Consumers have a wealth of choices today about how they interact with their financial service providers—in every channel except the branch.
They can go online from their computers to access their finances, open new accounts, or apply for loans. They can perform many of the same transactions from the mobile app on their smartphones or by phoning the call center.
Remote channel access has revolutionized service delivery, but many consumers still prefer to stop by a branch for more complex matters. These often involve important decisions, and they appreciate the opportunity to talk through their options with a helpful financial professional.
What they don’t appreciate is having to wait for that consultation.
As much as the customer experience has been transformed in other delivery channels, it remains much the same in many branches—sometimes depressingly so. Put yourself in the shoes of an accountholder who stops by a branch with a question about a new deposit account. You are directed by the greeter to the waiting area, where four other people are already seated.
Does that mean you’re fifth in line? Or is some combination of those already-waiting accountholders together? And are they there for a quick question or an hourlong interaction? Should you continue to wait or cut your losses and head out now? You could leave and come back later, but there’s no guarantee the line will be any shorter when you return.
Wait time is a thoroughly researched aspect of customer service: how people react to it (most perceive it to be even longer than it is), how to reduce it or at least make it more tolerable (give people something to do), even how to engineer the queue to move people to the front of the line in a way that minimizes their dissatisfaction (several shorter lines vs. a longer, more serpentine queue).
There’s a reason why wait time gets so much attention: Time is a valuable commodity for many busy people, and they want to feel in control about how they spend it. In the example of waiting in the lobby to speak to a financial professional, you don’t have much control or information to help decide whether to stay or go. And every minute you wait, you likely are thinking about what else you could be doing with your time.
That experience multiplied across dozens of accountholders on a weekly basis can add up for financial institutions. A 2006 study by McKinsey & Co. of bank frontline service found that 70 percent of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being treated. Given that the branch experience for many accountholders hasn’t changed much since then, these findings remain relevant, and so does this question: Does the experience your branches provide treat your accountholders like VIPs?
Other business research shared in the American Express 2017 Customer Service Barometer found that 78 percent of customers have bailed on an intended transaction because of a poor experience. When accountholders leave your branch lobby rather than continue to wait for who knows how long, you can chalk that up as a poor experience—and a lost sales opportunity.
That’s unfortunate and unnecessary. Just as technology has transformed other delivery channels, it can improve branch service by giving your accountholders more control and choice.
Compare our previous example to the experience of walking into a branch equipped with customer connection software. You register at a kiosk that lets you know where you are in the queue, how many people are in front of you, and how long your wait will likely be. And if you don’t want to wait that long, you have the option to make an appointment at the kiosk (or your mobile device) to come back later in the day or on another date.
Giving accountholders choices and control are two fundamental aspects of improving the customer experience. Armed with information about approximate wait time and the option to schedule an appointment, people can make the decision that works best for them.
Customer connection solutions can also enhance branch management and service delivery by providing valuable data to guide staff scheduling and alerting managers about the need to divert staff to frontline duty during busy times.
Deploying these tools can bolster the level of personal service that your accountholders expect and value—and offering them options can help ensure that your financial institution remains their go-to choice.