There are six key questions all financial institution leaders (from CEOs to heads of the retail department) should constantly be asking themselves if they want their financial institution to be the best:
- How can I make the shift from transactional to advisory services in my branches?
- How can my branches consistently communicate to clients all the services and products available to them?
- How can I improve client experience and let branch visitors complete transactions the way they prefer?
- How can I offer more convenience and serve all of a client’s needs in every branch and every hour of the day?
- How can I remove the barriers to effective sales and service in my branches?
- How can I increase staff efficiency and overall branch operations?
It takes innovative leaders who ask themselves questions like these to create true differentiation. And it is this differentiation that attracts clients, increases wallet share, cuts costs, and streamlines operations—all things that are leading initiatives for banks and credit unions.
But asking the questions is the easy part. The hard part is answering them.
Branch Transformation & Beyond: What You Need to Know About Design, Banking Technology, Digital Signage & More
Well, it’s hard unless you’re an expert at this type of thing (which we here at DBSI are). And if you know anything about us, you know that we believe in bettering the banking industry. Often that means sharing our expertise, whether you’re a client of ours or not!
That’s why we’re going to answer each of these questions for you, along with brutally honest pro tips for each that you just won’t get anywhere else.
Jumping right in...
Q1: How can I make the shift from transactional to advisory services in my branches?
This is the most common goal of banks or credit unions when we start working with them. While there are dozens of ways to accomplish this, we normally start off with two recommendations that provide the biggest impact in the most cost-efficient, timely manner.
Adopt the Universal Associate Model
You will notice a trend as we answer the next six questions, with at least half of them having something like this as a solution. And there is a reason for that: Universal Associates are the future of retail banking and a catalyst for change. Cross-trained employees who can complete transactions like a teller and provide advice like a platform banker, these unicorns provide clients with the ultimate advisory experience. Not only do these hybrid roles eliminate the need for a cold hand-off from teller to banker (or vice versa), but they allow for a more intimate, advisory interaction between the two, which increases both trust and sales!
Add an Expert Nearby Room
Imagine giving your clients the ability to connect with a financial expert whenever your doors are open and giving your clients access to a range of banking specialists during times that fit their busy schedule, just not your limited number of experts’ schedules. With Expert Nearby, small offices can be turned into video conferencing rooms where your financial experts, such as loan officers or CPAs, can live-stream directly to any branch to provide immediate assisted service. No more losing walk-in clients to a lack of around-the-clock in-branch specialists, and no more time wasted on the road for your staff.
Q2: How can my branches consistently communicate to clients all the services and products available to them?
The answer here is simple: digital signage. There is no better way to ensure your clients are made aware of your offerings than with these dynamic, attention-grabbing (and even sometimes interactive!) displays.
As a banker, your goal is to help clients learn about the products and services your financial institution offers and how they align with their financial needs. One problem: the current tools used to engage clients (AKA static signage) aren’t all that exciting, so instead of creating an appetite for discovery, your messages are being ignored. Also known as visual communications, digital displays take the world of signage to a new level by adding engaging, dynamic screens to the branch experience. This is the only way to make a message stand out and get consumed in this screen-centric age.
But you can’t just throw any screen on the wall and call it a day! When building out your strategy, there are a few things to consider: the types of screens you’re going to use, where you’re going to place them, and what content you will play on each.
Whatever you pick, your strategy should have variety and be creative. So, spend some time thinking about what is right for each of your branches. But in the meantime, while you think, below are our favorite types of digital signage (and the recommended content for each) for financial institutions looking to increase wallet share:
When putting together a content strategy for these big displays, you will want to choose something flashy. Oftentimes, these are used to display videos that highlight your brand, the products and services you offer, and even some educational materials to help clients along their financial journey and prove to them that you’re the partner they need.
Stop spending money on printed brochures and handouts that become outdated the minute a rate changes or messaging is updated. Instead, get people off their phone screens and engaging with your promotional messaging with interactive kiosks and displays while they wait to get serviced. With these interactive displays, clients can explore all that your financial institution has to offer via digital brochures, website pages, and other interactive content.
