Letting the customer pick time and place

Making appointments at banks, which exploded during the pandemic, is evolving to meet a growing demand for certainty and convenience.

Digital banking has acclimated the typical customer to speed and convenience, and it has also reduced the necessity for branch visits. But on those occasions when it makes sense to go to a physical location, customers still want both speed and convenience.

These expectations have customers increasingly embracing in-branch appointments with bankers as a way to ensure that they make the most of their time. And the growth in appointments goes beyond in-person interactions—customers are also reserving slots for phone and video chats with their bankers.

UKG has been conducting studies on appointment-setting trends in the financial services space since 2017. BAI recently spoke to Matt Hertel, financial services industry principal at UKG, about the latest iteration of the study, which largely focuses on the evolution of appointments and their underlying technology.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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BAI: At a high level, what were some of the key findings from the study, and did any of those findings come as a surprise?

Matt Hertel: Probably the greatest takeaway from the study was just how much customers have taken to appointment technology. We saw more than a 1,000% increase in usage in the last year. If there was a surprise, it would be in the area of virtual meetings. Before the pandemic, I can’t say we had a lot of non-face-to-face usage, but because of COVID-19, we have just seen an explosion in the virtual realm.

Before the pandemic, when you were thinking about appointment setting as a product, what was the original problem you were trying to solve?

The whole idea was to automate the meeting process and let the customer pick the time and location that worked for them, and that provided the bank with the opportunity to meet their needs. Ten years ago, this type of technology was really forward-thinking. What we were trying to solve with this technology was to simplify the process and to make sure that the customer’s needs get met with the right resource the first time.

How should we be thinking about appointment setting in the broader framework of transforming branches?

Virtual meetings are replacing a lot of the face-to-face traffic that we have had in banking over the years. Younger consumers find even less reason to go into the branches, so when they do, we really need to make sure we maximize that opportunity because we don’t know when they’re coming back. That might be our one and only shot to deliver all the impact and products and services that we can to try to gain their wallet share.

Whenever there’s an appointment system in place, there are also last-minute cancellations and no-shows. How much of an issue is this for banking appointments?

In our previous study, in 2019, we found that the no-show rate was around 4%. By comparison, in this latest study, the overall no-show rate was just over 10%. The no-show rate was highest for appointments scheduled in the morning, especially before 10 a.m., and the lowest for appointments after 2 p.m. So, knowing that higher no-show rates are in the morning, banks and credit unions might consider scheduling more heavily in the afternoon.

Where is the front edge of this approach to customer service, and where do you see it going in the years ahead that could make it even more impactful?

Young consumers have service expectations that need to be met even though they are not coming in to the branches much. We need to let these next-generation customers tell us what they need, and we need to meet those needs. Virtual and phone meetings may be where that front edge is—no longer just one-on-one meetings with a prospect or a customer, but one-to-many, where one banker presents to groups of first-time homebuyers or wealth management prospects. In any case, this technology is going to continue to evolve for a high volume of customers.

Terry Badger, CFA, is the managing editor at BAI.

Find valuable insights for banks and credit unions as they adapt their customer-service strategy across ever-evolving channels in the BAI Executive Report, “Changing priorities in bank customer service”