By Jackie Hudson
According to a survey conducted by the American Bankers Association in 2010, 36 percent of bank customers prefer to do their banking online over any other method. While this trend continues in popularity, don’t think for a second that it has lessened the impact of the bank branch experience.
Customers want convenience, but they still crave the personal touch that can only truly be delivered through branch contact. Reinforcing this message is the report “Top Ten Reasons Why the Bank Branch is Not Dead” from research firm IDC Financial Insights. It revealed that when it comes to opening an account, a visit to the branch is preferred by eight out of 10 consumers. Even after measuring preferences over a period of four years, the numbers remained pretty consistent – 75 to 85 percent of respondents shared that their preferred method for opening an account was at the branch. This further reinforces that a growing number of consumers are turning to their banks for financial advice, viewing them more as trusted advisors.
Banks today realize that delivering professional expertise and managing relationships in the branch are essential to supporting new and existing customers, as well as up- and cross-selling services that increase their profitability. However, many face challenges in how to effectively adjust resource models to better utilize existing staff, as well as improve their skills and knowledge to meet the shifting needs of today’s customers. With widely distributed networks, banks also are faced with how to effectively train large workforces on relationship management and changes in their product and service portfolios, and how to consistently monitor performance and focus on frontline staff development.
Leveraging Technology to Automate the Branch
Until recently, there has been no easy, automated way to monitor or track branch staff and customer interactions. This is where a workforce optimization (WFO) strategy and supporting technology enter the picture. Comprised of staff forecasting and scheduling, strategic planning, process and application analysis, performance management scorecards, learning and reporting, WFO technology designed expressly for retail financial service organizations helps banks better manage and respond to these “new branch” challenges.
Traditionally, WFO in the branch has focused on forecasting and scheduling resources to meet customer demand, and ensuring the right people with the most appropriate skills are being leveraged at the most optimal times. The latest generation of branch WFO tools, however, extends well beyond these capabilities. It provides management with critical insight into how employees are actually spending their time, how effectively they’re interacting with customers and how their performance compares to goals. One component of the WFO solution tracks employee desktop activity, enabling managers to understand the applications employees are using the most, how each individual employee navigates those applications and the time it takes to complete important transactions. Desktop activity monitoring also enables managers to gauge whether staff perform the right steps in a process, access the proper information and/or capture customer data correctly to yield optimal results. These tools can even provide guidance, with reminders to assist newly-trained employees in following the correct processing steps.
In addition, banks can leverage WFO to measure employee performance against role-specific goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) to benchmark success. WFO can track individual employee targets or quotas and monitor indicators – such as schedule adherence and sales productivity –
to help ensure customer service and performance objectives are met. Further, by monitoring KPIs at individual, work team, branch and higher organizational levels, banks can proactively assess performance trends, skill alignment and training efforts to help ensure they are yielding the desired impact.
Central to WFO is its ability to help banks manage and maximize their branch staff with the high level of flexibility required to be competitive in today’s changing environment. It not only address the need to effectively schedule to meet customer demand, it also enables banks to address the effectiveness of their employees –
a concept that is critical to driving success as banks move to having more multi-skilled staff. Take a bank like Umpqua Bank, for instance, which does not distinguish between tellers and sales staff. It employs “universal associates” that are given extensive training on all job functions in a branch. With WFO technology as an asset, banks can now gain valuable insight into how these associates are performing their work, how well customer interactions are being handled, where additional training may be required, how to gather and share best practice examples with employees across the branch network, and ways to improve processes and the ultimate customer experience.
Learning to Adapt
Despite the rise and popularity of channels such as online banking, many consumers still visit the branch to make financial product purchases. Changing customer demands and the subsequent shift in branch staff support needs have raised the stakes for bank management. Delivering optimal customer service and transitioning staff to meet consumers’ more sophisticated advisory-role expectations are both a challenge and opportunity for many banks. Backed by a workforce optimization strategy and supporting technology, today’s banks can benefit from a powerful approach and set of tools to navigate and differentiate themselves, enhance the skills and knowledge of their frontline staff, monitor performance for continuous improvement, and keep the customer experience front and center.
Jackie Hudson is director of the retail banking practice of Verint Witness Actionable Solutions.