The Future of In-Person Banking

GoMoxie, a customer engagement software company, recently published a survey indicating that 62% of consumers prefer to use FIs that have a physical presence, rather than a digital-only presence. Many industry experts believe that the future of in-person banking will focus on:

  • Appointments
  • Value-based and higher level services, i.e., mortgages, loans, financial advice/investments
  • Problem solving

Key Takeaway: Without a doubt, the look, feel and purpose of your branches will be much different post-pandemic; and appointments – for both in-branch and video meetings – will play a key role in defining this in-person banking transformation.

Working for the “good guys”

Todd Sheffield, CEO of Santa Rosa, CA-based Community First Credit Union, is retiring after 33 years of working for CUs. Under his leadership, Sheffield has helped grow Community First’s assets from $91 million in 2001 to its current $664 million.

Some innovations that were implemented under his tenure include: a zero-fee loan to 4-H students; a starter savings account that pays up to 7.07% annually for those under 18 years of age; a checking account that pays interest; and waiving more than $50,000 a month in common fees, such as “rush” payments over the phone or inactivity of an account or card, during pandemic times. Todd summarizes why he got into the credit union movement decades ago: “I thought they were the good guys in the financial world.”

Key Takeaway: Like Todd, we are proud to singularly serve the “good guys in the financial world” as a CU-only vendor. We value Community First as a Better Lobby client and wish Todd only the best in his retirement.

CU Branch Expansion Strategies Shared

NAFCU’s recent Economic & CU Monitor report includes insights into how the pandemic has affected credit unions’ branch operations, as well as member trends related to using online and mobile banking options. Compared to a 2013 NAFCU survey that revealed only 18% of credit union members used mobile devices to access their accounts, respondents in the most recent survey said 50% of members use their CU’s mobile app.

On the branch side of member access, the survey revealed that:

  • 39% of survey CU executive respondents said they plan to expand their branch network over the next two years
  • 43% plan to maintain their current setup

 Key Takeaway: Credit unions across the board remain bullish on providing face to face member service in their branch networks.

Banking should be Personal

Many members feel that their relationship with their CU should be personal. Garret Reich, Editorial Associate with The Financial Brand, puts it well: “Few topics are as intimate, intimidating and important to people as money. That’s why many consumers like the idea that they can discuss their financial issues with a real, live human. In this Digital Age — dominated by automated phone trees, call centers (often located in other continents), self-service technologies, and impersonal robots — consumers still like being able to walk into a branch and talk to a service rep.”

Notice that he said service rep, and not teller. That is because the branch is rapidly transforming into a service center for higher value interactions and moving away from low level transactions that are often best handled digitally.

Key Takeaway: Your branches will most likely look quite different post-pandemic, and increasingly the best way to serve members in the branch will be via personal appointments scheduled at the member’s convenience.

Silicon Valley in Mayberry

Some observers are pointing out that there is really no need to engage in any “digital versus branch” debates. Members want to trust that you can meet them wherever they are: in the branch, at home or on the go.

It is all about convenience and what is the most appropriate way to handle each member’s particular issue.

Online and mobile banking are well suited to basic transactions, while video and face to face are often preferred for financial advice and more complicated issues.

Key takeaway: We have long recognized that members want both digital and branch options, so our solutions are designed to strike a balance between the personal interaction that is important to your members, while also providing digital options that many members desire.

Scheduling Appointments Will Become the ‘New Normal’ in Banking

A recent Financial Brand article highlighted several quantifiable benefits that appointments offer credit unions in addition to helping promote safety:

  1. Appointment scheduling produces new account growth
  2. Appointment scheduling improves access – members can better plan their day, and branch staff can more carefully meter lobby traffic
  3. Appointment scheduling can improve Net Promoter Scores
    Without a doubt, appointments provide for stronger member engagement and have quantifiable ROI.

Key takeaway: COVID-19 has accelerated the use of appointments, but their acceptance and usage are sure to continue post-pandemic.

