Retail banks are battling to remain relevant in an era of prolific and efficient online financial services. Among the challenges of this unprecedented competitive environment are two distinct shifts.
First, there is a paradox in customer expectations and actual habits. According to the Deloitte Center for Financial Services, 47% customers said that a branch near the home or office is a must-have when selecting a bank. But, customers are increasingly opting to bank online for most of their needs. According to PwC, 46% of customers are skipping trips to the retail branch and accessing banking services online – a 20% increase over the past five years.
Second, banks have had to deal with competition from direct banks, which offer their services exclusively online. Because they lack physical locations, these banks can compete for customers without the overhead costs that come with leasing/owning and operating a physical branch. While these banks still remain a small proportion of the overall market, they are growing rapidly. According to J.D. Power, deposits at these banks have increased by over 30% in the past three years.
Between conflicting customer expectations and new sources of competition, retail banks are struggling to define the in-person retail experience. The largest banks in the country are continuously updating their retail branch deployments with a mixture of closures and new openings. They are testing different store formats to see what works best across different customer expectations and needs.
Bringing High Tech and High Touch Together
Fortunately, there is a way for retail branches to navigate these pressures and retain their competitive advantage: by leveraging the same digital technologies that disrupted the industry in the first place. By harnessing mobile transformation to enable employees to work smarter, more efficiently, and with higher accuracy, bank branches can leverage mobile innovations to deliver the experiences customers want before they know they need them.
Emerging digital technologies – from wearable devices to the Internet of Things – aren’t just helping customers access banking services on their phones. They are part of a much larger an ecosystem – spanning hardware, software, solutions, support, and services – that improve how financial service professionals interact with their customers and get work done at the traditional, brick-and-mortar branch.
From the moment the customer walks in, to the moment they leave, these innovations are making banking smarter and providing customers with a more personalized, more productive, and more secure banking experience. Simultaneously, these tools also provide distinct and measurable outcomes that banks may optimize without costly real estate renovation projects.
The Digitally-Optimized Experience
What does this look like in practice? Let’s take a look at the digitally-optimized branch to see how these technologies are keeping retail banks competitive by enhancing in-person interactions and the overall customer experience.
When customers enter a digitally-optimized branch, they’re walking into mobile-first, immersive help centers. Upon arrival at the branch, customers can either walk up to a tablet-based kiosk or open the banking app on their phone to check-in and provide a reason for their visit.
They then head towards a couch, table, or another part of the comfortable waiting area, where they pick up a pre-loaded tablet that features exclusive, engaging content ranging from magazine articles to financial well-being advice and tips. The customer or member is no longer stuck reading boring pamphlets on the latest credit card or deposit offers.
While they wait, employees walking around the lobby can use customized mobile devices to help customers with relatively simple requests. With their tablets in hand, they can look up individual profiles and provide assistance on simple inquiries and application questions.
If a customer has a more complex request, like applying for a car loan, specialists at the branch will receive a notification on their wearable device. The next available specialist can then accept the request. As they look at the customer’s information to get a more detailed understanding of the customer’s background, the customer can receive updates on wait times and appointment details through push notifications on their phone and IoT-enabled digital signage throughout the branch.
When the specialist is ready, they can walk up to the customer, skip the initial introductory questions, and jump right into answering their specific questions and meeting their personal banking needs while saving the customer time.
The employee can either take the customer to a conference room and plug their tablet into a stationary dock or use IoT-enabled sensors to seamlessly project their screen onto a dynamic and immersive digital display. They can then use that information to discuss the customer’s financial situation, walk the customer through various documents, and answer any questions that they might have.
As they discuss options, the employee can use the camera on their smartphone to take photos of the customer’s license and capture any other relevant information. When they need the customer to sign documents, they can use the tablet to request their electronic signature, thus using the tools to drive towards a successful transaction.
Throughout the entire process, a solid security framework gives the customer peace of mind that their sensitive personal and financial data is secure. When they check in, the customer can use an iris scanner or another form of biometric authentication to verify their account.
During the meeting itself, robust security built into the mobile device’s hardware and software protects the information they access on them. Throughout the branch, cloud-based mobile device management can ensure that all of the devices on the bank’s IT network are updated and secure against the newest cybersecurity threats.
Seamless Optichannel Engagement is Key
Not every customer or member will use the same channels in the same order. The customer journey may begin on a smartphone or online, with the physical branch only used to ‘close the deal.’ In other situations, the branch may be used to answer questions and the consumer will purchase the new service online.
No matter how the customer journey flows, the key is to allow for seamless integration of channels … personalized for the consumer. By incorporating the latest digital innovations, bank branches will be prepared to navigate the competing pressures of today’s marketplaces. In the process, branches will remain part of an overarching experience that is better for employees and customers alike.
While the future will definitely involve fewer branches, this channel will be better equipped to meet the digital (and physical) requirements of the changing consumer bringing high touch and high tech together.