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Ronald Rubens, Vice President – Europe North, Avaya 

How often do you visit your local bank branch? The prospect of facing long queues, few available staff and inconvenient opening hours means that for most of us, visiting our local branch is not an experience we relish. In fact, we only tend to physically go to the bank when we have no other choice, such as when taking out a loan, opening a new account or applying for mortgage.  For more mundane transactions, technology has provided numerous options to seamlessly process them, thus reducing the need to visit a branch.  As a result, banks have been steadily closing down branches.

Despite the rapid increase in the use of mobile and online banking solutions, banks have realised that physical branches still play an essential role in their business model. Not only do they help customers carry out their more important transactions, they also provide them with the peace of mind that comes with knowing they are able to receive face-to-face advice from an expert, should they not feel comfortable doing everything remotely.

As a result, today’s banks find themselves facing a dilemma – on one hand, they need to invest in new technology and give their customers the opportunity to process as many transactions as possible remotely. At the same time, they feel pressure to maintain at least some of their branch networks, as customers still view them as the safest and most reliable way to interact with a bank.

Since banks can’t continue to provide the wide range of local resources they previously offered, they are looking to technology to help bridge the gap. By putting in place  technologies that not only bring out the best of what a local branch has to offer, but allow for seamless communication and collaboration between banks and their customers, the banks hope to achieve the best of both worlds.

For example, having pension experts and specialist mortgage advisors located in every single branch is no longer beneficial for banks, as the level of training and resources required is simply too high and costly.

To overcome this challenge, major British high-street banks have – in partnership with Avaya – come up with a solution that meets their customers’ needs: by creating video consultation rooms within branches, they are able to meet the demands of walk-in customers as well as deal with last minute remote requests. What’s more, through the use of tools such as e-signatures and screen sharing, customers’ crucial need for a sense of security and intimacy is maintained, regardless of the physical location of the advisor.

Another solution banks are using is creating micro-branches within larger enterprises or public locations. In that respect, Avaya have partnered with Video Teller Machine (VTM) to guarantee the availability of an agent should a customer require assistance and guidance when carrying out a transaction.

The use of technology can also allow for greater efficiency by pointing the customers in the right direction for, self-service. According to research conducted by Avaya and BT, almost half of UK consumers check their balances using a computer, while over a quarter regularly use banking apps on their smartphones. Tellingly, the research also indicated the need for customers to be recognised as unique by their bank – hence the importance of local branches.

Through the use of omnichannel customer experience technology such as Avaya’s Oceana, banks are able to seamlessly keep track of their customers’ activities regardless of the method of contact,thus enabling them to personalise the customer’s experience based on specific needs, suggest a video interaction or even anticipate the customer’s potential requirements.

What’s more, modern contact centre solutions can determine if the last agent the customer interacted with is available, or even automatically contact an agent that is within closer reach to the customer, thus truly offering that personalised and individual approach that customers demand.

Technology has come a long way over the last few decades, and the banking industry has and will continue to be one of its biggest beneficiaries. While branches are likely to still be part of banks’ structure for the foreseeable future, technology-enhanced branches using innovative customer experience software can offer exactly what customers need, regardless of the their location: a rapid, safe, personalised and seamless service.

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