The change? A shift in focus, from buying products to building relationships. The way people buy has changed. Today’s consumers want customization, not generalization.

The challenge? Matching the convenience of the on-demand economy, where consumers have instant access to infinite options, while providing the personalized connections and experience that brick and mortar locations offer.

The solution? Using your brick and mortar assets to differentiate your brand, engaging customers in fun ways that help them learn not just about the product, but what they can achieve and do with the product.

74% of consumers are more likely to buy a product when engaged in an appointment, event or class that features that product.

Together with Future Branches, Engageware recently hosted a webinar  on the role of the bank branch in developing meaningful relationships with customers. Brent Torre, Vice President of Product at Engageware spoke with webinar panelists Caitlin Drake, Vice President of Customer Experience at Busey BankM; Karen Serinis, Executive Vice President of Retail Banking and Corporate Marketing at Canandaigua National Bank and Trust; and Randy Bresee, Vice President of Member Experience at Rivermark Community Credit Union.

As Mr. Torre said in setting the stage for the webinar, “we need to recognize that we’re living in a different era.” While today’s consumers expect the convenience of online retail, they demand the experience and customer service provided by a physical location.

The webinar’s panelists discussed three key recommendations to meet these expectations and demands:

  • Customize your outreach based on the channels that your customers favor. Offering new customers outreach across several touchpoints will help establish communication, and smart brands recognize that the most convenient relationship possible will deepen loyalty and trust.

“We find that if in fact, customers are opening online, then they’re showing some favoritism for that particular channel. We like to then reach out to them in that same channel. However, in order to continue our relationship building and interaction, we do also reach out via phone.” – Serinis

“What we focus on during the first year that a customer with us is determining what is the magic amount of touches that they need. Our onboarding programs look very similar regardless of where the customer began with us. We allow the customer to let us know the right way to customize for them. Some folks do not want phone calls in this day and age of constant sales calls and would much prefer to connect via email or text message. We can build that into our customer data platform to understand the best way to reach them and when that would be.” – Drake

  • Highlight the importance of the physical branch location in building personal, one-to-one relationships that can carry over into omnichannel engagement.  Panelists emphasized the importance of the physical branch as a place where important resolutions result from face-to-face conversations. And the relationships created in the branch don’t have to stay in the branch – provide optimal customer service by using those relationships as a means to continue conversations online at times convenient to the customer.

“We also work on maintaining a physical presence with our member solution specialists; they’re available for members to interact with personally on those deep, need defining, solution providing conversations. These conversations are about developing a personal relationship. When we’re sitting down with those members and delving into how we can help them, we’re doing it in a private environment. We’re doing it in a privacy room that allows us to close doors and have those deep conversations. We find that members love that. We get a lot more interactivity from them, we get a lot more of their story and what they’re going through and the details that allow us to better serve them when we consult in a private environment like that.” – Bresee

  • Embrace the role of the branch as a center for educating customers on what is possible within a banking relationship while offering convenience on a transactional level through multiple digital options. Panelists agreed that the ability to linger and enjoy the type of environment that Starbucks offers combined with the support and online convenience of Amazon is the gold standard toward which all banks should work.

“We like to look across all industries and, specifically, we appreciate the work done within hospitality by boutique hotel firms. We admire their ability to deliver unparalleled experiences that customers remember for a long time. That’s really something that we aspire to do.”  – Drake

“We’re finding that about 25% of our total transactions are now being done outside the normal hours of our branch. People aren’t rushing in at five o’clock. Flexibility is now giving them more options, not only on a digital basis but in the Member Resource Center model as well.

‘The branch in our hands’ is our mission statement. We want to be the recognized champion who puts the branch in the member’s hands. This has been with us for quite some time. The whole idea is to allow members to interact with us at times that they want to, how they want to.” – Bresee

“It has to be a mix of two different sides of the coin. You need the Amazon experience that is highly digital, that meets members where they are, and adjusts to how they want to interact. By the same token, you still need that Starbucks piece where people are saying, ‘I would prefer to just come in and sit down, have a cup of coffee with you and just shoot the breeze with you.’ I think there has to be a combination of both. The challenge is to find out what’s that best balance between these two poles.” – Bresee

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