Path Forward Involves Blending Digital and Physical

2020 has been challenging for everyone, but what it has revealed is that members want a blend of physical and digital service from their credit union. Amit Aggarwal, Managing Director of Digital Solutions at J.D. Power, put it very succinctly in a recent Financial Brand article: “An effective path forward lies not in segmenting digital and physical customers, but in developing a holistic approach to integrating and expanding customer relationships across engagement channels — including those that have been temporarily de-emphasized.”

Trust is key – members want to know that you can meet with them in the branch, at home or on the go.

Key Takeaway: One of our biggest goals is delivering solutions that help CUs strike a balance between the personal interactions that are important to members, and the video and digital service that many members desire.

Michigan CU Reaps Rewards from Keeping Lobbies Open

Michigan First CU has kept all of its 30 offices open during the pandemic and was rewarded with record business results, according to CEO Michael Poulos in a recent CUToday article. The $1.3-billion CU actually enjoyed the highest number of new accounts during a recent four month-period.

The CU committed to rigid CDC safety standards and has also relied on appointments. According to Poulos, “we did ask members for their help. We asked them if they had to speak with one of our team that they try to schedule the appointment, which helped with addressing traffic in the branches and just doing business.”

Key Takeaway: Branch appointments provide a convenient and welcomed alternative for members who do not want to wait in your lobbies.

CUNA’s Michlig talks evolution of branches post-pandemic

CUNA Chief Engagement Officer spoke to Forbes recently about what the coronavirus pandemic means for branch traffic and he pointed out that “there’s always been a desire for credit unions to continue to have that in-person presence.” He suggests that branches post-pandemic will be used more for consultations with staff members as well as financial well-being programming.

Both of these reasons for branch visits are perfectly suited to appointments. Members appreciate the convenience of setting an appointment to speak with an expert at their local CU branch, especially considering the financial stresses that are occurring for many families during the ongoing pandemic.

Key Takeaway: Appointments are quickly becoming the norm for CU visits not only due to COVID, but because they are a boon to member service quality, as well as branch sales.

Post-COVID Branch Technology Trends

In a recent article in the Financial Brand, James Caliendo, CEO at PWCampbell, a professional consulting and construction services organization specializing in financial services, stated that only those FIs that are willing to fresh branch technology approaches will prosper post-pandemic. He recommends that they expand their branch technology mix to include new tools like interactive kiosks, iPad integration, digital marketing screens and video conferencing.

We completely agree with his recommendations and have directly addressed all of these areas with our Better Lobby modules:

  • Interactive Kiosks & iPad integration (BL Kiosk 5)
  • Digital Marketing Screens (BL Wall Display)
  • Video Conferencing (BL Flexible Branches)

Key Takeaway: Technology will never replace face to face branch interactions, but technology will always play a vital role in enhancing the overall member experience.

Parking Lot Check-in Proves Popular

We have been getting very positive feedback on our new Parking Lot Check-in feature which is a simple and easy to use feature that conveniently checks-in members from the safety of their cars. It is not that surprising  because this latest addition to our Better Lobby Online Queuing module was developed as a direct result of CU client feedback

With lobby traffic limited in many areas of the country, CUs are looking for ways to remain efficient while simultaneously creating a safe environment for their branch visitors. Online Queuing and Parking Lot Check-in are ideally suited to achieving these goals.

Key Takeaway: The benefits of this Parking Lot Check-in functionality are numerous not only when social distancing measures are in place, but we feel that they will continue to resonate with members long after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.

Parking Lot Check-in Now Available

After implementing our Online Queuing module (software which enables branch visitors to place their name in the Better Lobby Main Service Queue – for walk-in service – before arriving at the branch) at various CUs across the US, we received feedback from our CU partners that they really wanted their members to be able to “announce” their arrival in the branch parking lot via a text message. Our developers responded quickly and we are proud to announce the release of our new Parking Lot Check-in feature.