Speaking of... content for these displays is often educational in nature. From quizzes and games to interactive digital brochures, these kiosks allow for clients to self-discover and engage with the different offerings your institution has. You can even put tracking software on the back end of these kiosks to gather analytics into how they are being used, what content is being consumed the most, and where you should spend more marketing dollars.
This is one of the most forgotten pieces of digital signage, likely because when people think of client communications, they think in-branch. But now more than ever, especially after COVID-19 shut down so many lobbies, branded messaging needs to be in your drive-thrus.
Content for these displays should be simple and easy to read, as the client will often be consuming in while waiting in line for, or approaching, the ATM. It is best to use colorful graphics and short videos that highlight the products and services you have to offer, promote community activities or charities you are involved in, or even just share a change in hours for a Holiday.
Help bring the tools and training needed to educate and help your clients with a stylish bar equipped with tablets. At these interactive stations, staff can use tablets to help onboard clients to online banking solutions and teach them how to do the important things, like making transfers, payments, or completing transactions.
When it comes to content for these tablets, you don’t need much. A welcome screen and a live link to your online solution will get the job done.
Question 3: How can I improve client experience and let branch visitors complete transactions the way they prefer?
As clients become more familiar with completing transactions on their own, like at a grocery store, gas stations, or even their favorite spot to shop, they are starting to expect all retail establishments to offer this level of convenience—and that includes their financial institution. Self-service solutions allow you to offer clients a choice in how they transact, as well as migrate low-value, high-cost transactions to more efficient channels without sacrificing the personal touch needed to engage clients.
There are a ton of different types of solutions on the market, but we tend to recommend a combination of the three below, depending on where the machine is needed and how often it is used:
- ATMs are great for vestibules and drive-thrus where clients are just stopping by to complete a quick transaction, like a cash deposit.
- Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs) are great for stepping up the ATMs in your drive-thrus with two-way video chat that allows clients to connect with an associate in order to complete more complex transactions, or just get some quick financial advice!
- NEXT is an all-in-one solution that works best in-branch and offers self-service, assisted-service, and full-service capabilities. And to take it a step further, this kiosk puts the power of conversation and engagement in your staff’s hands with a savvy tablet interface that can be used when in assisted or full-service mode.
Q4: How can I offer more convenience and serve all of a client’s needs in every branch and every hour of the day?
Like we mentioned in the answer to the question just before this (#3), self-service solutions are great ways to offer choices in how clients complete transactions. However, it isn’t only how they complete transactions that become more flexible, with these kiosks, when does too. Now clients can complete the transactions they need 24/7, whether it be from the drive-thru or the vestibule.
And you can even take your self-service game up a notch by placing an ITM in one of (or both of) these locations. We recommend the drive-thru if you’re looking to do just one. This allows for clients to access associates via a two-way video chat to receive the help they need from the comfort of their car—and maybe even past traditional branch hours if your FI has the capacity!
Speaking of expert access via video chat, the Expert Nearby solution we mentioned in our answer to question one would be a great tool here as well. While not as convenient for out-of-hours servicing, it does provide access to more specialized bankers that a client would traditionally have to schedule an appointment and come back for.
Q5: How can I remove the barriers to effective sales and service in my branches?
When it comes to removing the barriers inside your branch, there are three categories to look at: staff operations, design, and technology. We'll dig a bit more into each of these factors...
1. Remove siloed staff roles
Your tellers are stuck at the teller line, your associates are glued to the chair in their office or cubicle, and your clients have to choose between one or the other depending on their needs. While in theory, this method makes sense, in reality, it has some flaws. One of the most serious flaws being the lack of flexibility and the effect that it has on service.
“I stood in line for 10 minutes only to have the teller inform me that they couldn’t complete my request, so then I had to sit in the waiting room for another 10 minutes for the associate who was originally available when I walked in.” Or maybe you’ve heard a client complain, “I met with a banker to set up a new account, but when I went to deposit cash into my account they made me go stand in line at the teller station. Why couldn’t they have just helped me? Am I not important enough to take up any more time?”
