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Tapping into customer experience of the 20th century

As a consumer today, we expect our banks to know us when we walk through the door and advancements in technology should be making this easier. When I started my working life in the early 90’s, the branch staff intimately knew virtually everyone who walked through the door, yet today my bank (and I am sure I am not unique here), seems to know less about me and its other customers than ever before.

Research undertaken more than two years' ago shows that in excess of 40% of UK banking customers want to return to old fashioned banking with a personalised service, so the desire for your bank to ‘know you’ is putting bricks and mortar branches right back at the heart of branch strategy.

With the prospect of navigating branch transformation through the lenses of complex legacy technology that makes it hard to create a truly intimate experience for customers, what can financial institutions learn about customer experience from days gone by to enhance the in-branch service now and for the future?

1. Know your customers

Faced with the challenge of accommodating the needs of a variety of customers with different demands, the best way for financial institutions to decide how to approach branch transformation is to make better use of the customer data available to them. In-branch, this data is incredibly valuable as financial institutions look to replicate the coveted ‘old fashioned’ personalised service. Whether transformation is about enabling self-service devices to deliver more personalised and relevant content, or providing in-branch staff with customer information via a roaming service device, integrating solutions based on customer data will resonate now and also provide a platform for future development and personalisation.

However, there is no ‘one size fits all’ method that will work for every bank. For some, transformation is all about the economic viability of the channel. For others, it’s about creating a new and unique customer experience. Whatever the primary motivation, banks have already begun this journey, by automating routine tasks and services in-branch and by adopting mobile phone capability to improve cross channel experience.

2. Flexibility is key

Analysing data is very likely to reveal that the traditional branch network needs to be adapted to offer different services in different locations, in order to best match the needs of the customer. For example, a pop-up branch in a retail location can offer a truly convenient service, allowing customers to complete a variety of transactions in one place, assisted by video tellers where appropriate to maintain the vital human touch. For flagship branches the focus is more likely to be placed on sales and service, providing customers with one-to-one advice alongside convenient self-service technology.  

3. Embrace change

While it’s difficult to predict exactly how a branch will look in ten years’ time, near term investments are laying the grounds of branch transformation plans of the future. As consumers seek greater personalisation, this should certainly include the choice to self-serve. With a clear focus on securing long-term loyalty by delivering exemplary customer experiences, financial institutions should trial new services, invest in new technology and become more flexible in their operational approach. This will also drive the connection with the consumer’s digital experience. 

The important thing for today’s financial institutions is to ensure that they make best use of the tools at their disposal and futureproof technology to enable the changes that are an inevitable part of the continued evolution of banking transformation. Taking some lessons from the customer experience of old and coupling that with the demands of today’s tech-obsessed, time poor consumer will give banks all they need to transform the in-branch journey into an experience that feels truly personalised.  

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