Getting customers to use more efficient channels can help a bank’s bottom line—but banks have to do it right. If they don’t, turned-off customers will likely seek a better financial partner to bolster their own bottom lines.
If that’s the case, how can banks and consumers come out on top? Stephen Griffin will detail how banks can successively navigate the challenges at BAI Beacon in Atlanta, which takes place Oct. 4th and 5th.
Griffin serves as senior vice president, retail distribution strategy and sales/staff analytics at Regions Bank in Birmingham, Ala. And at BAI Beacon, he’ll lead the presentation “Channel Migration: Choreographing the Right Pace and Sequencing.”
BAI caught up with Griffin to get an advance glimpse of the session’s highlights, as well as get his take on Gallup research about what can go wrong with channel migration—and how banks can overcome potential pitfalls.
BAI: What kinds of challenges do financial services organizations face in migrating customers to preferred lower cost channels?
Stephen Griffin: The industry is seeing customers actually start to desire using many different channels, including digital and branches. The strategy most follow is to provide opportunities to move low-value, quick transactions that customers want to handle in an expedited manner by use of digital channels. However, customers still desire to use branches and meet with branch associates when executing high-value transactions, such as mortgages, investments and account openings.
Challenges in this realm include heavy capital expenditures in infrastructure to support the transition. That includes enhanced mobile platforms; enhanced ATM and video ATM availability; new branches with more technology such as video conferencing, video ATMs, automated cash handling; and enhanced online platforms.
BAI: That sounds ambitious, but it can’t possibly happen overnight.
Griffin: Another challenge—as with any migration—is the time it takes. When you think back many years ago to the invention of the ATM, it took time for customers and bank associates to accept this technology. Customers need time and education around the products available to them: to get used to them and trust them to perform the way they need them to perform. Associates are becoming more universal in their job roles, which is changing the environment in the branch and creating more of an expertise element as opposed to just a service position. This requires associates to adapt and change to the new working environment, which also takes time.
BAI: What about the dynamics of transition?
Griffin: The experience of the changes for both the customer and the associates is another key element in transition. It starts with preparing associates with a clear understanding of the strategy and providing the education and tools they need to be completely successful in helping with customer education when dealing with migration. If the associate experience is positive and they are prepared, they can help educate in a way that makes the customer experience positive. There are many other aspects that play a role as well internally, including marketing and branding, management buy-in to carry the message downstream and the planning around the project.
BAI: According to Gallup research, when customers can’t use the channel they prefer for a banking transaction, they are less satisfied with their experience. How is customer satisfaction impacted when a consumer’s channel preference and actual channel use don’t match?
Griffin: Think about it from this standpoint: You want to just cash your check quickly and don’t want to wait in line, but your bank only does that via a teller line—and there is typically a wait time associated with that. It can be a negative customer experience and result in disengagement, especially when the competitor offers check cashing at the ATM or with a universal banker. It decreases your wait time and increases your satisfaction. Thus the customer is more engaged with the bank.
BAI: Gallup also recommended ways to lessen the chance of lowered customer satisfaction. Those include rewarding customers who use the bank's desired channel and providing a technology concierge.
Griffin: Providing these tools is vital in delivering a positive experience. A technology concierge is being implemented in most banks today and having someone that is a “champion of technology” is a great resource for both your associates and customers to rely on. This helps smooth the transition for both groups to create that seamless transition a lot of banks desire.
BAI: How can banks make sure their employees are armed with the tools and talent to address their customers’ biggest challenges?
Griffin: Associate education is a key to create the positive atmosphere during migration. Training tools have to be well thought out, informative and easy to understand for our associates. The technology itself has to keep up with the progress being made in the digital realm of retail.
If banks can equip and train their associates to both handle a deposit and a mortgage by using the technology available to them, this can create a seamless and positive customer experience.
BAI: How can financial services organizations ultimately ensure the transition happens smoothly?
Griffin: Timing is one of the most key elements here. Banks have to balance the need to move forward and take advantage of the technology and ideas that help us migrate transactions smoothly, but do it at a pace that does not alienate the customer.
Some organizations have gone really fast and realized they needed to pull back quickly and rethink the options, as customer feedback was less than positive. It’s about striking the proper balance of timeliness.
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Katie Kuehner-Hebert has more than two decades experience writing about retail and commercial banking products and services; payments systems: mergers and acquisitions; and security/fraud issues. She is based in Running Spring, Calif.