If you thought bank branches were a thing of the past, you’d be dead wrong. Since 2008, the actual number of branches in the U.S. has only declined by about two percent. Additionally, 88 percent of Americans say they still need a physical branch location for their banking needs, according to research from Engine.
While they’re not going away anytime soon, many financial institutions are redesigning their branches to keep them relevant and to better meet changing market demographics and preferences. One crucial step in this redesign is analyzing how engaged the branch staff is.
More often, financial institutions focus on the cosmetics of the branch – what it actually looks like. And while there are some beautifully designed spaces out there, those branches will still likely fail if the experience is poor.
The Branch Experience is Critical
In a recent survey from Celent, it was concluded that while consumers may not visit the branch often, when they do, their experience is critically important. In fact, a poor branch experience is the single biggest motivator for switching banks. And it’s not just Boomers. Forty-three percent of Millennials expressed the same sentiment.
But what makes up for a poor branch experience? According to the same survey, 68 percent of consumers say that the number one issue that leads to a poor experience is when banking associates aren’t equipped to help them. Clearly, an engaged, productive frontline staff is key to maintaining a superior branch experience – not whether or not you have an in-branch coffee shop.
Celent went on to emphasize the importance of delivering personalized service, stating that “Being known is a basic human need. It involves both information and empathy but is only valued when demonstrated in relevant and helpful ways.”
By consistently delivering personalized service, branch staff are able to build trust and deepen relationships. Historically, community banks have done this well. But to deliver personalized services at scale, larger institutions must leverage technology.
The Solution: Customer Engagement Management
Success can be found through dynamic guided customer dialogues, providing branch staff the tools to help deliver real solutions for customers rather than push products they don’t need.
By leveraging a cloud-based Customer Engagement Management (CEM) technology platform, banks can personalize the experience by gathering real-time information from the customer in every encounter with a bank employee – whether at a branch or call center.
Such a platform will simplify and dramatically enhance customer engagement by providing bank personnel with consistent, dynamic, interactive and compliant consumer engagement tools and unique consumer focused product recommendations. As a result, it streamlines the decision process by uncovering consumer needs – and educating the consumer about financially sound decisions.
Additionally, tracking and reporting functions from a CEM system can provide managers and top leaders with information that reconciles all accounts that are opened with the highly accurate system generated recommendations, and can also identify potential policy compliance discrepancies. Analytics provide targeted feedback and training for existing or new employees. And, it can provide the backbone that allows the bank to develop a fair compensation package based on customer successes – not sales.
Branches are not going away; at least not any time soon. With that in mind, it is imperative that institutions ensure an exceptional, personalized experience – or else risk losing out to those that do. While a beautiful branch may attract customers, the engagement level of your front-line staff will ultimately determine your success.