Branch Transformation: Deliver Flash AND Function

Imagine a Lamborghini in your branch’s 24/7 self-service lobby, purposely placed to make a bold brand statement. Or, how about a robot assistant named Pepper that greets customers—an interactive humanoid designed to guide people toward the resource that best meets their needs?

From so-called “e-desks” equipped with tablets to “e-branches” that are completely devoid of tellers, financial institutions (FIs) across the globe are experimenting with how to transform their branches into sleek, exciting, modern venues offering the latest self-service technology.

Before adopting new, innovative branch designs, banks need to have a developed, comprehensive branch and digital channel strategy that addresses the following key questions:

  • What kind of experience do we want to provide our customers for specific journeys, i.e., conducting a routine deposit?
  • Do we have the right people in the branch who can deliver the desired experience?
  • What internal processes are obstacles to providing the target experience?
  • What technology solutions will enable the experience and solve real problems for customers?

Technology is attractive. Being an early adopter might position a bank as “advanced” from a branding perspective. The risk is, banks could rush into designing and building a technology-rich branch that overlooks customers’ actual needs and doesn’t deliver the right kind of experience.

Remember, at the end of the day, your decisions should put the customer front and center.

During travels in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), our team consulted with partners who are testing new self-service technology, and really pushing the envelope in some interesting ways. Here’s a taste of how some of these Middle East bank branches are experimenting with cashless concepts, along with some branch transformation take-aways you can borrow from their experiences.

First Strategize, Then Design

There is definitely such a thing as over-equipping a branch with technology. It can be tempting to launch a test branch outfitted with every self-service concept possible, figuring that it will be the most modern and highly attractive to customers. The thing is, customers need to adopt the technology, too. What’s the best way to engage the customer in the branch and direct them to the self-service device that is most appropriate for their needs? Are your branch staff well-versed in digital channels and comfortable educating customers about how to use them?  If you don’t know, you could be setting the new technology up for failure.

For example, one test branch we toured, in a high-traffic area in the UAE, was a compact location probably less than 1,000 square feet in size. One wall contained seven digital TVs with interactive touch screens, and the center of the branch was equipped with 10 tablet stations. On the other side were two ATMs, and the back corner of the branch featured a video chat room.

This “e-branch” was practically empty during what should have been a rush hour. Inside was a security guard and a couple of customers using the ATMs. To be sure, the bold, modern appeal of the e-branch was designed to deliver a high-end customer experience. But people seemed to be choosing what felt familiar—ATMs.

>>The Take-Away: First, consider your self-service strategy and how cashless concepts align with your customers’ demands. What is your organization’s vision for delivering a better experience, and how can technology make this possible? Then, select the technology solutions, in the right quantity, that can accomplish those goals. Technology is amazing—if it is utilized. Determine key performance indicators to measure results and obtain customer feedback early on.

Know Your Branch, Know Your Customer

How do your customers behave at the branch? Do they prefer to interact with tellers face-to-face, or are there always lines at the ATM? What types of transactions are they initiating?

For example, in Saudi Arabia, cash is truly king. It’s not uncommon to withdraw the equivalent of thousands of dollars from an ATM at one time. So ATM cash limits are much higher, typically the equivalent of $1,400 or as much as $14,000 daily at a specialized device! In the United States, the ATM cash limit per day is usually $400.

Because its customers are already used to ATMs and self-service banking, one of our customers, Al-Rajhi Bank, opted to push into this realm further. In order to migrate other activities to self-service and free up time for branch staff to focus on other activities, Al-Rajhi Bank now offers Diebold Nixdorf multi-function kiosks across its network. The non-cash kiosk has three functions: It issues debit cards, prints statements and prints checkbooks.

The multi-function kiosks meet customers’ demands and deliver convenience and a better overall experience. Enhanced security exists because of the kiosk’s thumbprint reader. Most everyone in the country has a fingerprint on file with the Ministry of the Interior of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (This is not typical in most countries.) So, with cashless terminals available and tight security already in place, now customers can do more banking at a terminal.

>>The Take-Away: Consider the most common activities and transactions currently taking place in your branches—but think beyond deposits and withdrawals. Assess the kinds of transactions being performed in branches in more detail to identify additional opportunities for migration to self-service. If you automated new transactions, and achieved greater customer adoption, how much time could it save your branches on a daily basis?

Balance People with Tech

It would be easy to over-engineer a branch with the latest technology and overlook the human side of banking. With technology taking basic transactions away from the teller’s station, how can you refocus your customer service representatives’ role to better serve people? It doesn’t do a whole lot of good to have a team at the branch standing behind desks, watching. But we have seen this happen when a branch invests heavily in technology and outfits a space with advanced functional terminals, kiosks and tablets.

How can your employees be proactive and improve the customer experience? That could mean moving personnel to the front of the branch with a tablet to greet customers and guide them toward a terminal. It could mean refocusing tellers into sales roles to assist with complex transactions. This requires training the branch staff on the customer experience and how to leverage new technology solutions.

First, figure out the plan and put people first. Then, consider how technology can support the experience you want customers to have at your organization.

Branch transformation begins with sound strategy and a thorough understanding of how technology can serve your customers. Let’s start a conversation today.