Branch transformation is at the forefront of retail banking efforts and it’s estimated that U.S. banks spent nearly $10 billion in 2018 to make these digital and in-branch conversions. Though much is happening behind the scenes, customer-facing technology enhancements and resource planning adjustments are the biggest changes that customers are likely to notice.
Most notably, the shift in staffing away from tellers while adding more universal bankers can be seen the moment clients walk through the door. Now, a cross-trained banking generalist armed with a tablet greets customers and takes care of most issues, from handling basic transactions to opening bank accounts. The aim is to serve clients more quickly with a personal touch instead of having them wait in line to see a teller, only to handed off to someone else if they need more formal assistance.
From a business perspective, universal bankers are a way to address staffing requirements with employees who can shift between branches and tasks that were previously handled by multiple specialists siloed by task or client category.
In theory, the trend towards generalists ticks off many of the boxes when it comes to more dynamic staffing needs and future-proofing the bank experience. However, not all banking needs are created equal, and branches understand that a successful operation requires the right mix of specialists in the staffing mix, especially as it relates to more complicated loan and mortgage process.
To help balance changing customer needs, business operations, ideal staffing ratios of universal bankers and specialists, and overall branch success, smart scheduling is an important tool in the branch toolkit. Here’s why.
Staffing matters for clients and employees
Even as bank branches adjust for changing demands, it’s well-established that in-person experiences matter when it comes to banking. Even early-adopter app users and Millennials prefer in-branch experiences for select banking needs. Transactions such as deposits or monthly payments are easily automated or taken care of through apps. When it comes to more complex needs, the personal connection still matters across all age groups. According to Engageware’s comprehensive research What Buyers Want: The State of the B2C Buyer Experience, 92 percent of buyers looking for financial services, and 87 percent looking for banking products, strongly endorse the importance of live meetings and appointments.
When customers come into a branch, they want to talk to people, and they don’t want to wait. The opportunity to schedule appointments directly from a branch’s website, Google search results page, or when on the phone with a customer service representative is an easy step that adds a personalized touch while allowing customers to do business at the time that is convenient for them.
It also improves employee and managerial experiences. Managers can better schedule resources where they are needed, and employees have better visibility into the demands of the day, helping them to approach customers with greater background information and confidence.
Specialists remain vital for high-value relationships
For more complex banking products like loans and mortgages, specialists are key to providing accurate information and meeting regulatory requirements. They are also key to fostering the personal relationship that turns first-time customers into loyal supporters and net promoters.
In the new era of banking, mortgage and loan leads may come directly from online marketing offers, through applications on the website, or through the universal bankers who are often the first point of contact who make in-branch visits.
Appointment scheduling lets customers make an appointment based on their needs, and then routes the request to the bank to identify specialists who have the best skill set to handle the process. It also enables banks to staff specialists accordingly, moving them between branches to meet with customers at optimized times and locations. This utilizes specialist time more effectively and gives customers exactly what they want and a time that fits their schedule.
It also provides a seamless experience for the customer. Whether the client comes directly from a web form or has met with an in-branch universal banker first, they’ll arrive at their loan appointment and meet with the lending provider who already has much of the initial paperwork ready and is prepared to ask the right questions and advise on next steps. Having access to the right information that comes via the appointment request, also helps the lender create valuable cross-selling opportunities during the meeting.
Pitfalls are easier to avoid in busy branches
Technology is helping retail banks ease staffing crunches and meet fiscal goals, but it also needs to compliment the customer experience instead of taking away from personalization efforts. For branches that experience high walk-in volumes, they can best achieve both goals with an in-branch queue management system.
Like other retail operations, traffic and specific transaction needs vary by time of day and location. Universal banker may see more than a dozen clients an hour, and it’s easy to lose track of who needs what and when. Those high-volume branches who are typically staffed with a mix of generalists and specialists can use on-the-spot scheduling to quickly match walk-in customers with the employee who is most knowledgeable and available at that moment. Which means customers and employees benefit.