Improving the Bank Branch Experience With Real-Time Insights

To improve the in-branch experience, it is vital to have measurement and monitoring tools in place that can provide real-time insights into customers' priorities and preferences.

There are still customers of banks and members of credit unions who visit the branch office. For a variety of reasons, these bricks and mortar visitors favor personal over automated service. For these consumers, what is the best technology that can be used to immediately assess and optimize the quality of the face-to-face experience?

Lobby-tracking software provides an effective queuing mechanism and facilitates more personal and efficient service. The new technology can also measure wait and assist times so managers can improve scheduling over the long term and respond in real time when lines begin to form in the lobby. Finally, new kiosk tools can provide an engaging and immediate means of measuring members’ assessment of the service they’ve received.

Improving the Queue

Members of Digital Federal Credit Union encounter a kiosk when they enter a branch lobby where they can sign in with their name and request a specific service. The Marlborough, Massachusetts, credit union installed lobby tracking software to deal with several member service challenges. “We wanted to have a better way to identify who’s next in line for service and be able to quantify wait and assist times which improved training and coaching,” says Regional Branch Manager Michael Caissey.

This technology improved service efficiency and quality in several ways. “Tellers and member service representatives really love the system because they can see which members are waiting and for what purpose,” Caissey says.

Tellers can help members with an address change or other simple requests so they don’t have to wait for service from a service rep. Tellers can also pass notes along to service reps about conversations they had with members while they’re waiting, such as, “She’s here for a car loan, and we also talked about a Visa card, too.” The technology also enables staff to address members by name and know in advance what service they’ve requested.

Managers have embraced the robust reporting and coaching tools afforded by lobby tracking software. Managers can monitor wait time and put additional staff on the front line when long queues form. It also allows them to increase scheduling around high-demand periods, and to work with employees whose assist times are running longer than average.

In the end, the technology not only impacts wait times, but provides measurement tools for ongoing improvement.

Service Quality From Dual Perspectives

Managers at ELGA Credit Union’s eight branches also have a clear view of service quality — from stats on how long customers are waiting for service and how long each transaction takes, to direct member feedback provided with a single click of a button in the branch lobby.

The Burton, Michigan based credit union relies on staff scheduling software for managing teller schedules and tracking time spent conducting transactions, interacting with members, and “waiting for work.”

“Monthly performance reports tell us what are peak times are, how we compare to last year in volume, and how centers are doing in terms of transaction times. That’s broken down by branch — what we call ‘Teller Processing Hours,'” explains Kathleen Smith, Vice President of Branch Experience. “We can track and analyze front line labor costs and cost per transaction with comparisons to the same time the previous year.”

The analysis facilitates smarter scheduling, the use of part-time employees at peak times, and the assignment of associates to handle outbound sales calls during down time, Smith notes. The scheduling system measures full-time employees’ net difference between optimal versus actual transaction volume, branch labor costs and productivity, and cost per transaction.

On the flip side of those behind-the-scenes metrics, ELGA Credit Union also tracks customers’ perceptions of service by deploying service kiosks in its branches and administrative office. This feedback system, which invites members to click a range of happy, neutral, or sad face icons, has been popular with members, generating at least 4,000 responses each month, averaging in the 94% happy range for branch service, Smith says.

“That’s not good enough for us, but we’re continually looking at member responses for ways to improve service,” she adds.

Employees in every branch and department get together for a regular brief morning meeting, in which branch managers typically review the service kiosk ratings from the previous day. This immediate feedback makes it much easier to identify the source of service lapses than a monthly survey.

Conversely, branch teams look at days where they get 100% and try to apply the learnings to days where they didn’t get as high of a rating. This allows the teams to look at what they’re doing well and what they can improve on.

“When members leave happy, they’re going to hit that on the machine, but they’ll also let you know when they didn’t have a good experience,” Smith says.

ELGA managers can compare data from teller scheduling software with their service kiosk ratings to identify when negative ratings might be tied to busy periods at a branch that extended wait times and assess whether scheduling changes are needed.

Better Tracking, Better Service

Technology tools like lobby tracking software and the feedback kiosks — especially when used in tandem — offer the potential to monitor and improve the customer experiences and to quickly identify and correct service problems, suggests Ed Gundrum, co-founder and CEO of Doubleport, which markets the feedback kiosk hardware and software.

“The output from both of these applications can guide service improvements and help better measure results,” Gundrum says. “Financial institutions using feedback kiosks report a 3 to 5 percent increase in customer satisfaction. That may not seem like a lot until you realize it represents, on average, 110 unique visits per month transitioning from unhappy to happy customers. That could translate into a significant increase in positive social media – and head off customers storming out and taking that new car loan business down to the bank around the corner.”

Gundrum offers the example of a credit union that noticed its service kiosk scores at a branch dipped between 2 and 4 p.m. the previous day. By sharing those results with staff and checking data from lobby tracker software, managers found that lines formed and wait time lengthened beyond acceptable limits.

By combining specific customer feedback with lobby tracker data over time, the credit union can more effectively measure how much members value prompt personal service and how to improve scheduling to cover busy times and avoid down time when branches are overstaffed during periods of low demand.

These new technology tools can supplement or even replace traditional means of assessing customer satisfaction such as surveys that might get low response rates and secret shoppers who may not be so secret after all. “Tellers can tell when they’re being secret-shopped,” he contends. “We’re keen on having financial institutions look at new solutions for old problems and deploy new technology to improve the service they offer.”

Ultimately, customer-facing and behind-the-scenes technology can provide complementary views of the customer experience, “and that’s what it’s all about,” Smith says. “How is the customer or member feeling? What does high-quality service look like? If the wait is too long or associates are talking with each other about where they’re going for dinner that night, that’s not a good experience for customers. Those are the things we want to know.”

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