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Mobilizing the mobile future of branch banking: Self-service technology

Through this scenario, consider the impact technology is having on how consumers navigate something as routine as their daily lunch hour:

Before an executive even leaves her office, she preorders and pays for her favorite meal at a nearby quick-service restaurant via her mobile device—and bypasses the line to pick up her already prepared food. Before driving off, she then pre-orders her favorite drink at a nearby coffeeshop and again saves time. Perhaps she needs to pick up an item at a grocery store as well, where she can leverage the self-checkout option to speed her transaction. Everything is running smoothly … until she stops at her local bank branch to pick up a cashier’s check.

While retailers consistently use technology to redesign and improve the customer experience, why do bankers ignore the possibilities?

As our example above illustrates, mobile and self-service technology are transforming the way consumers—and Millennials in particular—go about their day-to-day activities. And since Millennials have now surpassed Baby Boomers as the largest generation in terms of sheer numbers, their behaviors and preferences must be considered in terms of how retail banks conduct business.  

Traditionally, bank branches have served as the epicenter for all things banking. And despite the growth of mobile and digital banking, the branch remains the number one sales and consumer channel. But consumers now actively seek more continuity between the digital and in-branch experience.

As an example, a study by Accenture found that 52 percent of bank customers would like to see interactive screens in their local branch. Millennials seek interactive technology because it accommodates their banking needs in a swift, efficient manner. With the migration toward digital, bank branches can benefit from integrating more interactive technology, such as self-service banking kiosks. This technology fulfills the expectations of their ever-increasing, digital-centric customer bases. But it also prepares them for the future of branch banking.

Self-service technology can effectively bridge the divide between the digital and branch banking environments. For example, utilizing the NFC-reader technology already embedded in mobile devices can automatically call up customers’ account information, along with any transactions waiting for approval, as the device enters an accessible range. Having their information and pre-ordered transactions ready creates a more efficient banking environment, while giving branch staff the opportunity to focus their attention on providing exceptional customer service and more effective cross-sell initiatives.

For bank branches, interactive technologies also provide an opportunity for bankers to reorganize their branch configuration and staffing needs. Implementing self-service kiosks with a small footprint allows banks to maximize customer experiences within the branch without adding constraints on limited floor space. Besides implementing interactive technologies in the branch, banks often find that adopting a universal banker model allows them to better streamline their resources to more effectively meet organizational and customer demand. Banks that utilize this model engage their bankers in multi-functional roles: Now they can answer questions, provide financial advice and demonstrate technology, for example.

Today’s bank customers are more independent and empowered than ever before. The inclusion of mobile technology has transformed the way they carry out their daily tasks—and has forever altered their expectation of bank service offerings. For years, industry pundits have predicted the imminent demise of the bank branch, citing a perceived lack of cost efficiency to justify its existence.

But the branch continues to be vital as it is central to processes such as cashier’s checks, money orders, mortgage loans and auto loans. Reuters recently wrote in its article “U.S. Banks Want to Cut Branches, but Customers Keep Coming,” “bank executives argue that branches remain crucial for acquiring new customers and doing more business with existing ones. Closures, they say, would hurt revenue more than help reduce costs.”

Even with the rise among online and mobile usage, customers still rely on branches for financial advice, account opening and more. By marrying the mobile digital experience with high-touch and engaging self-service technology in the branch, financial institutions stand to gain much in terms of customer satisfaction and organizational efficiencies.

Once the goal is realized, that last stop in the executive’s lunch hour run, once a tedious bank visit, will prove just as smooth and seamless as her first.

Suzi McNicholas is vice president of marketing at Source Technologies in Charlotte, N.C. She is responsible for the overall marketing strategy, including lead generation, branding and positioning initiatives.