Financial institutions – both large and small – have one overarching goal in common: pleasing the customer. Indeed, when it comes to strategic priorities, nearly 75 percent of bank operators say the customer experience tops them all.
This priority should sound familiar to branch managers of all stripes; after all, the branch experience traditionally and historically has been built on serving the community and tailoring services to what customers need most. Yet – as has been the case in countless industries – even the time-honored best practices of warm, personalized service is being disrupted by innovations in technology, resulting in a sea change in what customers expect from their banks.
These days, almost two-thirds of account holders prefer to bank in digital format, in part since it expands access to service outside of traditional branch hours and offerings. Therefore, banks of all sizes need to be ready to offer a digital experience that broadens service and delivers financial solutions in ways customers crave.
But to do so at the exclusion of the more traditional in-person method would be a potentially costly mistake.
'Omnichannel' becomes 'Omnimoment'
That's the takeaway from what we're seeing in consumer behavior. For instance, even though 56 percent of banking customers prefer more of a digital relationship with their branches and financial institution facilities, these same respondents – nearly 40 percent of them – said they would only consider institutions that had brick-and-mortar branches.
This signals the move away from the much-bandied "omnichannel" experience into something CCW Digital calls "omnimoment" service. Given how digital transformation for branches has been lionized, their findings are almost shocking: While customers are comfortable and conversant with digital channels, they still prefer to talk to a person when they need service and support.
Why? CCW Digital doesn't mince words: Customers are not confident in service outcomes for digital interactions. Instead, 90 percent of those CCW Digital surveyed reported that they believe a phone call is the best way to see a resolution to an issue.
This underscores a critical roadmap for branches to cater to existing customers while expanding their customer base: Continue to offer the same high-level of customer service that has been a branch trademark for years while integrating the technology that customers expect and that will improve operations. In a few words, a branch must be "High-Tech" AND "High-Touch."
Outcomes vs. Channels
The reason high-tech/high-touch works that it puts service first, particularly when it comes to complicated solutions. As CCW Digital put it, "customers care more about outcomes than channels."
This is confirmed by a recent Samsung study revealing that 77 percent of consumers opt for face-to-face interactions with banking facilities when they need a product or service that calls for customization, such as certain lines of credit or seeking insight on recommended mortgage types.
Julie Godfrey, head of Samsung Electronics America financial services solutions and innovations division, said bank managers need to take a more balanced approach to woo and retain customers, where high-tech is complemented by high-touch.
"For the past several years, banks have been heavily invested in online and mobile technology, at the detriment of their branch experience," Godfrey warned. "These results underscore the importance of bank branch associates having the tools they need for a personalized consultative customer service engagement."
Where do you fit?
Jim Matera, head of consumer business at Apple Bank for Savings, said customers want their banks to be a multichannel outlet for financial services, while still prioritizing strong, high-touch service.
"We're trying to continue to update our technology," Matera explained. "But we are not moving to a fully self-service kind of model. At least not in the near future."
All this results in an opportunity for regional branches to embrace the new high-tech/high-touch paradigm and assert their place in the banking ecosystem. By taking what they already do well – personalized service – and complementing it with digital and in-branch automation offerings, retail branches can get the competitive edge on some of the biggest players in the financial world.
And they are compelled to act quickly, for even the big boys are taking notice of shifting consumer demands: In an attempt to deliver a more "high-touch" experience, J.P. Morgan Chase plans to expand its branch network, announcing earlier this year that it intends to build 400 new facilities throughout the U.S.
Regardless of your financial institution's size, high-quality service is what it's all about. At BranchServ, we set a higher standard of service, providing automation, security and technology that can provide the freedom your personnel needs to magnify their customer-driven efforts.