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Fireside Talk | Winter + A New Year = Hibernation and Some New Resolutions

By Kevin Barth 30 Jan 2017

Ok, full disclosure – winter is my least favorite season…by far.  I am not a cold weather fan, I don’t ski (or have any intention of learning how to), and I hate that by 4:30 PM it is already starting to get dark.  There is also something off-putting about driving to work in the dark every morning and driving home in the dark every night.  Can’t we make this season only a month long and extend spring two additional months?  I am betting that I could get some major buy-in from a lot of people if we tweaked the seasons just a bit.  Actually, if I could just turn myself into a bear and hibernate until spring, well that could work as well! 


As much as I do not like winter and mostly everything that it brings I actually don’t hibernate and it is the season where I am usually the most productive.  Between completing various projects inside the house to making (and following through on) New Year’s resolutions for the upcoming year ahead the three months of winter can pass me by with a blink of an eye.


Hopefully, financial institutions are not going into hibernation mode when the winter months roll around either. The winter months are critical to planning and executing a successful new banking year. These are the months that you want to plan your year, strategize your game plan and follow through on resolutions that are going to help your financial institution grow and keep your current members engaged and active in your branches.


Here’s some good news and a big reason why being active in the winter will set your financial institution up for success for in 2017 – members and customers, especially millennials, are still coming into the branches!  All the doom and gloom about less and less foot traffic coming into the branches appears to be unfounded…in certain cases.  In the article, Branches refuse to Die: Millennials Seeking Loans Visit Branches Most written by The Financial Brand did note that while the majority of consumers prefer online or mobile banking — and those channels are far more frequently accessed for day-to-day interactions — a surprisingly high number of consumers still visit the branch.  Within that article was a recent survey which really dove into these surprising but welcoming numbers for brick and mortar branches.


According to the study, more than half (53%) of consumers prefer online or mobile banking for standard daily transactions, but 44% said they prefer a traditional branch. This clearly shows that a good number of consumers actually like banking in branches.


Diving deeper into the survey, consumers are going to branches for routine banking activities that could be easily accommodated in online or mobile channels. Among those in the survey who said they have visited a branch in the last month, the common reasons were to deposit checks (68%), withdraw cash (51%) or speak to representatives (22%), while online site users most commonly went online to check balances (79%), pay bills (47%) or transfer money within the same organization (41%).  One final point about the foot traffic that is occurring in the branches, Millennials, according to the study, visited branches more than any other generation just last month!  Best of all, they are the generation that are coming in to apply and/or receive a loan…even more great news for the branches.


So, they are coming into your branches still (woo-hoo!), but have you or are you properly planning to engage those members or customers when they walk through your door? How about some resolutions for the new year…here are two that may just help cultivate the financial relationships of those consumers walking into your branches:


Customer service – yes I know what you are thinking, the same old mantra…make sure you give that “wow” customer service for every interaction that you have with the member or customer that walks in to the branch.  But, in today’s ultra-competitive banking industry, it’s time to think outside the box and take customer service to another level.  Another great article I recently read, Immediate Feedback Required for Improved Customer Experience from The Financial Brand spoke about this very thing.  Did you know that lobby-tracking software is available to drive an improved customer experience?  Lobby-tracking software provides an effective queuing mechanism and facilitates more personal and efficient service. The new technology can also measure wait and assist times so managers can improve scheduling over the long term and respond in real time when lines begin to form in the lobby. Finally, new kiosk tools can provide an engaging and immediate means of measuring members’ assessment of the service they’ve received.  By combining specific customer feedback with lobby tracker data over time, financial institutions can more effectively measure how much members and customers value prompt personal service and how to improve scheduling to cover busy times and avoid down time when branches are overstaffed during periods of low demand.  This is something that is still a “miss” in most branches today.  Often financial institution queues are daunting and sometimes can move at a snail’s pace.  Also, what good does a customer feedback phone call do when they are calling 2 weeks after I was last in my financial center (happens all of the time).  Maybe it’s time to take a long hard look at some innovative ways (like the one above) to really “wow” your members and customers.


Data – I have spoken about the virtues of data and its proper utilization in previous blogs and webinars that I have hosted.  Financial institutions gather gobs of data on their members and customers on a regular basis, but are you using it?  You may have useful data, however, you have to be able to do something with that useful data. Whether it is to strategically craft a targeted marketing program, using and acting on the data you get from the above customer experience example or maximizing data returned from a solution like Profitability from Temenos;  data (and the proper utilization of it) should be part of your financial institution’s 2017 resolutions.


It’s still January (and it’s still winter…uugghh) and although you may want to run and hibernate until April there is still plenty of time to put together some financial institutions resolutions that will set your branch up for success in 2017 and beyond.  As stated before, the hard part is done…your members and customers are still coming into the branches and in a consistent fashion.  Maybe you can utilize the suggestions I presented here or maybe you come up with something else but no matter what, don’t stand by idly and let winter pass you by!

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