GETTING PERSONAL: WHY TECHNOLOGY SHOULD UNDERPIN TOMORROW’S RETAIL BANK BRANCH EXPERIENCE

Steve Walters, National Sales Director, Ricoh UK

In today’s digital age, we’re increasingly reliant on being able to access products and services at our fingertips through technology. Whether we’re choosing our gas and electricity supplier, booking concert tickets or even ‘hailing’ a taxi, we all want speedy access to these services at the touch of a button. With more than half of UK households now owning a tablet, this trend is only set to continue.

While banks have made significant inroads to improve their digital customer experience online, with most retail banks launching online banking and multi-function smartphone and tablet apps in recent years, there is still more work to be done within their branches across the UK. With some still relying on archaic and slow-to-process paper forms, business lines that don’t talk to each other and systems that restrict staff to exclusively working within their physical branches, banks have a huge opportunity to transform their in-branch experience for today’s digital era.

The key is providing a personalised level of service to customers, promoting the right products and services to the right audience, whether in branch or through digital channels.So how can banksachieve this?

Do your homework

Banks already have a wealth of data on their customers – how, when and where they shop for food, clothes, holidays or insurance. Quite simply everything customers purchase on their cards is recorded. Yet many banks are missing an opportunity to leverage this priceless information to promote additional products and services.

By knowing when your customers regularly go on holiday, you can sell them currency in advance. By being aware of when your customers’ pet insurance renewal is due, you can alert them to your service in advance of that date. While these are simpler, lower value products, when multiplied by the numbers of potential new customers they can represent significant revenue streams.

App-ly your knowledge

The biggest challenge for banks is engaging customers with the right content through the right channels at the right times. Knowing how their customers choose to access information and services and tailoring the messages to ensure they’re fresh and engaging is the most successful tactic to build strong relationships with customers.

Traditionally, banks have regularly pumped out printed promotional material to all or large groups of their customers, at a significant cost to their organisations. Yet, by harnessing the data they have internally, this doesn’t have to be the case moving forwards.

By analysing their own Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, banks can adopt a far more tailored approach, achieving higher levels of engagement and building closer relationships with their customers.

Invest in digital for consumers

A senior member of staff within a global bank recently told methat their UK branches produce half a billion prints per year across their branches, and that’s not including marketing collateral such as brochures and leaflets. With much of this representing receipts and unnecessary forms, just imagine how much of that ends up in the waste paper bin?

However, with digital form-filling and automated receipts sent by email, this wasteful and unnecessary use of paper could soon become a thing of the past – ensuring more communications are read and understood and significantly cutting the use and reliance on paper.

Finally, not only is paper harmful to the environment and costly, it actually lacks the high levels of security it is typically associated with. Once filled in, many paper forms are either couriered around the country or – as mentioned – find their way into bin bags, having not been shredded or disposed of properly. This could leave your customers’ personal information at risk. By securely storing data through digital channels, bank will not only save the cost of printing ending reams of paper, but also the longer-term cost implications of losing valuable customer data.

Connect branches

We can’t always visit our local branch when we need access to financial advice. Equally, we’re not all available to do so between Monday and Friday in working hours – in fact, this can be the most inconvenient time for most of us.

By harnessing technology to join up branches, customers are always connected to expert advisers who have the right knowledge to handle their enquiries and provide first class advice – wherever they’re based. Equally, it’s not just branches that should be connected. Technology like unified communications (UC) enable expert staff to connect with customers when and how it’s convenient to them – whether they’re at home or on the go– by phone, email, live web-chat or video conference.

Not only do these features enhance the customer experience but they also help banks to reduce overheads, as they are not forced into investing in training to develop highly-skilled advisors based in each and every branch.

Collaborate with customers

Alongside developments in technology also comes a culture shift towards collaboration and sharing. When meeting with customers, your advisors shouldn’t restrict them to being sat on the other side of the desk unknowing as to what is being typed into their computers.

With tablets and handheld technology, advisors can easily share information and their progress with customers, taking them through each process step-by-step – ensuring they feel part of the journey.

Final thoughts

A first-class retail bank provides a personalised experience for its customers – promoting relevant offers and promotions to them through the most appropriate channels. It then follows this approach up with a tailored service in-branch, providing access to expertly-trained advisors when necessary, whether they’re based there or elsewhere. The key is providing the right level of support to customers when it’s sought after. In today’s globalised economy, banks simply can’t afford to only provide 9-5 support and expertise. With the right technology, not only can banks enable their staff to work beyond these boundaries, they will also support an improved experience for their customers, improving brand loyalty and ultimately driving up revenue and profitability.

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