Once members have queued online, they receive a TEXT message with a “check-in” link that can be used when they arrive at the branch parking lot. It’s a simple and easy to use feature that conveniently checks-in members from the safety of their cars.

Key Takeaway: By allowing members to wait in their cars, credit unions will be putting both their members and their employees at ease.

How Video Banking Can Bolster CUs During Difficult Times

In a recent BizTech article, web editor Keara Dowd stated that FIs that have deployed video banking have seen “direct returns on the investment. That is because video banking helps:

  • increase consumer satisfaction
  • create more intimate service levels
  • increase the view of the CU as an innovative organization
  • provide excellent business continuity

Key Takeaway: Video banking is here and now and doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Our Flexible Branches video meetings solution supports unscheduled meeting and appointments, does not require any apps or software to be installed for visitors or staff, and is very affordable.

Branch Banking Remains Popular After COVID-19

In a recent poll conducted by Boston Consulting Group, just 3% of Americans said they would stop using branch banking altogether in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Without a doubt, this means that closing branches would not be advisable. Yet, CUs must seriously rethink how they plan to handle lobby visits post-pandemic.

Better Lobby offers may ways to keep your lobbies open – both safely and efficiently:

  • Appointments
  • Online Queuing
  • “Text me when I’m soon to be served”

Key Takeaway: Your members expect and want access to face to face meetings. Fortunately there are affordable ways to meet their needs.

Flexible Branches Video Meetings Now Available

We just released our new Flexible Branches module that expands our Better Lobby Service Queue to enable members inside or outside a branch to be served by branch staff using video meetings. CU staff can be working remotely (i.e. home) or at a branch different from the visitor. Members have the option of connecting remotely through the credit union’s website or visiting a branch location that is video equipped.

This timely module builds on our history of being the most innovative visitor management and appointments system in the CU marketplace.

Key Takeaway: We think that Flexible Branches will help credit unions maintain branch service capacity even when access to branches is restricted by unexpected externally imposed changes and will significantly enhance your Business Recovery/Disaster Planning strategy.

Branch Visits Remain In Demand

In a recent poll conducted by Boston Consulting Group, just 3% of Americans said they would stop using branch banking altogether in response to the coronavirus pandemic. With demand for branch banking continuing, CUs will have to rethink how they handle in-person visits.

One way to safely and effectively handle lobby visitors is by using our new “Text me when I’m soon to be served” feature in Better Lobby. Busy branch visitors who check in using Kiosk 5 can now receive a text when they are near the top of the service queue, thereby allowing them to wait for branch service wherever they like.

Key Takeaway: As branch traffic ramps up, Better Lobby Kiosk 5 provides excellent options for implementing social distancing for visitors.

The Branch Experience

According to a recent report from research firm Celent, “when it comes to quick questions, the call center beats text messaging, chatbots or social media. But for longer conversations on financial advice, new account or loan applications, and other key life transitions, customers across all age groups still prefer in-person interaction.” They conclude that financial institutions “should invest in making their branch experiences more seamless and powerful.”

Key Takeaway: Despite overwhelming satisfaction with mobile/online banking tools, along with increased digital channel adoption levels during the pandemic, many members still have a strong desire for in-person service. We can help you make these branch experiences more seamless and productive via our appointment scheduling and online queuing tools.

Appointments More Important Than Ever Post-COVID

Coronavirus has not eliminated members’ need to transact or finalize complex financial arrangements in the branch. Nor has it lessened member desire to speak with CU employees face to face about financial products and services. In a recent PYMNTS article, the author concluded that: “In-branch banking will exist long after the pandemic has abated, but it may shift from what consumers were used to seeing.”

This shift will certainly see the current surge in online and mobile transactions continue. Simultaneously, it will also include increased demand for appointments for opening new accounts, financial advice and face to face problem solving. Appointments represent a win-win for CU staff and members: they can be granularly scheduled to limit lobby traffic and thereby comply with social distancing requirements. 

