By Gregg Rosen, President, NES Group and Stephanie Kessler, Creative Director, ReVive by Triad
“I lost my debit card,” the customer exclaimed in a panic as he entered the branch.
This conversation overheard on a recent renovation site visit got us thinking – there are so many reasons customers and member still visit their branch. They visit for advice, for money management, for simple transactions – and on this specific day, for the reassurance that his identity was secure and he’d have a card in hand to buy groceries later.
Of course, what consumers want in a retail experience has significantly changed since the pandemic for every industry – not just banking. Touchless checkout and curbside pickup have become the norm.
Before the pandemic, financial institutions spent a lot of time and energy making changes to their in-branch experience to better align with the needs of customers or members, and employees. So how can you ensure the right balance of relationships, technology, and safety? Here’s our long-range forecast for building the most effective post-pandemic branch.
Transform into an advisory center
Education. Relationships. Brand awareness. The branch remains a destination where consumers can talk to an expert about something precious to their lives, their financial well-being.
Banks and credit unions that approach operations and renovations with this philosophy will be well-positioned for the post-pandemic economy.
Many of our clients have shifted focus from transactions to advisory relationships. The pandemic helped this along with new appointment scheduling technology.1 This allows the ability to manage branch traffic and personalize information for conversations in advance. Now, staff can easily schedule the appointment with the right specialist while providing that personalized experience2 we know customers and members crave.
Make in-branch technology more human
One of the most important services a financial institution provides is trust. One of the main reasons customers and members still like the idea of branches is because they give them that sense of trust. Even if they don’t regularly visit, the fact that they know they can is comforting. Psychologically, their money has a “place” – a physical location they can visit, providing a sense of security.
So it’s crucial to balance relationships and technology, so your longtime customers and members feel just as comfortable visiting as the Gen Z crowd. You can make even the most advanced technology more human through branding the customer or member journey.
Today’s ATMs and ITMs (Interactive Teller Machines) offer excellent opportunities to add warmth with a custom-designed surround. Banks can also equip their branch staff with tablets to facilitate account openings or deploy remote agents with 2-way video and meet each customer where they want to be met.
Capitalize on the increase of drive-through transactions
When the pandemic forced branch lobbies to close, drive-up banking grew – and we expect this trend to continue. The convenient experience that a drive-through offers makes it a crucial channel for the customers and members that want options.
The drive-through should be an extension of the in-branch experience. Consider upgrading your drive-up by replacing an ATM with an ITM. ITMs pair the functionality of a traditional ATM with enhanced self-service transaction capabilities and access to a live teller if necessary. This can provide the 24-hour banking experience customers and members now expect – even when the branch isn’t open. Ensure your drive-up has curb appeal by matching banners, canopies, bollards, and signage to your interior for a seamless customer or member experience.
And don’t forget about your employees
Your employees are some of your most important customers, so be sure when designing your post-pandemic experience, you take into account ways to motivate, energize, and support your team. From designated employee gathering spaces to inspirational signage and innovation rooms, customize your employee journey to improve retention and satisfaction.
Good news for the future
The retail banking industry will never stop evolving. It’s clear that customers and members want advice, convenience, and consistent service.3
So what’s next? We know there is no one-size-fits-all approach for branches, especially with our current environment. Our team is ready to help you leverage consumer insights to redefine your customer or member journey.
1 Social Distancing Gives Branch Appointment Scheduling New Importance Bill Bohen in the Financial Brand
2 Social Distancing Gives Branch Appointment Scheduling New Importance Bill Bohen in the Financial Brand
3 No, Banks Aren’t Closing Tons Of Branches During The Pandemic Lisa Rowan in Forbes