With all the technology now being applied to modern banking, there continues to be a significant decline in branch visits. While this trend is likely to continue, it is important that financial institutions have a clear understanding of why people will visit branches in the future. There are two broad categories of Destination Services in play. The first, and most often discussed, are banking services that people prefer to experience in person. The second, and admittedly less exciting, group of services includes those where customers and potential customers must visit the branch.
As the future role of the branch evolves, we continue to see predictions about transformation, reconfiguration, and even extinction. But recent comments, including those from JD Power and Associates as part of their recent report entitled: Retail Banking Customer Trends: Capitalizing on Branch Interactions reminds us that many prefer the human interface in a branch to other alternatives, especially when it involves a problem or more complex financial product.
The transition of the branch from a transaction hub to a service hub necessitates qualified and motivated staff that brings value to clients who visit the branch. Being able to consistently provide this level of service over time is a real drawing card and puts your institution in the coveted ‘trusted advisor’ role. Proper handling of “moments of truth” as cited in the JD Power study, certainly can also establish your branches as the preferred destination for financial advice.
Less elegant but potentially important, are the narrow group of needed services that require that customers visit your branches. Many financial institutions, especially the largest ones, have abandoned these service offerings thereby creating a real opportunity for smaller institutions.
So think about what services you currently or potentially could offer that requires a personal visit to a branch. What are these destination services? The list, as I mentioned, is short! Excluding merchant services, I can immediately think of two destination services: safe deposit boxes and coin deposit processing. Both of these destination services not only require a branch visit, they also provide an opportunity for your staff to interact with current and potential clients during the visit as well!
My personal banking experience has been such that my primary bank did not offer either of these destination services, causing me to go a financial institution that did and eventually open an account. I do not think I am alone. There is more than one way to make your transformed branch of the future, or even your branch of the present, a destination.
Robert Allexon is an Independent Business Analyst and Consultant. His career spans five decades in technology-based durable goods sales and marketing and he is an expert in cash automation.