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From branch to engagement center

Channel-integrated lobbies can provide a more unified experience for customers and a more effective business model for banks and credit unions.

Jun 3, 2022 / Consumer Banking
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The COVID-19 pandemic has presented financial institutions with an unparalleled opportunity to transform branches from walk-in, in-person sales and service locations to customer engagement centers. Banking leaders are being forced to break down organizational silos and reinvent what a branch is.

A growing number of financial institutions recognize the potential for the branch to be a customer engagement center—a location fully integrated with other channels and touch points to ensure a seamless customer experience.

In a customer engagement center, employees would engage with customers in multiple ways, including face to face, using video or chat, email, mobile app, or outgoing and incoming calls. And when not interacting with customers, branch employees would support the back office.

To begin this transformation journey, banks and credit unions will need to update their technology, their processes and the skills of branch employees by focusing on:

  • Integrating technology across branch, voice and digital channels.
  • Hiring multiskilled, multifaceted employees.
  • Deploying tools to monitor employee performance and customer interactions.
  • Adopting holistic programs focused on the effectiveness of how service is delivered to customers.

Banking institutions will need to invest in infrastructure to ensure the systems used by contact center and digital employees are also available to branch staff. Standardizing telephony and desktop tools should be nearer-term initiatives to support customer interactions.

Transforming the branch staff

Changing the role of the branch also requires changing the role of employees. To be successful in a customer engagement center, employees must be proficient with different types of customer interactions across different channels. They also need to be able to serve as effective brand ambassadors who can educate customers on digital channel capabilities while delivering excellent customer service.

Developing digitally savvy branch staff requires more investment in training so employees can develop new skills and stay current with the latest enterprise offerings. The diversity and complexity of the tasks branch employees will be expected to perform will require banks and credit unions to leverage technology to ensure success.

To collect necessary data, institutions will need tools for monitoring and measuring customer interactions and workflows for compliance, quality and sales effectiveness across the enterprise. These tools include call and face-to-face interaction recording, voice analytics driven by artificial intelligence, knowledge management, and desktop and process analytics.

Culturally, banks and credit unions will need to overcome apprehensions about monitoring face-to-face interactions in the same way that they monitor calls, because they can no longer afford to leave a sizable gap in how they manage employees and evaluate the customer experience. It’s just too much of a risk.

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Collecting feedback from customers

Direct and timely customer feedback on specific interactions is critical to transforming the branch into a customer engagement center. Financial institutions will need near-real-time feedback solutions so customers can evaluate their experience right after an interaction and staff can be alerted quickly to correct an adverse situation.

Transforming branches into customer engagement centers helps banking institutions expand their quality programs across the enterprise, ensuring consistency in the way employee performance and customer interaction success are measured.

Using common metrics to look horizontally across the organization will help executives better pinpoint any performance breakdowns and take the appropriate corrective action. Holding employees to common quality standards reinforces a uniform approach to delivering service and paves the way for ultimate flexibility—the ability to allocate resources based upon customer demand, regardless of channel.

Jackie Hudson is global vice president and general manager, branch workforce solutions, at Verint.

Learn how bank branches are evolving for the future in “Branch banking continues its radical evolution,” a BAI Executive Report.