Customers are tired of waiting and need banks to speed things up - now.

‘Tis the season for waiting: How banks can speed things up

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The holidays are here, and as the legendary Alvin and the Chipmunks trio harmonize, it's time for joy and time for cheer. That said, as Dec. 25th draws closer and you're scrambling for this year's "it" gifts, season's greetings can sometimes feel like season's "waitings." And waiting can in turn translate to frustration.

Everyone has places to be and things to see in the month of December, and the last thing anyone wants to do is to wait and wait and WAIT for lines to clear so they can buy merchandise. This universal truism is undoubtedly a leading reason why online shopping is so popular. Indeed, with a point here and a click there, most people appreciate the convenience of shopping from the comfort of home or office.

But e-commerce isn't always possible, or even desirable. Therefore, most Americans do a bit of both – shopping online and in-store. The same goes for banking. The balance of digital versus in-branch needs is individual.

"There's a fairly even split among customers who prefer in-branch only versus exclusively online."

That's one of the main takeaways from a newly released report done by JRNI, which details Americans' banking habits both in branch and via the internet. Almost across the board – for tasks like opening a new checking or savings account, meeting with a financial planner and applying for a loan – there's a fairly even split among customers who prefer in-branch only versus exclusively online. For example, 24% of respondents said they usually open accounts exclusively by phone or online, versus 19% who rely on the branch. The same was true for general account management (24% mainly or only in-branch to 29% exclusively online). The balance do a little bit of both.

Lines are too long and slow-moving
When it comes to tasks that require being live and in person – such as cashing checks or using ATMs – it can sometimes be hurry up and wait. No matter what the season, this is not ideal for financial institutions, and the reputations for efficiency they seek to uphold. So what is creating the back-up? Respondents displeased with wait times from the U.K. and the U.S. cited slow-moving lines (51% to 37%, respectively). A similarly high percentage pointed to poor staffing as the root issue (30% to 20%).

Another sticking point? Transactions: they're far too protracted. Roughly 12% of U.S. banking customers said they seemed to last longer than was necessary.

Given these realities, it is little wonder why online banking continues to gain ground. Balances can be checked and checks deposited with a few finger swipes, keystrokes or mouse clicks.

In-branch banking is and will remain a major channel
The problem is not everyone wants all their transactions done remotely. There's something nice and authentic about actually going to branch locations and being waited on. Several studies show that face-to-face interaction remains a preferred method of consumer banking. Nevertheless, the speed and immediacy of banking online has fundamentally altered the industry playing field, as consumers have come to expect that transactions done in person be nearly as speedy.

Indeed, in a separate report conducted by Accenture that polled 25,000 consumers in 33 countries, more than two-thirds said speed of service was something they automatically presumed they'd receive.

If there's anything banks could do to improve the in-branch experience, less waiting would top customers' wish lists, cited by 74% of U.S. respondents in the analysis done by JRNI. 

Is it therefore any wonder why branch transformation has become something of a buzz phrase as of late? Whether it's by combining digital with the physical – "phygital," as some are calling it – or through open layouts, banks and credit unions are adjusting as quickly as possible to accommodate consumer habits and improve the overall banking experience.

Let's get 'phygital'
The process often involves making modifications with their ATMs by upgrading to Windows 10 software or by upgrading self-service technology to advanced terminals and ITMs. Why? Because in many ways, ATMs are the very embodiment of "phygital," noted Mike Lee, ATM Industry Association CEO.

"ATMs provide a bridge between the physical and the digital world and the bank's customers," Lee told ATM Marketplace. "That physical presence offers customers a human-centric experience when they have complex questions about products and investments."

Open concept banking is an excellent complement to technology and has proven effective for financial entities by minimizing line formation and enabling customers to be seen in a more casual manner – without sacrificing speed. 

While you may not be able to get rid of lines entirely, BranchServ can provide you with the tools, strategies, recommendations and equipment you need to make your customers' in-branch experience more enjoyable and complementary to your digital strategy. Please contact us today to see why branch transformation is the gift that keeps on giving.