How the Appointment Economy Is Changing the Retail Banking Experience

Financial institution leaders are reimagining the role of their branch networks as consumer use of digital banking continues to rise. They are looking for new ways to drive business growth and create a seamless experience between branch and digital.

The current environment has pushed banks and credit unions to reassess the purposes of their branch networks, and identify new ways to expand the value and accessibility of their branches to drive business growth. At the same time, consumers are increasingly expecting a seamless experience when switching between the convenient digital tools they use every day and the branch environment they trust for their most important financial matters.

This is driving a two-prong effort. First, financial institutions are focusing on expanding the capabilities and capacities of existing branches. Second, they are focusing on the “appointment economy,” the shift to appointment-based customer engagement models to capture more clients and bring in more revenue.

A joint Coconut Software and WBR research team surveyed banking leaders to gain a clear picture of how high-level decision making is shaping the branch networks of today and tomorrow. The study found that more than half of the respondents (53%) claim that improving synergies between digital and in-branch customer experiences is a formal part of their strategy for business growth. Accordingly, most banks and credit unions are either already using lobby management (37%), remote video conferencing (36%), appointment scheduling (35%), and in-branch analytics (33%) technologies, or these are each major priorities for one or more of their physical branches.

Branches will always be important to clients. Major financial decisions like mortgages and other types of loans will always benefit from having a human involved. Research has shown that 84% of banking customers want access to a live person to discuss banking needs, and the same percentage expect that they will expect to need the same five years from now.

In each case, banks are using online capabilities to connect remote customers with branch personnel and improving in-branch technologies to meet customer preferences. This indicates that bank and credit union leaders are reimagining the purpose of the bank branch, treating it less like a retail outlet and more like a hub for financial activity.

Welcome to the Appointment Economy

While moving towards a post-pandemic world, many banks and credit unions are likely to adopt a growth model that is centered on adapting to new consumer behaviors and embracing the future of customer relations. Branches will likely focus on human experiences, where physical environments will evolve to prioritize value-adding person-to-person interactions. In fact, 50% of banking customers are specifically looking for a seamless mix of physical and digital services.

As current market trends shift to appointment-only experiences for customers, the best way for financial institutions to provide a cohesive in-branch experience is by implementing an omni-channel appointment scheduling solution. This is a key element of the appointment economy, and a trend which will be sure to continue as the current market expectations evolve.

The appointment economy is made up of two key factors:

  1. Self-serve online appointment scheduling.
  2. Self-serve lobby queue management.

By implementing these two concepts, financial institutions will be able to stay ahead of customer demand and adapt to sudden shifts in behavior.

Self-Serve Online Appointment Scheduling

72% of customers state that the ability to preschedule appointments online would help increase convenience. Other anticipated benefits include ensuring that consumers meet with a knowledgeable associate and that their needs are properly addressed. Yet just 23% say that such capability exists in their own bank or credit union today. Implementing online appointment scheduling software can improve operational efficiency online and in-branch by managing multiple locations, staff, and services on a single, easy to navigate platform — all in real time.

It’s not just scheduling an appointment in-branch that makes a major difference in customer experience. Using online capabilities to connect remote customers to branches themselves is perhaps one of the most promising strategies. In the past, remote banking customers would have to rely on phone calls, and in some cases a hotline, when they couldn’t physically reach a bank. Empowering a branch with online conferencing capabilities allows the branch to bring the bank or credit union directly into customers’ homes. Similarly, improving in-branch technologies can work to meet a variety of customer preferences.

Self-Serve In-Branch

To provide a coherent digital-physical experience, many financial institutions will be focusing on how best to serve customers by disrupting the local banking environment with technology.

“Whether the business is ready or not, your customers are ready to start booking appointments online. Don’t wait to implement appointment scheduling — do it immediately!”
— Shara Abrams, Jackson Hewitt

Customers want the flexibility to manage their own banking experience. So it’s unsurprising that 71% say access to self-service tools in the branch are important in their physical banking experience.

This includes ATMs, but also other self-service options like lobby kiosks using tablets to provide information — both of which work well for transactions and information but tend to underperform in sales.

Rather than attempting to replace sales staff with self-service kiosks, higher success can come from utilizing kiosks as a method for walk-in and prescheduled customers to skip the queue and get face time with staff faster.

Considering that the second highest-rated attribute of the branch is accessibility of staff (61%), this strategy is directly in line with customer priorities.

Most importantly, this strategy can help to shift the focus of branch employees from answering routine questions and booking appointments to making sales, as they are given more time to engage in higher quality conversations with customers about their financial goals.

The Customer Experience Has Evolved

Financial institutions have long had a more personal relationship with their customers than many other types of retail establishments. Banks and credit unions often work alongside their customers and members to help them accomplish important life milestones, like purchasing a home, going into retirement, or setting up a college savings account for a child.

With market trends as volatile as ever, investment into the appointment economy will be a key growth factor for financial institutions looking to focus on how to best serve their customers. While it’s clear that the role of the physical branch in the current customer journey is changing, banks and credit unions can still utilize the branch as growth centers.

The challenge financial institutions face now is deciding how to adapt to the emergence of the appointment economy, and the need for scheduled appointments to meet the demand of next-generation banking customers. No matter what, the omni-channel appointment experience — online and in-branch — will take precedence for banks that intend to grow.

About Coconut Software
Coconut Software is a customer engagement platform that provides increased workforce efficiency and growth from every interaction. To learn how Coconut’s solutions consistently increase satisfaction scores, decrease churn, and strengthen customer acquisition, visit www.coconutsoftware.com.

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