Reinventing branch relevance within the omni channel

By : Martin Shires

November 12, 2015 01:30 PM

Digital channel transaction and service migration within retail banking operations has eclipsed its predecessors, i.e. call centre and ATM. However, as its adoption accelerates, it highlights the continuing consumer need for the 'banker to customer experience' to be available for long term relationship management.


Both IDC’s and Capgemini’s latest research shows that the inability to effectively deliver advisory services over self-service digital platforms is diluting the effect of this mass migration, with both Generation X and Y consumers in direct opposition with how banks want to deliver and sell their commodity products. Research showed that the global retail banking peer group prefers to deliver 55 percent of its low value products via digital channels, yet 56 percent of consumers wanted to use face-to-face banking to buy these financial solutions.


It’s therefore no surprise that IDC’s research shows that in Europe, there is a greater likelihood of modernising branches, rather than closing and relocating. Reliable, enterprise technology, advanced interactive ATMs and a plethora of new physical and digital tools now available to bank staff, are accelerating their capability to more effectively engage with customers in branch.


A high value balancing act

Tellers and personal bankers have always been employed primarily as sales FTE for decades now, with transactions and services as their ‘secondary’ function, but have always had to balance high value and non-earning customer interactions within the branch environment. New tools and digital migration’s success now means that when customers do visit the branch, they are there primarily to research, be advised and ultimately conclude a value add purchase. This has allowed retail banks to combine their ‘multiple floor roles’ into genuine 'universal bankers' leveraging not only cost savings, but more importantly – the revenue earning potential of each staff member.


"There has been much debate around banking centers on whether the branch is 'dead,' while this is an interesting theoretical discussion it has little bearing on reality. Also, it is useless for banks that are grappling with how to make the most of existing networks," says Lawrence Freeborn, senior research analyst at IDC Financial Insights in a July report.


"Just as the rise of new technology has threatened the branch in the past few years, it also holds the key to their continued relevance, said Freeborn. “By implementing the right solutions, a bank can ensure that its branches are cost-effective and play their role in offering excellent customer experience."


We must remember, that the branch network P+L will always be positive, as long as individual sales staff are optimally managed and equipped to proactively reach their consumers and deliver their personal revenue targets. It is no surprise that some branches have been profitable and some have been loss making – sharp drops in customer footfall, have inevitably led to a decline in ‘order taking’ based sales in the long term mediocre performing branches, which at enterprise level has  been interpreted as “branches are unprofitable.”


Branches still play an important role

Branches continue to play an important role in people’s lives, separate research by the UK’s Halifax shows. It found 45 percent of customers use a combination of online, mobile, telephone and branch banking, suggesting that customers are “using their local branch for the more important moments in life.” As has been noted in previous studies, human interaction is essential for big transactions like selling a mortgage or risk-based investments, all of which are highly regulated, and for which inevitably the ordinary consumer needs personalized advice.


However, assisted service technology is now unlocking the branch staff experience to be delivered where and when the customer needs it most, enabling the traditional teller, personal banker and sales expert roles to cost effectively interact within the mixed channel demands of customers daily lives.


For example, remote based video tellers now have the ability to interact with their customer by video and remote control the ATM to deliver the complex transactions that customers previously needed them for, at any time of hour or day, in any location where an ATM can be deployed – instead of losing that customer because they couldn’t visit the branch. Tellers are now able to fulfil critical transactional services, but remain within the ‘sales cycle’ influencing relationships and generating leads as they are targeted to across expanded hours, without even leaving their seat.


Personal bankers in branches are no longer tied to their desks, nor having to rely on back office admin staff to manage transactions in store. Not only does tablet technology allow immediate delivery of customer data to their palms, but enterprise software now allows them to override and control ATMs in branch, to give their customer complete service at the touch of a button.


Sales expert capacity can now be fully unlocked. The same enterprise software technology that delivers video tellers to ATMs, can now be leveraged to deliver be delivered straight to customers’ tablet or mobile devices, taking engagement, advice and sales conclusion to their homes and offices – effectively, wherever the customer demands it.


Retail banking has done much soul searching in recent years to understand the future relevance of branch banking. The consumer’s voice has steered banks to re-discover the revenue value of person-to-person banking, and assisted service technology is re-engineering the way that business is done.


Read more about the omni channel experience and discover what NCR can do for you. Visit NCR Financial Services.

Martin Shires

New Branch Solutions Mkt Mgr, Strategy & Marketing

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Martin Shires is a global evangelist for branch transformation strategy, based out of NCR’s R&D center in Dundee, UK. Martin has held a number of senior regional management roles in European retail banking.