For a long time now, banks have been automating consumer transactions commonly for the reason of cost. With the introduction of technology into our daily lives, banks have shifted their reason for automation from a cost reduction one to enhancing customers’ overall banking experience that fits effortlessly into how they live and manage their money.
According to a recent survey conducted by Accenture in the UK, nearly 70% of survey respondents still rely on branches for important financial decisions. Although banks have digitally transformed their branches to keep up with technological shifts, many consumers still see the physical branch as a highly relevant and vital component of their financial lives.
With that being said, consumers want a brick-and-mortar experience that merges with technology to be able to have a human interaction within a digital, interconnected environment.
There is a need for a branch transformation strategy that blends the human interaction of a brick and mortar bank alongside the digital services of a click and mortar bank. To achieve that, banks need to redesign the physical look and feel of their branches to better address the fast-paced needs and demands of today’s consumers.
Modernizing bank branches involves shifting from the traditional bank that provides customers with financial services to the “Experience Store”, according to Accenture’s From Branches to Experience Centres 2018 report. Such banks are not led by financial transactions but are a location to meet customers’ changing expectations and provide them with an experience they will keep coming back for.
Last year, Bank of Beirut launched the Hybrid concept where a customer’s participation is facilitated by a seamlessly integrated phygital (physical and digital) experience. Such an initiative has converged between digital services and physical classic banking transactions offering customers a glimpse of the future of banking.
As with most aspects of life, introducing technology into the banking industry imposed the evolution of the branches to become a customer-centric sector that provides them with quick and accurate services yet maintaining a level of trust built on by preserving human interactions.
Banks can now utilize different digital banking services that provide quick solutions such as mobile banking, ATMs, and/or online banking as well as services that provide qualified and expert advice such as chatbots and robo-advisors.
Because banking services require a high level of trust, consumers feel more comfortable connecting with human representatives when taking financial decisions. Branches deploying human bankers give a more tangible and real feeling to customers assuring them that their money is safe thus projecting that banks are traditional, trusted, and secure.
According to Accenture’s report, the “Experience Store” should showcase the bank’s products, and provide complex advice providing brand awareness, advisory acquisition, and customer engagement. Such banks should also consider adopting omnichannel systems to facilitate customer’s experience on the platform they prefer.
While traditional bank branches were centered around transactions, reinventing them today is a vital step to allow for their continuity as an advisory service hub that incorporates digital services and specialized bankers with the necessary sales and service skills to produce a unique experience.