviewing the trends on transaction analysis

Download this informative study to learn how you can respond to declining branch transaction rates, rising teller labor costs, and reduced workforce productivity with human capital management scheduling and optimization solutions that allow you to get the most out of your branches.

 

Download Now