Key Takeaway: Now, more than ever, is the time to allow your members to book appointments with your CU.

Branches Going Forward Post-COVID

The Financial Brand recently surveyed knowledgeable industry experts on how the coronavirus may have changed in-person banking forever. Here are a few sample responses:

David Horton, Managing Director, Global Head of Innovation for Thynk Digital: “Long term, I do not see too much [downward] impact on the role of the branch when providing advice on complex financial products like mortgages, insurance and investing, as the ‘human’ element is still very much in demand by the consumer.”

Bob Meara, senior analyst with Celent’s banking practice: “Money is a sensitive, emotional and complex topic. People will continue to value traditional face-to-face interaction for such matters.”

Steven Page, VP of IT, Marketing and Digital Banking for SafeAmerica Credit Union: “Touch, smell and the pure simple optics of a branch will be critical. The institutions that take it seriously will be the winners.”

Key Takeaway: Members will always want to meet with your staff, so every CU will need to do their best to help ensure that these interactions are done safely and efficiently. Our solutions, the Mobile Appointment Booking Tool, Online Queuing and Kiosk 5 with its “text me when I am soon to be served” feature, are designed for CUs looking to accomplish these goals.

Digital & Branches Are Completely Complementary

Over the years, many new banking channels have come on the scene: ATMs, Telephone Banking, Online Banking, Mobile Banking, Video Banking and more. After every advancement, some pundits have always predicted that the latest innovation will replace branches. However, the reality is that new channels have never replaced old channels – they merely add another layer of convenience for the member.

It is safe to assume that this multi-channel reality will remain post-pandemic. Banking consultant Dave Martin sums it up nicely: “I believe that customers of well-run financial institutions are going to come out of this period with newfound appreciation for digital and remote channels, while also becoming more grateful for the physical presence of branches and bankers.”

Key Takeaway: Digital channel usage is currently accelerating, but branches remain relevant. At Better Branches Technology, we are committed to helping connect all channels so that CUs can continue to deliver great service, however members choose to interact with them.

Flexible Appointment options

In a recent CU Journal opinion piece, Sean Desmond, chief customer success officer at nCino, notes that “credit unions are in a unique position to both help their members during this challenging time and solidify their status as their members’ trusted financial resource for the future.” He recommends that credit unions reach out to members and “proactively contact them to set up virtual or phone counseling appointments. Listen to their concerns and provide a roadmap for their financial future. As their primary financial institution, you are in the perfect position to help guide them toward achieving their short- and long-term financial goals.”

Key Takeaway: Appointments can take many shapes: in-person, phone, video from branch to branch and video from the member’s device to the CU (also known as BYOD – Bring Your Own Device.) Regardless of how they are conducted, appointments help underscore that your CU offers a full range of contact options and places a priority on convenient access.

CUs excel at Personalized Service

The 2019 Retail Banking Report from Bain & Co. found that community FIs were experiencing ‘rampant’ leakage of accountholders to BigTech, Fintech and specialist start-ups. These companies often offer robust mobile apps and full featured websites that appeal to digital consumers. Yet survey after survey shows that all demographics – even so-called digital natives – still visit branches anywhere from monthly to at least quarterly on average. Some research even reveals that credit union members desire more personalization and in-person interaction at the branch than bank customers do.

Why is this the case? Of course, people want to feel like they have physical access to their money, but more importantly they seek face-to-face financial guidance and personalized assistance that digital channels cannot provide. Personalized assistance is where CUs have always shined – members can count on their CU to deliver friendly service and consultative advice.

Key Takeaway: In these difficult times, people are trying to maintain some degree of normality. Keeping your lobbies safely open, perhaps by appointment only as quite a few CUs and other organizations are doing, is one way your CU can continue to provide personalized service in a familiar environment.