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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.

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