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The Branch is Not Dead! 10 Approaches to Help Keep it Alive

January 15, 2015
By Kajal Jain, SVP of Product Management, FMSI

The branch is not going away. A fact well observed through the creative ways in which it has resurrected itself and continues to evolve. The branch has seen unprecedented levels of digital as well as physical makeovers in recent years, to help transform into more efficient and effective business units. The following are some of the most prevalent and effective approaches financial institutions have adopted over the last several years to keep the branch relative in the 21st century:
  1. Cross-Training Employees – A few organizations have already embraced cross-trained universal models in their branches, but many others are considering it. Organizations should look at the forecasted need for both teller and platform side-by-side to assess if moving to a universal model can optimize their workforce. If the organizations haven’t started looking at these numbers, they may be missing out on an increase in both sales and efficiency.
  2. Promoting Product Portfolio – If branch employees are not properly promoting product portfolios at each and every potential opportunity, then they can be leaving a lot of new sale dollars on the table. Managers and performance tracking solutions can be used to help establish accountability, and motivate more selling. Furthermore, digital signage can be a great solution for promoting product and services, at all times, while account holders wait.
  3. Measuring Products-Services Mix – Measuring how many products/services are being sold and understanding the interaction cost is important in gauging the overall performance of an institution. If the branch is product heavy, then they must ensure they have enough staff to provide the products while minimizing wait times and abandons. Every abandon would be a potentially lost opportunity.  Conversely, if the branches are services heavy then the organization must give some serious thoughts on how they can provide those services through other channels instead of investing precious resources on these.
  4. Tracking Account Holder Wait Times – FMSI’s 2014 Retail Branch Lobby Study, an in-depth examination of 265,000 sales and service interactions by financial institutions (FIs) across North America shows that the wait times are now averaging approximately five minutes. Branches must take a serious look at the wait times, and look inwards towards their staffing practices. Most abandons are at the end of days, Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings being the highest peaks. There seems to exist a direct correlation between the wait times and abandonment rates. If the branches are not staffing their most efficient and experienced staff at these key time periods, they are losing an opportunity to sell.
  5. Tracking Platform Abandonment Rates – Financial organizations are focused on establishing customer relationships in order to provide better service and offer a healthier product portfolio per household.  The following table shows the trends in the branch abandonment rates based on the last year’s platform data from FMSI’s Omnix Lobby Tracker™. If branches are not paying attention to these numbers, and taking action, then they can miss out on opportunities to serve their customers more effectively.
  6. Better Utilizing Low Volume Time Periods – Some week days like Tuesday and Wednesday, and some morning and afternoon time periods, the branch is slower than on other times. It would be extremely difficult to only schedule for the busy intermittent 2-3 hour time periods. This is when the organization should start thinking of better utilizing the low volume time. Some organizations are proactively assigning some back office and admin work during the lower volumes. If they are not utilizing these time periods also for making outbound calls or making it available for pre-booking appointments for providing services or selling more products, then they are losing out on sales opportunities. Branches should use appointment booking features, like that of FMSI’s Omnix Appointment Concierge™, to make available the low volume branch times for appointment booking while reserving the high volume time periods to strictly serve the walk-in traffic. The upcoming Appointment Concierge™ application is built around the needs of financial institutions and can help in opening up only the less busy times for pre-booked appointments.
  7. Staffing to Need –There is ample data available from the core systems as well as the lobby tracker applications that can be used to forecast and assess the branch staffing needs at different times of the day and days of week, days of months, etc. A forecaster can highlight these demands and the branch managers can schedule optimally; scheduling a mix of part-timers and full timers to cover the low and high volumes in foot traffic.
  8. Measuring Staff Productivity – In order to retain the best staff, organizations should focus on rewarding their best people and providing training and coaching opportunities to the ones who need help. Organization wide standard KPIs should be published and tracked for each individual employee. If the branches are not measuring the productivity of their staff members, there may be lost opportunities in terms of mediocre services being provided to the account holders.
  9. Measuring Internal Product Adoption – Organizations have invested so heavily in branch transformation technology, but many are not measuring the adoption of such purchases. If the organizations are not measuring the adoption, it can hinder any potential benefits the technology is supposed to provide. They must put audit controls, management training and coaching opportunities to ensure the staff members are using the right products and technology, following the right processes and not falling back on old habits.
  10. Closing the Loop – Having a feedback loop connects the account holders, the serving staff members, with the organizations values and goals. Collecting and analyzing negative feedback can be used to improve internal processes and/or provide better coaching to the staff members. Conversely, a positive feedback could affirm that everyone is aligned to the organization’s values and goals. Are your employees receiving evaluations of their performance from the people best able to render an appraisal, i.e. the customers they just served? Organizations must consider closing the loop on the services they are providing to their end users.

The branch is not dead, or even dying.  Adopting some of the approaches highlighted above can help to transform your branch from being purely a customer service center to a customer engagement center.

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