A few years back a friend of mine literally inherited the family silver. Intrigued as to its value, he took it along to a well-known auction house in London. There he met the company’s silver expert who examined each piece in detail and after considering age, origin and condition was able to attach a value to each item. Though disappointed by the final amount (Sheffield plate being somewhat less valuable than the real thing) he was highly impressed by the breadth and depth of knowledge of the valuer and had nothing but praise for the auction house. His own words were ‘It was a privilege to meet someone with so much knowledge about his subject’. I can understand what he meant. I too have an interest in all things old and occasionally visit country antique fairs. Sometimes the dealers are knowledgeable, but in other cases they can tell you very little about the object they are trying to sell. Though you can get lucky I’m no expert and would prefer to buy an article from someone who can tell me something of its history.
Surely the same is true for retail banking products, If I want to purchase a financial product at my branch, whether it’s a mortgage, an investment product or house insurance, I want to speak to someone who fully understands and can advise me on the options and preferably is aware of and understands my personal circumstances, At a time when banks are regularly ‘considering their options’ with regard to the size and type of branch network they wish to provide one thing they need to consider is how they can best deliver the specialist advice customers want. It’s important to get the right member of staff with the right information in front of customers at the right time. With new technologies and a ‘joined up approach’ to retail banking’ this shouldn’t be too difficult a task.
The number of branch visits is declining. It is in the bank’s interest to make best advantage of these opportunities for personal contact. At the heart of this is customer identification and acknowledgement and communication of their needs. When a customer comes into the branch you should as a minimum know who they are. If their personal banker is made aware of their presence then this is an opportunity to make contact and re-inforce the relationship. If you believe that a particular product might suit their current situation then you are in a position to bring it to their attention. New technologies make branch visits a chance to grow the customer relationship as every visit, however trivial the purpose, presents an opportunity to offer a better more personalised service if we know what the customers’ needs are and link them to someone who is best equipped in the branch to satisfy that need.
Used properly branch visits are an important means of delivering cutting edge service, generating revenue from increased sales and enhancing the bank’s reputation as a source specialist advice. These are opportunities no bank can afford to waste.