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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.

Latest Amazon Deal Shows Us More Complex Sales Require Brick and Mortar

April 19, 2018

Amazon Best Buy Photo

Bankers take note, that a deal between Amazon and Best Buy announced Wednesday where Best Buy will exclusively sell Amazon Fire-edition smart televisions, is a clear sign that more complex sales require face-to-face interactions.

Much like conversations between lobby service representatives and account holders in the branch, there are many more in-depth conversations consumers want to have when buying a smart TV that don’t go well online.

Whether your talking about connectivity or compatibility of a smart TV or the terms of a HELOC, this Amazon/Best Buy deal relays that comfort and familiarity of a physical presence clearly still has significant value for many consumers.

Learn how financial institutions can take these critical interactions to the next level with lobby management software.

Kronos Recognized for Leadership in Customer Success

April 18, 2018

Krons Customer Service Award

This blog often covers the importance of customer service.  To show we practice what we preach, I wanted to announce here that for the 18th consecutive year, Kronos is an honored recipient of the NorthFace ScoreBoard Award.

Bob Hughes, chief customer and strategy officer, Kronos says, “At Kronos, putting customers first is the philosophy that drives everything we do. With 40 years of experience helping organizations make the most of their people strategy, these honors demonstrate the commitment of our teams to serve as advocates and partners who are dedicated to ensuring Kronos customers are successful.”

Learn more about the award here.

Building Loyalty Through Branch Service

April 12, 2018

Maintaining an excellent branch experience is still one of the best ways to retain existing account holders and grow their loyalty. Unfortunately, as many financial institutions have discovered, filling a branch with a bunch of employees does not guarantee good customer service.

Pinpointing activities that make a quantifiable difference in the branch experience can be difficult in a world that historically has had little automation. Consider implementing some of the key processes below to achieve higher service levels and more satisfied account holders.

Use managers to manage, not fix. When account holder wait times become long, a quick fix is for branch management or teller supervisors to jump onto the teller line. A more effective use of management (as well as lobby representative) time is to engage in account-holder-facing activities such as greeting, asking and answering questions, soliciting feedback and generally building a better rapport with the account holders in line. This helps pass the time and reduces the length of time the account holder perceive they have waited. Limiting the amount of time managers spend on the teller line also allows them to be better observers and coaches for their frontline staff.

Plan for idle time, or the time when staff members are inactive and waiting for account holders to come in the branch. These periods are often under-managed, leaving extremely valuable personnel standing around being unproductive.

Tellers are often given the vague direction to work on a number of nontransaction activities when traffic is slow or non-existent. Consider using this time for outbound account holder service support calls or special projects. Using scheduling engines to provide employees with more specific direction on precisely which nontransaction activities should be completed during exact times can significantly increase productivity during identified idle times. The enhanced forecasting process establishes better accountability for tellers and minimizes unproductive time that might exist from current scheduling processes.

Conversely, having your staff focusing on the account holders during peak transaction times reinforces to account holder that the financial institution respects their time and appreciates their business. One of the most undesirable outcomes of a branch full of staff focusing on completing nontransaction activities during the wrong times is that it can lead to poor service. Identifying and managing the specific idle times in your branch leads to better service and increased productivity.

Optimize schedules. Scheduling efficiently hour by hour for peak staff optimization and service is a challenge for most financial institutions, many of which are working from outdated spreadsheets. However, historical data proves that accurately forecasting traffic activity, and scheduling optimally for peak-period coverage, is entirely possible. Financial institutions that achieve this goal generally do so with the help of business intelligence, gleaned from streamlining the extract of core-processor transaction data (one of the most powerful but underutilized resources available). Optimal scheduling results in better service and, as bonuses, more satisfied employees and a lower labor cost per staff transaction.

Forecasts may suggest that you increase your utilization of part-time staff to help fill the peak transaction periods on your teller line. Once you know exactly when you need part-time staff in front of the account holder, you can find the talent to achieve your goals. Students, young parents, older workers and others with scheduling flexibility are frequently willing to work shifts as short as three to four hours.

Inspire positive outcomes. Even with the right number of employees in your branches at the right times, there will be unavoidable crunch periods. To help staff stay positive during these times, give them the tools they need to show grace under fire. Train staff to remain calm and good-humored under a variety of conditions. Role-playing exercises, where one or more employees play the part of an unhappy account holder, can be a very helpful teaching aid.

Develop performance incentives that reward staff both individually and collectively for providing great service.

Use peer-to-peer comment cards (where co-workers fill out cards documenting great performance that they witnessed in ­other staff), as well as mystery shoppers to provide further insights into which personnel are excelling at service even during busy periods and which need further mentoring.

Making these few changes can garner you a wealth of service improvement.