By Paul Fisher, Managing Director at Wincor Nixdorf

With some 2,274 branches[1] undergoing refurbishment in the past two years, retail banks are clearly realising the need to redefine their physical presence. Despite the growth of online banking, today’s customer demands a true omnichannel service where the experience received is seamless regardless of the touchpoint used. While research suggests that customers require the speed, flexibility and convenience of digital banking, they also stillvalue face-to-face interactions.  Retail banks are currently faced with the challenge of accommodating these needs, transforming branches into efficient, cost effective spaces that offer customers convenient everyday banking services.

Banks are on a journey with next-generation technology a key enabler in transforming the traditional branch format to offer more choice and exceed customer expectations.

The next-generation branch format

Paul Fisher
Paul Fisher

Banks once questioned whether a branch network was needed, given the growing preference for digital services amongst customers. In the past, banks built a local community branch and customers would use it to complete all their banking transactions. However, with the customer now in control and handling transactions at home, branches are now reinventing themselves to provide more consultative services. In a convenience culture, banks are embracing new technologies to improve customer experience.

Like in the retail sector, customers can take their business elsewhere if the customer experience isn’t right. Importantly, banks are realising that there is no ‘one size fits all’ branch format. The bank needs to manage innovation with a close understanding of their customers locally at each branch, including age groups and location to create an experience that is right for each area. Younger customers may value more digital interactions but all age groups can benefit from digital services. The trialling period is an important part the transformation process for banks as they can find what automated systems are right for their customers.

In general, it’s poor service if customers have to queue at the counter to complete transactions. Human interaction should still be of heavy importance, but it should be consultative to compliment automated systems, as part of the choice that bank branches offer their customers.

Interaction and experience

To offer the right choices to their customers and meet expectations, technology is a key enabler for banks to transform their branches.

Banks can automate routine tasks and services to improve choice and flexibility for customers. Rather than queuing at the counter, mostroutine transactions can be fully integrated into self-service machines to cover 90 percent of counter functions.This facilitates more efficient branch processes and provides the opportunity for staff to focus on providing a higher level of consultation services to customers.

The tablet has changed the way we manage our lives at home and has become an influential factor in how we interact with retailers and banks. To accommodate this increasingly tech savvy culture there are different ways that tablets can be used in-branch to improve the customer experience. Firstly, tablets can be used by staff to provide a more personal assistance. Employees having access to all the necessary information about their customer, including the transactions they wish to make and the ATMs they are using, allenables a more personalised interaction. Secondly, the familiar tablet experience from home can also be moved in-branch, allowing customers to use tablet-based self-service technology to make quick transactions without the assistance of staff.

To improve convenience further, video teller systems can also be used in either manned branches or at completely self-service locations. Customers have become accustomed to engaging with a screen for their daily chores such as shopping, managing utilities and now banking. Video assisted ATMs and teller solutions enable customers to benefit from speed and convenience while still experiencing that human touch.

Self-service and automated technology is empowering customers to have complete control of their transactions with branches evolving with customer expectations. Banks are at varying stages of investment, but over the past 7 years they have all started the transformation process by offering customers more choice in how they use their local branch. The journey ends with a network of branches that are fully customised and flexible to the way a customer wishes to manage their finances and perform transactions.