As branches continue to transition from transaction factories into sales and service centers, banks and credit unions face big questions about their brick-and-mortar service delivery. But if there is one lesson financial marketers learned through The Great Recession, it’s about the importance of optimizing front-line resources to make branches as efficient and profitable as possible. There’s no (financial) margin for error.
It’s become increasingly important to both financial institutions and their customers that banking services be delivered faster, more simply and with greater convenience. Consumers — particularly Millennials — don’t like waiting in line for a teller or to speak with a service rep.
Financial institutions are also having to address consumers’ changing retail expectations, which are being reset by companies like Sprint that allow people to schedule store appointments via the web, and Starbucks who lets customers order coffee via their mobile devices before they get to the store — just stop in, pick up your drink, and go.
Mobile appointment scheduling tools are helping banks and credit unions address these retail challenges. These automated solutions let accountholders use nearly any internet-connected device to schedule branch appointments through their institution’s website or mobile app. This modernizes how consumers engage with branches, optimizing the allocation of staff and resources while giving your brand a tech-savvy image.
Addressing Consumer Needs, Meeting Expectation
Mobile appointment scheduling tools allow financial institutions like Star One Credit Union in Sunnyvale, California ($7.8 billion, 94,000 members) to optimize their pool of talent — knowing each employee’s skill set and availability, making it much easier to pair prospective customers with the right staff and at the right time.
After working with a mobile appointment booking tool solution after little more than a month, Sandra Moix, VP of Branch Services at Star One, said that members had been actively scheduling branch appointments via their mobile devices.
“Not only are we improving our service, we are satisfying members’ needs,” Moix explains. “We are listening to them and giving them what they are asking for — greater ease and convenience.”
The main goal at Star One for the mobile scheduling app was to provide better overall service, but the credit union’s leadership also wanted to specifically know what type of appointments members were most interested in. From an operational perspective, the credit union was looking to more accurately align staffing levels with member demand, particularly since the amount of space available in branches had become a major focus — Who are the right people that should staff a branch with a smaller footprint?
Since Star One began using the banking by appointment solution, the credit union discovered that members have been using the service primarily to discuss loans — 70% of meetings booked through the system have been for mortgages and other consumer loans.
Tracking Branch Behaviors to Tighten Marketing, Staffing Strategies
Tracking branch-based activities and evaluating customers’ patterns of behavior becomes much easier with an appointment scheduling solution — one that collects inbound data on the front end vs. relying on paper-based documentation that may (or may not be) accurately completed by branch staff after customer interactions have occurred. This inbound data can arm the financial institution with powerful insights that help them analyze trends in accountholders’ needs, guiding decisions about both marketing and staff scheduling.
Star One says the gains have been significant. As Branch Manager Mike Kamienski points out, appointment reports that are automatically generated have helped the credit union tighten its HR and marketing strategies, so the they aren’t just optimizing the way frontline employees’ time is allocated, it saves time at the managerial level as well.
“Before we implemented online appointment scheduling, arranging meetings between members and staff was very hands-on and labor-intensive,” Kamienski explains. “The entire process was built around a contact form that would be routed manually to the designated branch, eventually finding its way to a service rep who would contact the member to set up an appointment. Then branch managers had to manually collate and digest these requests. We had to approximate how many appointments we would make in a day, week or month.”
Overall, Star One says the solution has been a big hit with members, especially on busy days. When a branch gets crowded or there are too many people waiting in line, staffers can approach members and offer the mobile appointment booking tool as an alternative — “Would you like to set up a meeting for sometime tomorrow instead of waiting?”
Footprints are shrinking and branches are smaller. A number of locations are closing altogether. And financial institutions are trimming the number of staff working in those that remain. To consumers, this could easily look like a reduction in service — particularly if they have to stand around waiting for help. But as banks and credit unions across the country continue to redefine and reconfigure their branches, mobile appointment booking solutions could play a big role. These tools can help balance everyone’s needs — the CFO who wants to maximize ROA, the COO who wants to deliver the right branch experience, and the consumer who just wants to talk with someone about a new home loan.
W. Michael Scott is President and CEO of FMSI, based in Alpharetta, Georgia. FMSI provides business intelligence and performance management systems that facilitate efficient staff scheduling and systematic lobby management of the branch.