Retail bank branch closure is a growing trend in several countries as a cost cutting method. The thinking behind this is logical: branch banking is expensive so it makes sense to drive customers to channels such as online and mobile which still provide a
wide range of services but are cheaper for the bank to operate. But will this increasing shift towards self-service banking kill off customer relationships?
ANZ’s CTO thinks so. At a
recent conference, Patrick Maes spoke about how neglecting face-to-face banking reduces banks’ chances of building meaningful relationships with their customers. And he has a point. While self-service banking channels have experienced significant growth
in recent years, customers are becoming increasingly fickle and events such as the financial crisis have meant that more are willing to take their money elsewhere. Statistics show that in the UK for example,
14 million banking customers are willing to jump ship when the seven-day account switching rules, recommended by the Vickers report, take effect in September.
Customers also prefer to meet with bank staff in the branch to discuss complicated or sensitive issues such as mortgage or loan applications. It’s difficult to foresee a time when customers would opt out of meeting with the bank manager to talk through their
What’s important is that banks are able to strike the delicate balance between putting in face time with the customer, while encouraging them to use cheaper self-service channels when appropriate. Rewarding the customer for its relationship with the bank
and using rewards and offers to cross-sell services is also key to building a meaningful bond and boosting loyalty.