The average bank branch is 25 years old, designed for a different era, and in-branch foot traffic is proving to be on a steady decline. As the channel evolves, bankers have gone through a long list of updates in order to maintain relevancy and efficiency. Ironically, it’s digital solutions that offer a universal key to a successful branch channel. As an industry, we have come to the conclusion that a mobile-first, consistent and clutter-free experience is best for our customers. Why wouldn’t the same hold true for our front-line employees?
Enterprise-wide mobile apps can convert tablet and smartphones into contemporary new banking channels that provide a more visual, interactive and efficient customer experience. Rather than being restricted behind four walls, native apps bring bankers out into the community. The space in which bankers conduct business is expanding significantly, regardless of a building’s square footage.
Tablet banking continues to grow in adoption but it has proven to be cumbersome in conducting a range of on-site personal banking operations. This is because the process is traditionally retrofit in that devices log into a remote system, which is just as complicated as the original teller framework and even harder to navigate on any mobile device. However, native apps can streamline the process to highlight customers’ most common needs, addressing up to 80% of front-line employee tasks in a simple “one-click” environment. In the case of requests that require more attention, customers can walk over to a specialist on a desktop PC in the branch, seamlessly transitioning from the app to an in-branch system.
Consider the training efficiencies that can be gained with a front-line interface that is as simple as navigating a social media app. Such apps are intentionally data sparse and user friendly – anyone with a smartphone is familiar with how to use them. Both the ease of training and ease of use empowers employees, rather than inundating them with learning all of a product’s bells and whistles.
The benefits also extend into acquisitions and new systems. Oftentimes, newly acquired staff is judged based on a system that they don’t know, which creates an unfair and unsatisfying work environment. Furthermore, an antiquated and complicated Information Technology (IT) environment can drive away good talent (just as an advanced IT environment can attract talent). Banks that leverage native apps can help improve culture and retain acquired talent by getting new employees up to speed more quickly, enabling them to better interact with customers and thereby have more satisfaction at their workplace.
The simplicity of the user experience also enables employees to intuitively manage a broader set of services; it creates universal bankers that can manage all of the common requests from retail and business customers. This redefines branching as we know it. For example, while visiting a business client’s office, a service representative can use the app to immediately answer questions and perform maintenance on an account. Or, imagine a bank event at a college campus or community fair; representatives should be able to grant potential customers instant service, such as fulfillment of checking, savings or other services on-site and within minutes. This is the type of instant gratification that customers will come to expect in a mobile-first society. The banks that are planning for this will have a competitive edge in new client (and business) acquisition. It’s next-level customer service.
In-person banking is not dead, nor is it going to be replaced by self-service; it’s just leveraging proven digital services to move from behind the brick and mortar walls out into the community. With compliance now a large cost of doing business and continued regulatory pressure on fee income, efficiently run delivery channels are a necessity. As most banks are beginning to see a shift in new customer and account acquisition through electronic channels, the adoption of a truly mobile-first branch structure can position an institution as a community leader, not only in its branch, but in business offices, at county fairs and on college campuses.
Ms. Murphy is a solution specialists manager with Jack Henry Banking, a division of Monett, Mo.-based Jack Henry & Associates. She can be reached at SjMurphy@jackhenry.com.