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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 [], 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



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