Branch vs. Digital Banking Debate

A recent Financial Brand article highlighted the fact that too much focus on the back and forth debate over branch and digital preferences of consumers diverts attention from providing a superior member experience. The article concluded that people expect hassle-free interactions and a satisfactory result no matter how they do business with your credit union.

Our CU clients have found that offering appointments to their time-pressed members is a great way to build a bridge between their branches and their digital channels. They note that the convenience of quickly and easily booking a branch appointment helps boost member satisfaction levels, while increasing staff productivity.

Key Takeaway: Your CU can help solve the Branch vs. Digital conundrum by allowing members to schedule appointments via the Web, mobile devices or by contacting agents through your contact center.

Putting the human touch in banking

As many FIs rush to digital in an effort to please consumers, many leave behind one of the most important elements that consumers want: the human touch.

“People and relationships still matter,” says Bob Meara, senior analyst at Celent’s banking group. “All things equal we do business with people we like and you have to have some person-to-person interaction—even in digital.”

Whether they are seeking financial advice or looking to solve an issue, many members still prefer in-person interactions in your branch.

Key Takeaway: Important conversations are best pre-arranged by appointments so that both the member and the CU employee are well prepared for the discussion.

Millennials Still Want Branches

“As Millennials grow older, they express increasing interest in visiting a physical location once they have exhausted their online research,” states Joe Wheeler, Senior Director, Mid-Size Bank Practice at J.D. Power. He also emphasizes the fact that CUs that want to exploit this opportunity to work with Millennials must make sure branch staff is appropriately prepared.

We would add that the best way that they can be prepared for these important branch visits is by appointment scheduling.

Key Takeaway: Not only do our appointment tools provide your staff the opportunity to prepare for meetings in advance, but follow-up meetings are also made easier to arrange as staff can be identified by name and picture on our Mobile Appointment Booking Tool.

The value of an old-fashioned visit to your local branch

Laura Doering, Assistant Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Toronto, pointed out some interesting results from her research in a recent online article: when borrowers have personal relationships with lenders, they are more likely to repay their loans on time, whereas those with distant relationships miss more payments.

She recommends that people who do most banking online should develop a relationship with someone at their primary FI and this relationship should consist of more than just email or texting — it should include in-person meetings. We concur with her conclusion that building and maintaining personal face-to-face relationships generates tremendous benefits on both sides.

Key Takeaway: Building personal relationships at the branch with your members is invaluable and offering appointments to your busy members is one of the best ways to facilitate these face-to-face meetings.

Effective Financial Guidance Starts with Appointments

In a recent article in Forbes, a CUNA Mutual Group executive stated that a retail branch model that focuses on in-person advice and service is the branch’s most promising future. He states “fully 78% of retail bank customers want guidance from their banks, according to a JD Power study. And the most effective way to deliver that guidance is still face-to-face.”

We would add that the best way to deliver this advice is by appointment. If branches are the ideal place for complex conversations to take place, then the best way to make sure that the right person is available to handle these important lengthy consultations is to have an appointment booked on their schedule.

Key Takeaway: Our Mobile Appointment Booking Tool gives your staff the opportunity to thoroughly prepare for their meetings in advance, and also increases branch sales success by reminding members to bring the information necessary to the meeting.

Tracking Branch Activities

Bob Meara, Senior Analyst at research firm Celent, says “if you ask branch bankers about the details of their teller transactions, they can wax eloquent about those metrics.” What is less-often tracked and measured, Meara finds, are factors of current branch activity that relate to what many regard as the increasingly dominant role of branches, as sales and service locations, and regarding the quality of the visitor experience.

Better Lobby can help in this regard because it captures a wide variety of critical branch metrics that are important to management – metrics that are completely invisible to CUs that do not have a visitor management platform in place.

Key Takeaway: Our Main Service Queue can fill in the gaps when it comes to knowing what’s going on in your branches, while our Survey Trigger module can help you obtain accurate and timely responses from your members about the quality of their visit when their branch visit is still fresh in their minds.

