But the approach to service differs considerably between the two models. Bank of America deploys ATMs with Teller Assist in its new Express Centers. Tellers still exist in Bank of America’s model, but they are located centrally and engage customers via real-time video. During business hours, tablet equipped staff can also assist. After hours, it’s all video. Wells prefers all customer interactions to be with in-person branch staff in its Neighborhood Stores. There’s no silver bullet when it comes to branch transformation. There will likely be a variety of design within banks and among banks. Both initiatives appear to be “test and learn” approaches, and may evolve as both banks gain experience. That’s exactly how it should be done in my opinion.What do you think?
- Distributed customer testimonials solicited during an early pilot
- Organized an internal Q&A web presence so the curious (as well as the detractors) could get questions answered
- Sponsored happy hours (after close of business) in newly reconfigured branches. Employees working in traditional branches were invited so they could see things up close and personal and ask questions. One credit union spoke about how transformative this one effort was; how many entered sceptical and critical, but left thinking the new branch was pretty cool.
- Exceptionalism. The most obvious trait among management of highly evolved branch networks is that their hearts are involved. More than a business strategy or IT project, these financial institutions are on a mission to out perform. With a bit of swagger, even branch managers would greet this humble Celent analyst with stories of customer delight. They are different—and they know it.
- A long-term vision. The most understandable cultural element involved a long-term vision for the branch as well as its role among an increasingly multichannel environment. Most financial institutions’ planning horizons are relatively short. FIs with highly evolved branch networks tended to think longer-term by definition, given the size and complexity of branch evolution.
- Courage. Beyond having a long-term vision, these financial institutions had courage to invest significantly while assuming financial and operational risk. In a large number of cases, elements of branch channel evolution were planned and executed without a tidy, comfortable business case. A certain amount of courage was necessary to proceed.
- Culture of continual improvement. Branch channel evolution is a journey, not a destination. Highly evolved financial institutions got that way through an often lengthy series of incremental improvements. Some work, and others don’t. These leaders inspire a culture of continual improvement and are willing to fail along the way if it ultimately produces a superior result.
- Affirmation and employee empowerment. Several senior managers cited the need to eliminate barriers to customer service. Branch staff need to have all the tools possible to serve customers. One way to do this is to empower branch staff to make more decisions. This approach carries risk and invites mistakes. A culture of affirmation is one way to help staff step out of their comfort zones. At Metro Bank, for example, branch staff have been known to invite customers to have coffee on them at a shop next door if the branch gets crowded. On occasion, they’ve even bought customers lunch. Could this get abused? Sure, but Metro Bank staff is too busy delighting astonished customers. In response, management affirms this kind of spending because it engenders high levels of customer satisfaction.