There is a future for Branches: Its also about employee experience


Branch banking may originate from simple beginnings, but the longevity and tradition of this fundamental banking service have rendered the bank branch one of the most familiar amenities of any town around the world. Branch banking has been continually evolving since its inception, though the last fifty years have seen innovation and technology develop with increasing speed, striving to offer a service reflective of the rapid digital developments customers adopt into their everyday lives. Though the large expansions and new banking channels used to supplement the branch experience caused difficulties as well as triumphs, such as internal silos creating agility and speed issues, the branch remains the heart of customer communication with their bank. In an age of growing preference for digital channels and seamless interaction, the most innovative and successful branches have been those adaptive enough to consciously move away from the traditional branch model, offering instead a branch experience integrating engaging, convenient technology with the personalized, highly informative interaction customers visit the branch to receive. This notable shift in the design and delivery of branch banking services is occurring across the globe, with the benefits of an updated, forward thinking approach to branches clearly visible in increased branch visits and sales. The role of the branch in providing customers with a level of service unable to be matched by digital channels has resulted in both digital-only banks and industry innovators acknowledging their value, with digital bank Chebanca! opting to incorporate branch banking into their services, reacquainting a number of their digital only customers with the advantages of the branch. When thoroughly planned and sharply focused on utilising the technology of today to provide a strong customer experience, as witnessed with shipping container branches and driverless mobile banks, branches continue to see success.

While the potential threat posed to the long term success and necessity of bank branches by chatbots, AR and VR is a fascinating and largely plausible reality, this emerging technology is unlikely to have any imminent impact on branch use. Chatbots, AR and VR may have a wealth of potential uses in enhancing banking customer experience, but the technology is currently in its infancy and is unlikely to be in widespread use across the industry for some time. In the short to medium term, the future of the branch will not be impeded and rendered obsolete by innovative technology if branches are successfully and thoughtfully reinvented to reflect the changing expectations of customers while providing a strengthened customer experience. Though effective use of digital technology is the common thread of all the successful branches featured in this paper, the technology itself is not the primary draw, nor is it utilised to compete with online and mobile banking. Rather, technology is used to facilitate improved customer experience in the branch, to enhance the aspects of branch banking that set it apart from its digital counterparts such as knowledgeable assistants and personalized experience, instead of attempting to replicate the service available online.

Customer experience is at the very core of the branch and is crucial to ensuring repeated visits and customer loyalty, but this alone will not ensure success. For branches to maintain longevity banks must focus on employee experience alongside customer experience, through integration of the technology available to both. Despite this, many banks appear to be focusing solely upon providing exemplary customer experience, when an equally high standard of employee experience from the devices and systems available to them will have considerable impact on branch success. A well-developed employee interface on par with the technology available to the customer, with improved navigation and greater agility, will permit employees to provide a faster, smoother service for customers in the branch.  The disparity between a customer’s technology focused experience in an innovative branch and the branch representative’s difficulty to provide a service that matches this due to their outdated, cumbersome systems creates a poor impression on the customer, as well as harming their impression of the brand. A stronger sense of brand is achieved for both customer and employee when all are equipped with the high quality screen experience customers are spoilt with. This attempt to standardize the experience could also be extended further to include contact centre screens, ensuring customers can receive the same impressive level of service when interacting with bank representatives outside of the branch.

Evidently, the value of engaging employees across all devices is not to be dismissed. The branch banking experience continues to remain a competitive banking channel due to the level of customer service available, unrivalled by online or mobile banking. This familiar banking avenue provides the invaluable experience of a personalized interaction, with the most comprehensive and detailed method of answering queries and offering relevant information. Yet if employees are struggling to offer this service while grappling with inefficient systems and user interfaces, the simplicity and attraction of this banking interaction is hindered. It is imperative employees are confident the quality of the technology and systems they access are of equal calibre to the customer experience innovative branches provide. No matter how appealing and inspired a modernized branch may appear, if the employee experience is inadequate and demoralizing, customer experience will never match the expectation the cutting-edge branch presents.

The virtue of focusing on customer experience and employee experience in unison is clear, yet few banks appear to be adopting this approach to optimising the branch banking process. While 93% of financial institutions acknowledge the primary aim of their digital strategy to be enhancement of customer experience and engagement, highlighting industry awareness of its importance, focus on employee experience alongside it is notably absent. If banks are not replicating this dedication to utilizing technology and digital developments for employee experience, neither employees nor customers can have faith in the bank’s commitment to providing a strong, enduring branch experience. Interwoven development of customer experience and employee experience is imperative for banks to be well equipped to tackle the digital challenges of today and the future, a focus that is a firm priority for Temenos products. Temenos know that without consistent employee engagement resulting from strong employee experience, customer experience will fail to reach its full potential, no matter how beguiling the technology available to customers may be. If both experiences are closely linked and developed alongside each other a more cohesive experience is created, enriching the seamless banking interaction today’s customers expect and reducing silo issues, crucial to maintaining branch success for as long as possible. With the value of this relationship being overlooked by such a large segment of the banking industry, Temenos are not guilty of this oversight, placing a firm focus on both employee and customer experience to provide each with a positive and engaging experience, serving as a shining example of why innovative branch banking remains relevant and beneficial to users worldwide.

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