The digitization of everything in business has delivered countless benefits to the world but perhaps none as profound as the empowerment of consumers. Our increasingly digital culture is equipping today’s consumers with on-demand, self-service options for shopping, travel, transportation, banking, and more. Consumers are now dictating the terms of each transaction with speed and positive user experience as the de facto expectation.
In other words, a digital customer revolution is afoot. And this leaves whole industries and business models, such as banking, with one clear mandate – adapt or expire.
The Demise of the Bank Branch is Greatly Exaggerated
The rapid pace of change in the digital age has led to some provocative predictions. For example, this 2015 CNBC article declared that the retail bank branch model was “doomed” and would disappear within a decade. It’s true that bank branch traffic is decreasing; branches closed at the fastest pace in decades in the 12 months leading up to June 2017 – the biggest decline in history.
But these predictions fly in the face of a few facts such as two of the three largest banks in the United States (JPMC and BofA) announcing that they will add almost 1000 new branch offices and thousands of new jobs over the next few years. Another important factor to consider is that survey after survey reveals that the vast majority of even digitally fluent Millennials want the option to visit a local branch as part of their overall banking experience.
The ‘Retailization’ of the Retail Bank Branch
So what’s really going on?
The truth is that the ‘brick-and-mortar’ model is no more dead in retail financial services as it is in retail stores, which similarly are enjoying an omnichannel “evolution”. This indicates that bank branch closures that have been so highly publicized may be more about pruning than total elimination.
Successful retailers today have adapted to the digital age through strategies such as uber-specialization, personalized services, and experiential shopping. This is the challenge for banks and credit unions who must also develop and deliver their unique in-branch experience and services that encourage consumers to make repeated visits. Run-of-the-mill services that can be more efficiently delivered via digital channels no longer cut it. Nor do the vestiges of negative branch experiences of the past such as long lines, shoddy customer service, and short operating hours.
The “retailization” of retail branch banking has begun in earnest. Some banks have gone as far as to mimic successful retailers like Apple in how their employees engage with customers such as equipping bank employees with iPads so that they can roam about the branch office instead of being tied to a desk or behind a teller counter.
Three-Step Action Plan for Facilities Managers
Banking facilities managers can play an integral role in delivering a positive customer experience at branch offices by ensuring that the office itself remains in tip-top shape, beginning even before customers set foot inside of the building. There are three steps that all banking FMs should take to achieve this goal:
- Embrace Brand Uptime: Banking FMs take ownership of the fact that the condition of their branch facilities directly impacts their company’s brand and their value to customers. This makes them the ultimate stewards of Brand Uptime in branches, including ensuring the maintenance of details like lighting, janitorial, HVAC and landscaping, and hence all aspects of a customer’s experience with the facility.
- Modernize FM with Service Automation: Maintaining and repairing facilities can be a highly manual, time-consuming process. Implementing modern technologies such as service automation paves the way for FMs to revamp their branch facilities operations with unprecedented levels of efficiency, visibility, and accountability. This is a critical step in achieving the goal of becoming more service-oriented versus transaction-oriented.
- Enhance Safety & Security: It almost goes without saying that maintaining high levels of security for customers and employees is of utmost importance to bank branches. Technologies such as service automation can help banking FMs (or even other branch employees) quickly address facilities-related security issues – lock and key failures or broken lights above the ATM. Further, service automation makes it possible to implement digital credentialing and enforce on-demand background checks of the contractors who need to be on-site at the branches.
There is little doubt that the venerable bank branch is here to stay. As long as people require banking services, there will always be value in human interaction for certain banking services, especially complex ones. To remain relevant, however, the bank branch’s role has to transform by blending the best aspects of the physical and digital to provide the best customer experience possible. One thing is certain: a positive branch experience is highly dependent on the state of the branch facility itself. This is a challenge that all banking FMs can meet if they choose to follow a few sensible steps toward success.