Consumers Happier Using Branch+Digital Than Digital Only

Data from recent J.D. Power & Associates research confirms that the most satisfied banking consumers are those who regularly use branches and also use digital channels. The author of the report points out that “Millennials are coming back into the branches as they grow older and their financial needs become more sophisticated.”

Credit unions looking to meet the financial needs of their members would be well advised to offer the convenience of online and mobile appointment booking capabilities to their busy members.

Key Takeaway: Digital and branch capabilities are very much married and credit unions can use appointments to forge stronger member connections and keep this digital/branch marriage strong and thriving.

What will the Branch of the Future look like?

In a recent article in Finextra, Andrew Beatty, FIS Head of Banking Strategy, concluded that: The Branch Isn’t Dead; It’s Reborn.

He predicted that future branches will be become much more inviting – think coffee shops – and that visitors will be greeted with tablets where universal bankers can assist them with all banking needs.

We agree – and to help your staff accomplish this goal we offer our Better Lobby Kiosk 4.0 module which supports both visitor self check-in and Concierge staff check-in (or any combination thereof).

Key Takeaway: CU branches of the future must be member-centric in nature, and we are here to help you meet this goal.

Appointments help CUs keep branches alive and thriving

A recent CU Journal article pointed out that members no longer visit branches to complete transactions that they can do online. Instead they stop by for help with more complex issues, such as applying for a loan, opening an account, seeking financial advice or dealing with a problem.

While we certainly agree with this assessment in general, increasingly “stop by” is not applicable.

That is because more and more CUs are adding appointment setting capabilities such as those delivered by our Mobile Appointment Booking tool to their website. Many members find it much more convenient to schedule an appointment than to simply stop by a branch, while CUs are finding that allowing their members to book appointments is a great way to increase long-term loyalty.

Key Takeaway: Appointments are a great way to grow brand awareness, increase your staff productivity, open more accounts, and develop your member base.

Branch Service Enters a New Era of Appointments

In a recent Credit Union Times article, iQ Credit Union’s SVP of Retail Delivery Ali Migaki said the most common reasons for branch visits today at their CU are to: 1) open a new membership; 2) discuss major financial moves that will impact the member’s life; and 3) pick up a new payment card after a fraud incident instead of waiting for one in the mail.

All 3 of these reasons are well suited to the use of appointments to facilitate a successful single visit meeting. Our Appointment software reminds visitors to bring all of the important information necessary to the meeting, while providing staff the opportunity to properly prepare for the meeting in advance. Plus our Appointment Assistant feature is a perfect tool for helping CU contact center staff – or any CU employee – confidently book member appointments with co-workers who are qualified to perform any particular service.

Key Takeaway: Many of your members still strongly desire face-to-face meetings and will appreciate the ability to conveniently book an appointment on their mobile device, tablet or computer.

The Branch Debate

In a recent blog, Mark Smith, President of Kitewheel (a self-described new-age Marketing Technology company), calls for FIs to “fully integrate branch networks with all the other digital channels…” and points out that consumers “want to be able to use both physical and digital systems whenever they choose – and they expect them to work together, in perfect harmony.”

We couldn’t agree more with his recommendations – it often seems that too much time is wasted on “the branch is dead” debates when consumers of all ages still want to visit branches. Credit unions need to continue working on an always-on member experience that meets members where they want to be met. Our Better Lobby platform is specifically designed to make this important connection between your digital channels and your branch network.

Key Takeway: Allowing members to book appointments 24/7 on their mobile device, tablet or computer with your CU underscores that your CU offers a full range of options, and places a priority on convenient and timely access to your branch staff.

Branch Transformation Trends

Branch Transformation for Financial Institutions, a complimentary industry guide produced by ATM Marketplace, takes an interesting look at how can FIs integrate physical and digital channels in order to achieve a truly omnichannel “phygital” strategy. The guide covers new tech for the teller platform, video systems, and tablets.