Let’s be honest, if your FI isn’t running on a universal associate model, then you have run into one of these (or at least a variation of one of these) complaints. There is nothing retail-friendly about this experience, and instead of creating an advisory relationship between the client and the associate, the trust is instead lost, and the client is left frustrated.
With a single, unified role, like Universal Associates, this problem is eliminated, and staff can build better relations with clients that ultimately lead to more sales and better service.
2. Remove restricting designs
We don’t need to tell you how important a floorplan and other design features are to a retail environment. From the way it looks to the way it operates, the design of a branch has an impact on everything. That’s why it is important to remove any old, confining design elements that are standing in the way of offering the desired experience. And while there are a ton of different things you should be considering when transforming your branch design into a more retail-friendly one, the two easiest wins that we always recommend when trying to remove barriers to sales and service include:
- Replacing teller lines with Teller Towers
A retail-friendly twist on the old-school teller line, Teller Towers remove the glass barriers and cold transactions traditionally seen in branches and replaces the line with inviting, tactical towers that can service two clients at a time with complete privacy and convenience. These innovative towers also allow associates to advise clients with a hip-to-hip, personalized experience instead of completing their transaction with little to no valuable interaction across an awkward line with glass barriers.
- Saying bye to offices and hello to Service Spots Traditional office spaces, cubicles, and desks are confining—for both clients and staff. When staff members are tied to their workstations, it leaves them with little flexibility to engage clients, and leave clients with that uncomfortable “I’m going to be sold to,” feeling. That’s why we built Service Spots. Our patented design has an open concept, combined with comfortable seating and flexible workstation space, which allows your associates to easily move around the branch, engage clients, and begin intimate, advisory conversations instead of cold, over-the-desk transactions.
3. Update archaic technologies
Once you’ve trained your staff up into an army of Universal Bankers and opened your floorplan up with more retail-friendly design features, it’s time to say goodbye to outdated, restricting technologies and hello to new, fresh, integrated ones.
For example, you no longer need to imagine a world where your tellers can break away from their station and your associates/bankers don’t need to interrupt tellers or redirect clients for transactions, thanks to RTA.
Remote Transaction Assist (RTA) is a game-changing tool driving the future of retail banking. With this patented tool, any transaction becomes a fluid experience. RTA integrates with all of your cash recyclers and dispensers, making them all available to all your tellers and associates, from anywhere in the branch. Now, whether your staff is standing next to a device, working in the lobby, or wandering between Service Spots, clients can be served by one associate from start to finish. Named the Best Fintech Solution, RTA not only delivers environment flexibility but also boosts efficiency and the overall client experience.
You can see how RTA works in this short video:
And you can even take it a step further with NOMADIX, the only tablet interface built specifically for Universal Associates, which allows your staff to easily move around the branch and seamlessly complete transactions or advise clients on the go and from the palm of their hand.
You can see how Nomadix works in this short video:
Q6: How can I increase staff efficiency and overall branch operations?
Perhaps the most important question of them all and one that affects the bottom line the most, how can you make your branches operate better? As big and complex of a question as this sounds, there are really only three key components to increasing efficiency:
1. Cross-train your staff into Universal Associates
We told you that we’d be bringing this solution up in several answers. Universal associates have just got it going on... what can we say? Besides offering clients a more seamless in-branch experience, this model also offers staff a more efficient—and fun—way to operate. When you eliminate the siloed roles of tellers versus bankers and you create a single role that uses both skill sets, your staff experience multiple benefits:
- They can create more meaningful interactions with clients, rather than be forced into a single functioning role.
- They have more room to grow and learn in their career, which increases their retention rate.
Your branch will also experience several operational benefits:
- The average full-time employee (FTE) count is cut by 1/3 when the Universal Banker model is adopted.
- Smaller branches (especially micro-branches) can operate with as little as a single Universal Associate.
2. Equip staff with necessary technologies
We won’t go into too much detail here, as we’ve already discussed most of these technologies in previous answers. So instead, just a quick overview of each and how they increase staff and branch efficiency:
- RTA, CFM’s patented cash automation solution, allows you to spend less money on hardware and increase the number of staff who can share cash machines with easy access from anywhere in the branch.
