By : Neill Malcolm Harris
November 20, 2018 08:00 AM
When great service isn’t enough
If you think you’re seeing fewer bank branches lately, you’re not mistaken. In the first half of 2017 more than 850 branches closed, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence reporting, and the bad news is more are expected over the next few years.
The reason for the closures isn’t that these branches gave poor service, more likely it’s the decade-long low interest rates and new regulations that have been squeezing bank profits, which makes less-profitable branches more difficult to justify from a financial perspective.
But there’s a delicate balance at play: great service alone isn’t enough to bring customers into branches; while mobile apps and the pressures of a hectic life make customers less interested in personal interactions that aren’t completely necessary.
With average commute times between 26 and 40 minutes each way, it’s hardly surprising that the last thing your customers want to do is wait in your lobby for service during rush hour or on their lunch break. But when you take into account the additional constraints of shipping kids from school to sports to home, many families are out of the house and on-the-go from before 7a.m. until after 8p.m.
Amid branch closures, ITMs lead the way
There are some trips that even the most tech-savvy facetime eschewing customers tend not to avoid: opening new accounts, inquiries about credit cards, mortgages and loans, and conversations about investments and wealth management.
For those trips that do require the services of a human teller, making time during the day is still difficult for many customers. Video tellers – interactive teller machines – can bridge the gap between providing that high level of care an in-person visit delivers, and the convenience of an ATM.
Video tellers can extend the bank’s operating hours for person-to-person services to times that are more convenient for your customers.
Building loyalty through high quality engagement with customers at an ITM can help strengthen retention rates, and allows your in-branch staff to be deployed to focus on advisory and sales tasks. And while video tellers do reduce foot traffic into the branch, it drives brand affinity by providing help with complex customer questions in a way traditional ATMs and online banking simply can’t.
Increasing virtual lobby hours with a video teller has meant some banks and credit unions have started to offer service during non-traditional banking hours and on weekends. Hours from 7am to 10pm are not uncommon, and take the hassle out of fitting a visit to the bank into an already busy day.
Banks using ITMs as leave-behinds
As banks continue to close, though, customers may be faced with finding a new branch when they need to discuss things like mortgages, credit cards and investing. To transition customers, some financial institutions are deploying video teller machines in strip mall parking lots and as leave-behinds at closed branches.
So rather than losing a branch, customers find the increased hours of service and alternative locations provides the same benefits without a reduction in service levels, and takes some of the friction out of their busy lives.