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Are You Relying on Dated Time Studies in Branch Scheduling?

July 18, 2018

Real-time data provides more accurate branch staff schedules

For all the changes in branch operations over recent decades, the fundamentals for delivering on service standards remain firm. Account holders expect friendly professional service and accurate transactions—and they don’t want to wait around for either.

While those expectations hold firm, the methods that financial institutions can employ to deliver great service as efficiently as possible have improved dramatically, especially in the area of staff scheduling. Time studies, a once-commonplace method for measuring employee output, have largely been replaced by systems that rely on real-time data on staffing and branch volume.

Time study refers to a structured process of directly observing and measuring employees’ work, literally counting the minutes to establish the average time required to complete specific tasks when working at a defined level of performance. In the past, time studies might have been a useful tool in scheduling staff in combination with forecasts of expected traffic. But in today’s fast-paced environment, relying on a manual process tied to forecasts based on historical patterns may lower service levels and increase costs.

You might say that the use of time studies in branch scheduling is well past its expiration date.

Financial institutions now have the opportunity to apply real-time data to guide scheduling, with much more accurate information about assist times, or the amount of time frontline employees typically spend with account holders to complete specific tasks. Rather than a general estimate of assist times across a wide range of product and service requests, lobby tracker software captures the actual time it takes to process individual interactions.

This data-based system can supply a whole host of information that would be impossible (or at least prohibitively expensive) to collect through time studies or is outside the purview of that tool, including assist times per product for individual employees; patterns in branch traffic and transactions by time of day, week, or month; and new accounts opened and other relevant sales statistics.

An automated alternative to the time study can facilitate more efficient staff scheduling and even alert managers when unexpected traffic spikes extend wait times beyond the financial institution’s specified target. In that event, other employees can step in to assist when needed to maintain service levels.

Compare that functionality to the practice of calculating staffing needs manually and based on historical patterns. If time studies are “close,” they might be just a minute off here and there—which is still significant when multiplied by the rate of transactions that occur over the course of a week or month. And that approach can’t account for differing traffic patterns and assist times from branch to branch, which widens the accuracy gap even more. However slight, those variations can add up to significant costs over time in terms of poor service and/or overstaffing.

The disparities between time-study estimates and real-time data can build up to the point that branch managers either abandon the use of that information in scheduling or continue to rely on inexact figures. Either way, staff schedules are not aligned with current traffic patterns, and the financial institution ends up either short-staffed or overstaffed.

The use of real-time data ensures that the basis for scheduling is continually updated and remains as accurate as possible going forward. In comparison, time studies are past their “sell-by date” soon after they are completed.

Access to real-time data in scheduling is especially crucial in state-of-the-art branches staffed with universal employees. Account holders are likely to use these service centers differently than when they relied on traditional branches, especially if the financial institution’s strategic aim is to encourage a new sales and service model in these settings. Over time, branch visits may take longer and result in higher sales as account holders shift away from routine transactions and toward more consultative interactions.

Universal employees tend to earn more than traditional tellers, so appropriate staffing becomes even more important to the bottom line. A lobby tracker system collecting real-time data keeps pace with evolving traffic patterns and customer expectations in a way that no time study can.

There was an era when time studies were considered a top-shelf solution for aligning staff schedules with the best possible estimates of service needs. But that approach is now out of date. The time that matters most to account holders is when they walk into a branch—and only real-time data can keep pace with those expectations.

Video: CNBC Explains Fintech

June 26, 2018

Video What is fintech.JPG

Watch the video here.

Cardless ATMs Reaching Mainstream?

June 22, 2018

mobile access atm

For a couple years now I’ve been reading about cardless ATMs, but up until last week I had never seen one in the wild.  When I came across one at my local Bank of America branch I was excited to see it. Even though I still used my debit card (to get some cash out), it’s nice to know that if I didn’t have my card—I could still access the ATM.

Now with my mobile phone I can potentially ditch my car keys (Tesla), and stop carrying a number of plastic cards (reward programs, cardless ATMs). Technology is making me lighter and I appreciate it!  Kudos to the banking industry for being innovative.  Now if we can just get to a world where mobile pay is more mainstream.  Banking industry?

