“Our customers aren’t ready” and other excuses

Resisting the need to improve the branch experience will only put your FI further behind

There are plenty of excuses to stick with the status quo instead of accepting the need for change and working toward improvements. Sometimes it’s easier to stick with the familiar. Change can be hard work. And where’s the guarantee that striking out in a new direction will lead to success? 

But few excuses ring true when it comes to stepping up your branch experience in line with evolving consumer expectations. What accountholders want and need when they visit a branch is changing, and financial institutions that aren’t keeping pace are losing ground to competitors that are committed to upgrade their service delivery. 

Let’s consider—and debunk—some of the common excuses that bank and credit union leaders may cite as rationale not to step up their game.

“Our accountholders aren’t ready for change.”

This argument is especially likely to resonate with frontline staff who are on a first-name basis with the “regulars” at their locations. And it is true that some accountholders prefer to stop by their neighborhood branch for even the most routine transactions and don’t mind waiting for service. On both counts, but especially when it comes to patience for queuing up, those numbers are dwindling. 

When consumers are introduced to a better way to receive service—that doesn’t involve standing in line and wasting valuable time—their expectations change quickly. And they are already encountering innovations in convenient access at a variety of retail outlets, as the Kronos 2019 Branch Appointment Study notes: Starbucks’ mobile app gives customers the option to order and pay for their coffee in advance for pickup without waiting in the cashier line. McDonald’s is rolling out self-service ordering kiosks to reduce congestion at the front counter. And Apple invites customers to schedule in-store appointments via online and mobile channels for product consultations and technical support. 

Opportunities for similar technology assists are available to financial institutions to enhance branch service delivery. Appointment apps allow accountholders to schedule consultations with financial service professionals, and lobby tracking software can guide staff scheduling for periods of peak transaction volume and alert managers when wait times exceed service standards so they can redirect employees to help handle the extra demand.

“This is the way we’ve always done things.”

Sticking with standard operating procedures over years and even decades is rarely a recipe for long-term success. Delivering branch service the same way you did 15 or 20 years ago is no longer acceptable, largely because of evolving consumer expectations for prompt, professional service. The saying, that doing things the same way and expecting different results is one definition of insanity, is attributed to Albert Einstein, but it doesn’t take a genius to know that if you want better results for your branches, you need to improve service delivery. 

“We have online and mobile services for people who want them.”

It’s not an either/or for most accountholders. Consumers today want the option to sign online for account access, to use mobile services—and to visit a branch. The J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Retail Banking Advice Study reports that bank and credit union branches remain the go-to choice for consumers looking for guidance on topics such as savings options, retirement strategies, and mortgage products. 

As the Kronos appointment study notes, “When it comes to complex and sophisticated transactions, most accountholders still prefer to meet in person with a knowledgeable staff member at a branch location.” Offering the option to schedule an appointment allows them to plan for those consultations at their convenience and lets branch staff know what services are requested so they can be prepared to respond promptly and efficiently. 

“We’re known for our personal service.”

That used to be an effective knock against big banks, but the J.D. Power survey notes that large retail FI’s have steadily improved customer satisfaction ratings in recent years due to technology investments aimed at improving banking convenience and providing more consistent products and services. 

“These findings suggest that financial institutions should continue to invest in technology solutions that make each retail branch experience as satisfying as possible for the account holder,” the Kronos study advises. 

“We can’t afford to change.”

Some financial institutions are making major investments to revamp their branch operations. According to business research cited in the appointment study, 55 percent of the financial services respondents to a 2017 survey planned to increase spending on customer service initiatives.

It is possible to make significant service improvements without a big budget and to offset technology investments by streamlining operations and increasing sales. Staff scheduling and lobby tracker software can increase branch efficiency by aligning employees’ schedules with periods of peak demand, and appointment-setting technology can underscore that your financial institution values your account holders’ time as much as they do. Appointment apps can also help expand sales, since consumers are more likely to schedule a visit to discuss revenue-producing products like mortgages and auto loans. 

As the Kronos study concludes, “As credit unions across the country continue to redefine and reconfigure their branches, appointment-setting technology can help financial institution leaders improve the service experience, increase operational efficiency, and increase sales for better business outcomes.” In other words, there’s no excuse not to keep pace with consumers’ evolving expectations for their branch experience.

Chad Davis

Chad Davis

Chad Davis is Industry Sr Solutions Marketing Manager, F5 Networks, which is the leader in app security and multi-cloud management. He can be reached at c.davis@f5.com. Web: https://www.f5.com Details