- Nomadix, the only tablet-based interface built for Universal Associates, allows you to eliminate the siloed roles of tellers and bankers by placing the power to complete transactions into the hands of the platform staff.
- Self-service solutions, especially full-service kiosks like NEXT, allow clients to complete low-value transactions on their own and frees staff up to handle more high-value interactions.
One technology we did not talk about yet, is IQ. While RTA and Nomadix allow you to access your hardware, like teller cash recyclers (TCRs), IQ provides analytics into how each machine is being used. With real-time analytics, you can make data-driven decisions on purchasing, deploying and servicing your cash dispensers and recyclers.
You can get a quick intro to IQ and how it works in this short video:
3. Provide hands-on and ongoing training
You can design an incredible branch. You can invest in the best technology around. You can even change your teller’s title to Universal Associates. None of these actions matters, however, if you don’t provide your in-branch and back-of-house staff with adequate and continued training.
But keep in mind, developing a training program is a lot of work (it’s a full-time job on its own!), and new initiatives within the branch are too important to let slip. That’s why we offer a program called Delivery Defined to help you support your staff and maximize the success and benefits of your new staffing model.
Delivery Defined allows for your associates to get involved in the training process, compiles extensive research on your market and desired branch state, and packages up everything you need to flawlessly execute a universal staffing model–customized to your branch. This includes:
- The hiring process, including roles and profiles
- Talk tracks and sales playbooks
- On-site resources to train your staff
- Role-playing and other exercises
- Branded playbook to map out every transition or situation that could happen (trust us, we’ve seen it all!)
- An online academy with courses for in-branch and back-of-house staff to both grow new skills and refresh existing ones
But don't just take our word for it. Check out the powers of Delivery Defined in this short case study video:
Picking a Transformation Partner
So, if you’ve taken anything away from this, it’s that there are a lot of elements to branch transformation—especially if you want to get it right. That’s why there are firms like DBSI + CFM, that specialize in transforming branches into modern, retail environments for banks and credit unions. And besides the ability to fuse together all the parts of transformation, what should you look for in a branch transformation partner?
When you are in the process of hiring a partner in your transformation journey, be sure the company you bring on board check off all these boxes:
- Industry Experts: You could go to the architect down the street to design a new branch, but would they be familiar with new technologies in the banking industry, ways to best integrate banking equipment into the design, or strategies to improve your client experience in the branch? The reality is…without living and breathing the financial institution market every day, it’s hard for the architect-next-door to truly understand and address the design roadblocks branches face today.
- Employee Advocates: Find someone that will help bring your team into focus. At DBSI, we go through an initial process of compiling everyone’s opinions, ideas, and thoughts into an executive summary. Why do we do that? By summarizing everyone’s comments, it makes creating aligned goals and decisions that much easier.
- Thorough Research: Find a partner that can help you define your Current State. We find that clearly identifying what is and isn’t working in your current branches is a great way to simplify the choice of what makes you unique, what needs to stay, and what needs to go.
- Actionable Strategy: Find a partner that can help you understand what your Desired State is. Decisions are a whole lot easier when you clearly understand what the new elements are, and why they are being added. When you see the final project, you should be able to think “Yes, this is exactly what I expected!”…something that feels right.
- Clear Expectations: Find a company that can show what your Branch Transformation will look like — before any construction is done. Unless you’re an architect, making sense of blueprints is impossible. By getting 3D renderings of proposed designs, you can truly understand what these spaces will look and feel like and have confidence in your choice of design.
- Vendor Management: Use as few vendors as possible. One of the most complex aspects of a Branch Transformation process is trying to be a project manager and get several different companies to work together to complete a project. The typical scenario calls for roughly 14 different companies from start to finish. This isn’t the ideal way, which is why we built a company that has everything under one roof.
If you are looking for a partner that can help take the stress away from your Branch Transformation project with a simple, done-for-you methodology, we might be perfect for each other.