Learn more about cardless ATMs from this video

Robots are cool but innovative branch technologies are having impact today

June 12, 2018

The predicted robot takeover in the branch, which has raised concerns over a potential reduction in jobs, has thus far proven to be more hype than reality. Despite headlines predicting an android takeover of the teller profession, people—not machines—still dominate frontline and back-office functions of credit unions.

Today’s advanced technological solutions have the greatest impact not as a replacement for the human component but as an enhancement. These innovations are the focus of a new white paper from Kronos, titled, Robots vs. Reality: Innovative Technology for Today, Not Tomorrow.

Combining people and technology

It’s true that robotic and intelligent process automation (IPA) is a rapidly advancing field, but relatively few financial institutions have ventured into this form of technology thus far. According to a recent PwC Financial Services IPA survey, only 9 percent of respondents reported having IPA bots in production. Some firms encountered unexpected risk and control issues that have tempered adoption of this technology.

Quelling concerns about industry job loss is the growing realization that financial institutions need not choose between embracing technology and supporting their workforce. As the white paper points out, the organizations that are likely to do best in the financial services industry are those that successfully combine people and technology. The competitive advantage goes to those companies that use their technological strengths to empower their people by leveraging technology to optimize their workforce, improve the customer experience, and ultimately boost their bottom line.

Committing to breakthrough advancements

Making the financial commitment for breakthrough technologies can be difficult, given how rapidly the tech world advances. It’s like trying to jump on a fast-moving train. Some financial institutions may be tempted to wait for “the next big thing,” but that hesitation imposes an inherent risk in falling behind competitors that have caught the train and are integrating advanced solutions into their organizations today. Forward-thinking companies figure out how to integrate digital innovations into their physical channels as a way to enhance the customer experience, deploying cutting-edge technologies that allow them to gain competitive advantage in their markets.

Financial institutions looking to upgrade their technology should begin by creating a flexible information technology platform. This will help them shrink development and integration cycles when implementing new applications or onboarding third-party services. A flexible platform enhances the ability to integrate core business systems with an ever-expanding digital ecosystem using a convenient software-as-a-service (SaaS) model.

Using open application programming interfaces (APIs) allows credit unions to keep pace with the latest innovations in their quest to create new revenue streams and take on the role of disruptor. A robust API and integration platform offers virtually unlimited extensibility while also simplifying integration.

Growing capabilities

Other up-and-coming technologies hold the promise to enhance efficiencies and customer service. Artificial intelligence (AI), coupled with machine learning, will likely become more important in relatively short order. More than half of those responding to PwC’s 2017 Digital IQ Survey report that they are making substantial investments in AI, and nearly two-thirds said they will be doing so in the next three years.

AI includes such capabilities as advanced forecasting, proactive labor compliance solutions, and personal digital consultants to help frontline managers work smarter and more efficiently. One bit of good news about AI, in comparison to robotics, is that financial service employees don’t feel particularly threatened by it. According to a 2018 Coleman Parkes Research, Automation and New Technology Study conducted on behalf of Kronos, about two-thirds of respondents view AI as a means to simplify processes and ease their workload.

Any discussion of leading-edge technologies must encompass the continuing need for state-of-the-art mobile solutions, which are a big factor for today’s on-the-go workforce. Younger workers are especially likely to choose their employers based on the quality and quantity of the mobile tools they offer.

Consumers are likewise on the go, so financial institutions need to deliver personalized services promptly and efficiently. For example, next-generation appointment-setting solutions enable customers to book appointments in a matter of seconds, using geolocation technology right from their smartphones, tablets, or computers.

Another major technological innovation is the use of advanced analytics to guide strategic decisions. Implementing an advanced analytics strategy involves collecting and crunching data and using the resulting insights to build business processes that allow organizations to improve their operations, enhance productivity, accelerate growth, and improve risk control.

Getting beyond the hype

Advanced technologies in the financial services sector are making a difference today, even as the hype swirls about robots, quantum hardware, and the Internet of Things. These concepts have yet to hit the mainstream, and it could be years before they reach their full potential. In the meantime, savvy credit unions would do well to focus their technology dollars on solutions that are already delivering results. Empowering managers and employees with flexibility, convenience, and guided decision making, these commercially available solutions can help businesses stay ahead of the competition.


