In this age of digital transformation, the conventional wisdom says that consumers increasingly prefer to do all of their banking online or through a mobile app. In line with this, a majority of banks have made enhancement of the digital customer experience and improved IT and cyber security their top strategic priorities,[i] and deprioritized their focus on in-person customer experience.[ii] However, a new survey of nearly 5,000 participants from Celent reveals how this approach could be bad for business in the long run.
The study revealed that while yes, consumers prefer using a mobile phone or PC for simple transactions – like transferring funds between their accounts or sending checks – they still overwhelmingly prefer in-person interactions for more complex issues. In fact, nearly eight out of every ten consumers seek out personal engagement when they need to discuss topics like loan options or investment alternatives.
Perhaps surprisingly, these findings hold up even for the “digital native” generations. Three out of every four millennial customers between the ages of 18 and 29 have visited their local bank in the past two years. And an overwhelming majority, 93%, said that they still prefer at least some interactions to happen in-person at their local branch.
The findings make sense, as these higher level transactions require higher level customer service skills—like trust, rapport, attentiveness and superior communication. And here also is where it becomes of high strategic importance. The survey found that if that singular customer service experience doesn’t live up to expectations, not only will customers leave the bank, many will also consider switching banks altogether. Unprepared or unavailable banking associates, long wait times and impersonal services are some of the main annoyances that would drive them away.
In short, the bank branch experience holds a very important position in a consumer’s overall relationship with the bank brand. Banks are then left to question how they can offer the tailored and personal, yet immediate and intelligent service consumers are looking for. The survey explored this, and found that the most promising improvements were in technology solutions.
Six out of ten consumers were very open to the idea of bank associates who could use tablets to greet customers by name and offer personalized information upon arrival. Half of consumers liked the idea that they could use their mobile app to compare wait times at their local branches. And a similar amount of respondents enjoyed the idea of using interactive touchscreen displays to explore products and engage content while they were waiting for more information.
Overall, these findings show that the key to success is understanding how digital technologies can enhance human interactions.
To that end, banks need to understand how they can leverage digital solutions within their branches to help bank associate better serve their customers. These solutions promise to deliver an experience to customers that is more convenient, more efficient, and more personalized.
What do banks need to consider while figuring out how to incorporate these solutions? The report offers helpful pieces of advice for bank branches to keep in mind. With these insights, banks can develop a strategy for digital transformation that will enhance the customer service experience and ensure that customers remain satisfied with their local branch.
First, banks should approach technology solutions as a means to an end. Banks should take a page from self-service counterparts, and think of technology primarily as a tool to help associates deliver personalized and prompt customer service. By helping customers check in more quickly, or access services more conveniently, technology can help associates deliver a compelling experience that will make customers want to come back again and again.
Second, banks should focus primarily on how they can use technology to equip their frontline staff. Technology can help reduce wait times and enhance the branch experience from the moment that a consumer walks through the door. Associates with tablet-based solutions can immediately check customers in for their appointments, bring up personalized account information, and answer simple questions. Outfitting all staff with customized wearables allows for easy, instant communications between staff to support customers. These kinds of programs don’t just create a better experience for the customer. They create a better experience for the bank, by solving simple customer queries, reducing wait times, and creating a more efficient customer queue.
Third, when it comes to technology solutions, banks should think mobile. Desktop-based solutions create an obstacle in between associates and customers, and they prevent associates from meeting the customer where they are. To ensure a premier customer experience, banks should look to digital solutions that emphasize mobility by leveraging smartphones, tablets, and wearables. Large smartphones , or phablets, and tablets are ideally suited for knowledge worker interactions with customers, as they allow them to collaborate and communicate using the device to pull up necessary details and information on the spot. If a larger desktop monitor or environment is needed, connecting technology facilitates that today in a seamless fashion, leading to more productive associates and more satisfied customers.
The bank branch of the future may be digital, but it will still be undeniably human. Customers still rely on the traditional brick-and-mortar bank branch for complex services, and digital solutions can overcome lingering challenges—giving associates the tools they need to better serve their customers and deliver a better, faster banking experience.
 The full report, commissioned by Samsung, is available at https://www.samsung.com/us/business/short-form/delivering-excellent-customer-service-in-banking/
 Celent is a research and advisory firm specializing in financial services.