Our Better Lobby platform integrates with all of these areas, e.g., our Fast Visit Recorder can help with teller/universal banker productivity; our Video Meeting Queue Module provides the member service management component missing from video conferencing systems; and our user-friendly Kiosk software supports all manner of tablets for both Self Check-in and Staff Concierge visitor check-in.

Key Takeaway: We believe branch transformation can be a competitive differentiator for your CU, and we are here to help you use technology to provide a superior member experience.

Branch Customer Experience (CX) Remains Important

Recently Celent’s Bob Meara recently published a report titled Solutions for Optimizing the In-Person Customer Experience. In his research, he found the opportunity is significant. Unlike digital, where the report highlights the fact that FIs have a bevy of precise metrics to evaluate and optimize the CX, the research firm points out that the branch lobby remains comparatively poorly understood.

Our Better Lobby platform was developed specifically to address this need to granularly understand branch visitor metrics.

Better Lobby accurately measures the visitor experience – both walk-ins and appointments – and provides dozens of helpful reports that were developed directly from CU feedback.

Key Takeaway: Your lobby is arguably the most important interaction point within your CU – we are here to help you meet your lobby management requirements.

Technical Innovation in CU Branches

Codigo, a provider of marketing tools, released research that shows that the number of FIs planning to equip universal bankers (or other staff members) with tablets shot up 25% in 2017 to 51% in 2018. Interactive kiosks and interactive teller machines both came in at 44% in 2018, a ten percentage point increase. Both video conference technology and the trendy “video walls” saw increases (from 13% to 25% and from 8% to 28% respectively).

We are well prepared to help CUs of all sizes, affordably address these important trends:

For tablets and kiosks, we offer our Kiosk for Self Check-in and Concierge module that can be used on an iPad, Surface Tablet or touch-screen equipped PC – this software frees visitors to engage in other branch-provided activities with the confidence that staff know of their arrival and that they will be served in the appropriate order.

In terms of video meetings, our Video Meeting Queue Module makes it possible to seamlessly manage and serve branch visitors from any video-equipped location.

When it comes to “video walls”, we provide CUs with our Branch Service Queue Display module that allows waiting members to know their position in the service queue – it is compatible with a variety of standard flat screen monitors and its appearance can be fine-tuned to meet your operational and branding requirements.

Key Takeaway: It is essential that Credit Unions use technical innovation to compete in their local marketplace. Better Branches Technology is here to help.

Supercharge member engagement in Branches by working closely with your Contact Center

Many members believe all channels should work in concert, including the branch. The staff in your contact center and branches should understand the member’s journey without members having to provide them with their contact details.  

Using our Better Lobby Appointment Assistant, combined with our Pseudo Host Database, your contact center agents can easily book appointments for your members with a few clicks of the mouse – no need to ask for the member’s email and phone number because the Appointment Assistant can quickly pre-fill those fields, along with their first/last name.

Key Takeaway: The Appointment Assistant module makes it easy for all staff to create appointments on any Better Lobby calendar utilizing member information contained within Better Lobby.

Small Businesses Prefer Branches

J.D. Power reports that 61% of small businesses in its sample survey are much less likely to use digital banking channels, and are still classified as “branch dependent.” The research firm concluded that businesses still value working with a live person in a branch who understands what they do and what they need.

The reality is that busy business owners who value face-to-face interactions don’t have time to wait in the lobby to meet with your staff. Many observers believe that they would really appreciate the ability to schedule an appointment with your CU in the branch of their choice.

Key Takeaway: Credit unions looking to target small business owners should strongly consider adding appointment scheduling in order to deliver the personal touch that these businesses are looking for in their financial relationships.

Technology Improves In-Person Branch Operations

According to industry consultant Richard Crone, “you’ll lose a customer for an unreasonable branch experience, but they’re not integrating the branch with the mobile app. The best way to do that is with a scheduling capability.”