Infographic Highlights Top Tech Trends Transforming Workforce Management in Financial Services

June 6, 2018


With headlines like, “Robots and AI Invade Banking,” flooding our news streams, we are being bombarded with articles that rarely live up to the hype.  Frankly, the buzz about robots and other futuristic automation has outpaced real-world adoption in financial services. But there are tech trends available today that can change the way you manage your people across back-office, contact center, and frontline operations for a strong competitive advantage.

This new infographic provides insight into the top tech trends making practical impacts in financial services now, including: open APIs, applicable artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics.

Download the infographic here.

New Study Reveals Importance of Tracking the Right Metrics in the Modern Branch

May 22, 2018

A new study has the cure for management teams at financial institutions who sometimes struggle to understand the actual performance of their branch lobby. While poor visibility into important sales and service metrics can hinder management’s ability to establish performance goals, it also hurts productivity and can negatively impact the bottom line.

The FMSI 2018 Retail Branch Lobby Study examines 715,000 interactions collected through the Kronos FMSI Lobby Tracker, which encompass all types of service and sales exchanges between accountholders and credit union and bank employees that took place on the platform side of North American financial branches in the third quarter of 2017. The analysis finds that financial institutions have room for significant improvements across a few key areas.

  1. Lobby wait times: The study shows that Top 10 financial institutions have whittled their average lobby wait time down to just over two minutes, while in comparison, the average national wait time is more than three times higher. So what can you do to improve your wait times? The key is to use the detailed data you’re collecting at your branch to identify performance and service issues and adjust employee schedules, offer to retrain staff, or update your procedures to improve this critical service metrics.
  2. Duration of assist time: The study looks at average assist times at a Top 10 financial institution compared to the overall national average as well as the Bottom 10 financial institutions, offering an industry benchmark to help management set goals. But keep in mind that although longer assist times are not necessarily a sign of worsening service (in some cases it may indicate that frontline staff are doing a better job of cross-selling, which is a big positive), it could signal excessive socializing, declining employee performance or deficiencies in coaching or training. Alternately, short assist times might at times yield careless errors, so in either case it’s certainly an important metric to watch.
  3. Product vs. service interaction ratios: Current findings from the study reveal that, overall, financial institutions are on average missing the mark when it comes to balancing product and service lobby interactions . Kronos recommends credit unions strive for a 60/40 split, respectively. Download the full study to see how today’s financial institutions stack up, including prior year comparisons leveraging data from 2015, 2013 and 2011. With sizeable room for improvement, keeping an eye on this ratio is vital if you expect to operate a high-sales-performing lobby.

Learn more about these key areas for improvement and check out all 2017 data sales and service metrics captured in the new FMSI 2018 Retail Branch Lobby Study. Download now.

Are financial services jobs at risk because of AI?

May 17, 2018

AI Chart for blog

With adoption of AI on the rise, are human financial services jobs at risk? Research indicates the perceived threat remains relatively low. A Coleman Parkes study revealed that only 35 percent of financial services employees surveyed were concerned about losing their job if AI was introduced in their organization. In fact, 65 percent felt AI could simplify internal processes and 57 percent felt it could help balance their workload (see chart above). By coupling AI with people to change the way their people work — and the type of work they do — financial services institutions can improve workforce efficiency, flexibility, and compliance while enhancing the customer experience.

Learn more about this and other interesting technologies available for the mainstream today in a new Kronos white paper titled, Robots vs. Reality: Innovative Technology for Today, Not Tomorrow. Download now and/or register for a live webinar taking place next week on the same topic.

Achieving an 80% Net Promoter Score

May 11, 2018


Industry leading NPS scores aren’t easy to achieve.  It takes strong leadership, great staff and the right technologies.  See how one financial institution improved account holder loyalty through the right technology here.

New Branch Study Reveals Top Banks Service Performance

May 4, 2018

JD Power Study Retail Banking Service

Retail Banks Play Valuable Role as First Line of Financial Advice for Customers, J.D. Power Finds

Augmenting interactions at the branch with the right technology can be the difference maker for banks as they look to improve the branch experience.  Learn more about some of the latest branch and workforce management technologies available today.

Video: Are ITMs Right for Your Branch?

April 25, 2018

Cornerstone Advisors hit the high points on whether or not ITMs are right for your branches and touches on some approaches to make them a success.