Will it, wont it? Speculation on the fate of the bank branch is similar to the Loch Ness monster debate in at least one way - no one knows for sure.
Branches can only try to prolong their survival and then hope for the best. Luckily for them, with some refocus and redefinition, they have more than a fair chance of making it through the next few years. At least.
This calls for a bit of unthink, a change of role from the operational to the advisory.
Branches need to think of themselves as high-impact sales engines. And why not? They have the advantage of face-to-face interaction, and a personal rapport with customers that no other channel can match. These are valuable assets in closing a sale. For the
same reasons, branches are also best placed to prevent customers from leaving.
Branches must become the trusted advisors of their customers. Given the beating that banks' images have taken during and after the crisis, this will take some doing. Such as staffing the branches with well-trained, knowledgeable staff, who put the interest
of customers above all else.
Branches must function as inbound touch-points. The branch is the strongest spoke in the know-your-customer wheel. It collects customer information first hand. It is capable of instant fulfillment. Some banks have capitalized upon these advantages by transforming
their branches into "stores", with an ambience to rival that of any high-end lounge. These measures cost, but also pay back with prestige, branding and differentiation.
The teller is the new seller. Tellers must be trained and empowered to do other things, like handle a business request or waive a fee if a sticky situation calls for it. Above all, they must be taught to always be on the lookout for an opportunity to sell.
A study found that half of retail mortgage and branded card sales in the U.S. still comes from bank branches. Performance - that's the best ticket to survival!