We agree with his assessment – allowing members to use their mobile device, tablet or computer to book an appointment with your credit union builds a bridge from these digital channels directly to your branches.

Key Takeaway: Members do not want to waste their time standing in a queue or sitting around waiting in a lobby for the next available representative. Appointments help solve these issues and create a positive branch experience.

Generation Z and Branches

GenerationZ — folks born after 1996 — will be the most diverse generation in the U.S. by2020, and at their peak will hold some $143 billion in purchasing power. Tolearn more about this generation, UNiDAYS polled 1,000 Gen Zers to see how theyfeel about money.

They found two interesting facts – one quite obvious (95% of those surveyed use their phoneexclusively to access their account) and one more surprising to many people (45%of those surveyed are hesitant to open an account with an online-only bank; 70%of those say it’s because they want a physical branch location).

Key Takeaway: Credit unions looking tocater to Gen Zers must find a way to merge the two worlds of the mobile and thebranch since both of them highly desired by many young people. We believe onekey way to build this bridge is by allowing them to book branch appointments with your staff via their mobile devices.

Intelligent Branch Banking

According to a recent McKinsey study, a staggering 80 percent of Americans still want that branch-level human touch on some or all of their banking needs – particularly when they are looking for loans, investments and financial advice. Cisco executives like to use the term “Intelligent Branch Banking” to describe a branch that drives better orchestration between digital applications and physical infrastructure, blending experience in a way that delights employees and visitors alike. They contend that a blended approach of digital technology and face to face branch service is the key to making future branches fast, safe and relevant.

Key Takeaway: We agree with Cisco’s assessment and believe that online/mobile appointments are a key component of Intelligent Branch Banking because appointments represent a perfect blending of the digital and branch experience.

Appointments Help with “Moments of Financial Truth”

During a brainstorming session of financial professionals at a recent BAI conference led by Jim Eckenrode, managing director for Deloitte’s Center for Financial Services attendees came up with the following ideas on how to make branch banking more appealing to consumers who are seeking assistance with their important financial matters:

  • making appointments online for branch visits
  • increased use of biometrics
  • smaller branch buildings
  • more highly trained staff

One session participant noted that “we also know that in those moments of truth, somebody who may be very tech savvy may not be savvy in the way of financial affairs. In those moments of truth, where most customers want a human interaction, branches are the ideal places for that.”

Key Takeaway: The vast majority of your members want to make major financial decisions with the assistance of one of your employees at one of your branches. Appointments help make meetings successful by reminding members to bring the information necessary to the meeting, while simultaneously providing your staff the opportunity to thoroughly prepare for the meeting in advance.

Branches Key Factor in Switching FIs

New research from Resonate on the reasons people switch primary banking providers indicates that there are 5.6 million people in the U.S. who plan to switch FIs in the next 12 months. Among women surveyed about switching, the top three reasons for switching FIs were:

  • more convenient branch locations (34%)
  • better service (19%)
  • better online/mobile banking services (19%)

“The data paints a picture of banking consumers who want more personalized services and technology,” says Ericka McCoy, SVP of Marketing for Resonate.

Key Takeaway: To deliver more personalized and convenient service, many credit unions are adding appointment booking capabilities to their branch network. Appointments enhance the CU’s image and encourage more branch visits which provide increased opportunities for personalized service, cross-selling and up-selling.

What do Millennials want from their FIs?

In a recent Forbes Magazine article Sebastian Rymarz, Chief Business Officer for Fundbox, postulates that consumers, especially Millennials, want the following items from their FI:

  • less friction and more help
  • personal attention
  • the customized service they’re used to getting when they’re logged in on their devices to carry over to their in-branch experience

One way to meet all three of these needs (and others as well) is by allowing your members to book appointments with you on their mobile devices and PCs/laptops.

Key Takeaway:Our Mobile Appointment Booking Tool facilitates personalized service and provides a perfect complement to your mobile and online banking systems.