By Richard Broadbent, VP Software UK/I, Diebold Nixdorf
As digitisation trends transform nearly all aspects of modern banking, banks are having to rethink how they interact with their customers at every step in the banking journey. Creating positive customer experiences is now high on the agenda for banks under pressure to reinvent how they operate. This requires a shift from a transactional mindset to one that truly puts the customer first.
A recent Digital Banking Report concluded that the objective of delivering a positive customer experience has been secondary to other bank priorities in recent years. It says that “for financial organisations to change this dynamic, and meet the evolving needs of today’s customers, there must be a move from cost reduction to customer experience enhancement.”
Whilst this is clearly starting to happen, there is now widespread recognition that to remain relevant, the bank branch network must also transform. This is reflected in our own study[i], which explored the expectations of banking customers across the UK. The solution for banks – as the research suggests – lies in innovative branch formats and technology investments, which customers believe will help build closer relationships between them and their banks by facilitating new in-branch customer journeys.
Re-assessing core customer journeys
Our study found that whilst many customers use online and mobile banking channels, almost two-thirds of people (64%) still value the fact that they can visit a physical branch, and a similar number (63%) feel that it’s important that there will always be bank branch staff to speak with on financial matters. This suggests that integrated journeys remain an important priority for customers, giving them the opportunity to have precious face-to-face time with banking staff, particularly when seeking advice from experts.
A key part of the process of putting the customer first in branch is deciding how to make branches relevant. Our research sheds light on how banks can make this happen, proving that the layout and format of the branch itself is key to meeting customer satisfaction requirements. Half (54%) of the survey respondents, for example, agreed that it’s important to have a bank with a layout and design that makes their visit simple and convenient. In addition, over half of the people we surveyed (57%) wanted longer branch opening hours that fit with their schedule and 54 per cent agreed that having new smaller concept branches in convenient locations such as shopping centres would improve their overall experience as a customer.
Some financial institutions are already working on changing their branch networks to meet these needs, experimenting with new branch formats in sites such as train stations and business parks, depending on customer demographics. The location, according to our research, gives banks the potential to reposition their brands by offering a variety of branch formats. This does not suggest that banks should move away from large flagship entities in high footfall locations, but should complement them by introducing others such as pop-up branches which focus on convenience.
However location alone is not enough and any new branch also needs to seamlessly operate alongside a banks other channels. This will not only make the customer journey more integrated than it is today but also gives banks the opportunity to create a more consistent, personalised service, connecting channels more intelligently.
Addressing key customer pain points
Taking a customer-centric approach, requires banks to be aware of common customer pain points and put measures in place to tackle them. Waiting times either for a self-service system or a member of staff still have the biggest negative impact on net promoter scores. This problem has been highlighted in another recent study, that identified that whilst the average queue length in a branch is four people, in the busiest 20% of branches, queues average 12 people with wait times over 10 minutes.
Better use and application of technology is therefore critically important in addressing this particular customer pain point. Enabling people to perform an increasingly wide range of self-service tasks, like depositing money, can reduce queue times and free up staff to deal with more personalised customer requests. Our study found that many people are extremely positive about the potential impact of new technologies, with 51 per cent agreeing that it will help them conduct transactions more quickly in a bank branch, making them feel more satisfied as a customer.
Indeed, consumers are positive about embracing self-service technology as part of their in-branch experience, finding it easy and convenient to use. Nearly eight-in-ten people (79%) agree that technology will play an increasingly important role in bank branches in the future. Customers also recognise the security value in new technology, with half of respondents (50%) believing that innovations such as thumb print recognition, voice recognition or retinal scanning will make them feel more secure.
However balancing transaction migration to self-service with availability of staff remains critical. This gives customers the choice of personal engagement as well as self-service. After all, while technology is seen as an enabler for multiple transactions, 62% of people also wanted to have members of staff available to discuss financial matters.
Identifying new opportunities to engage
Financial institutions have a perfect opportunity to utilise the data they hold on customers and digital transformation to boost the customer experience. This requires having an open mind about new technology investments, which are regularly proven as being key to unlocking new levels of customer engagement.
Failure to respond to customer demands and changes in habits could potentially mean losing out to competitors who choose to put customer needs at the heart of their strategies. In-branch technology has an important role to play here, and it’s clear that consumers are increasingly comfortable and confident with it. We look forward to seeing more banks continue to innovate, and embrace new forms of technology, to truly put their customers first.
 On behalf of Diebold Nixdorf, Arlington Research questioned 1,000 UK adults that hold a current account with a bank with branches in the UK. Research was conducted in May 2017.