As financial institutions seek to better understand their banking customers’ needs, many are considering forms of branch reconfiguration and omnichannel banking to better meet their needs. As these institutions look for ways to deepen relationships with banking customers, it is important to understand precisely what these customers and members desire in their interactions with their bank or credit union.
Hybrid branch and engagement models are being tried, often as part of “branch of the future” discussions that include elements of technology, while retaining opportunities for personal interaction. This change aligns well with the increased use of self-service and assisted-service channels to augment traditional, full-service banking at many institutions that incudes access to subject matter experts.
That, however, is easier said than done. Our research shows that the majority of customers do not view their local banker as their primary financial advisor. So much work needs to be done for institutions to meet customers’ evolving expectations and to earn the required level of trust and credibility.
These deployment models have begun to change the way banks and credit unions interact with their customers and members. And, even though consumers are increasingly using digital banking methods for their daily transactions, it’s important to note that most banking customers still want to have the option to speak with a knowledgeable employee, when desired.
While a more efficient and open branch layout may be more inviting to consumers, the human element must be kept in mind as well. An outstanding customer experience requires more than a change in branch design and process flow, it must also include ways to encourage expanded interaction and engagement. Branches today are evolving from a place where customers primarily conduct transactions to one in which they can seek education, advice, and guidance on a wide variety of financial matters.
These evolving expectations are changing the fundamental role of customer-facing personnel in banking, and are a key reason that the universal banker concept continues its path in the industry. This desire to create a broader advisory relationship is a primary reason that many institutions are using – or considering – a universal banker business model.
Many of the drivers of a positive customer experience, such as having an advisory and consultative relationship and being able to bank when, where, and how desired, are also attributes that comprise the universal banker business model at many institutions. The use of a universal banker model offers much potential to elevate the overall customer experience by creating a hybrid teller/banker role that incorporates educational, sales, and marketing expertise, thus reducing or eliminating customer hand-offs, and often allowing for flexible and extended schedules.
This engagement concept includes bankers who can freely roam the branches (often in open, inviting, and newly reconfigured variants), listening to customers, educating them, and either advising them or being a conduit for more advanced subject matter expertise.
To develop proficient universal bankers, successful institutions create a process by which employees are well-trained, and are comfortable and supported in making decisions that are in the customers’ best interests. Developing an optimal training progression is key here. Every organization is different in this type of transition and developing the correct structure and training choreography will determine adherence and overall success of your program. This includes everything from defining the correct roll-out, to standardizing coaching elements, to monitoring goals and expectations.
ath Power offers universal banker training specifically designed to prepare frontline branch staff for this hybrid role. Our tailored courses will teach your employees the necessary skills to excel as universal bankers including relationship-building, customer service, product and service sales, and referrals.
We also offer research and measurement solutions to capture critical insights into the effectiveness of your universal banker implementation.
For more information on this topic, please contact the author, Ed O’Brien. Mr. O’Brien is EVP, Research & Strategy at ath Power Consulting. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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