Consumers see the future of retail banking emerging in branches around the country. Fewer tellers are supplemented with advanced technology, and increasingly, mobile experiences bridge the gap between the consumer and the branch itself.
But the best laid omni-channel customer experience plans can fizzle out quickly if employees aren’t prepared to put the plans into action. To prevent this from happening, retail banks need to find creative ways to excite and engage their workforce and properly train them for the new banking experience. To begin, they need to clearly outline the business hurdles to reach that objective.
New tech means new challenges
Building a robust, secure wireless infrastructure across a branch network can be a significant investment. However, it’s necessary in order to engage with customers inside the branches through their mobile devices. This may be uncharted territory for some employees who have been focused on the traditional customer experience and as such may not know how to tap into the full capabilities of this new technology.
Banks are also having to digitize all of the processes involved in complex financial transactions, which have traditionally been very paper-centric. They know customers want their banking transactions to be frictionless and faster than ever. It’s a move they will have to make if they are truly going to become a destination where customers can engage with professionals, not just complete an impersonal transaction. Banks must embrace this shift.
Successfully implementing technology also means staying on top of security measures to protect data collection. In order to provide personalized services, banks need customer data. But there will always be concerns about how to engage with customers, because obtaining personal information from people can be misconstrued if done incorrectly. For banks, it all boils down to maintaining customer trust, a top priority as they think about the changing nature of engagement.
Helping the workforce understand new tech
Based on our experience providing technology collaboration solutions for financial institutions of all sizes, we have identified a number of ways banks can more effectively engage the workforce. One such method is to deploy the “universal banker” model, where an “uber banker” replaces traditional tellers. These universal bankers are capable of walking customers through a wide variety of complex transactions, like loans and investments, with flexibility and expertise.
By pivoting from traditional desk-based tellers to universal bankers, employees are no longer tied to a desk and are able to engage with customers in new, more interactive ways. Even with heavy investment in self-service features such as smarter ATMs with virtual tellers, there are still opportunities for the universal banker to build rapport with face-to-face interactions that are still important to customers in some instances.
Success requires a significant shift in operational execution inside branches, which includes a reassessment in hiring practices to look for talent that possesses technology and retail skills. This new normal also requires a substantial investment in training. And consistent top-down communication from leadership about how the strategic model caters to the next generation of banking customers is essential to success.
In the financial services space, this means increasingly digitizing the training and communication apparatus. Historically, banking organizations have sent employees to centralized training locations, sometimes for up to six months. Gone are the days of quarterly executive memos burned to DVDs and mailed to each branch.
Now, training and webinars are provided via web conferencing services such as Webex and other training solutions that can be recorded for future use. Smart organizations back up these progressive training methods with corporate/executive communications to relay the importance of these trainings to their teams. One large institution in the US is even training employees using virtual reality on iPads. Regardless of delivery method, it is crucial that institutions ensure employees are adequately trained in both the technical and soft skills required for today’s retail branch.
The next step in collaboration
We’re at a tipping point in the financial services space where institutions are making a great deal of investment in this changing nature of engagement inside a branch and on digital. We’ve talked to various financial institutions that are in the midst of this major transformation. They have done a tremendous amount of customer journey mapping to redesign the look and feel of their branches and implement wireless technology.
The next step for these banks is to change how and where they collaborate to improve the customer experience with a fully-equipped workforce. Branches that embrace collaboration tools and consistently reinforce their use will have a competitive advantage, resulting in more efficient branches that are capable of surprising and delighting customers on a consistent basis.