So much of our world today is hybrid—the cars many of us drive, the in-office and work from home models adopted by many employers, and the grocery store online order pick-up lane. Today’s consumers are seeking a more personalized and streamlined banking experience than ever before, with generations from baby boomers to Gen Z conducting a balancing act with their finances when it comes to digital and in-person services.
Banks are also competing against other institutions—not just other banks—that are providing premier digital experiences: about one-third of U.S. consumers are using fintechs today. The need to pivot and implement a top-of-the-line experience to create the greatest value through strategic digital and in-person outlets is apparent. Physical branch locations have stagnated without the ability to integrate new insights from digital channels—and this harsh reality is symptomatic of a deeper underlying problem with the way these branches think about their overall strategy.
Branches still wield the potential to deepen customer relationships, deliver seamless experiences, and boost sales effectiveness—yet many banks aren’t seeing the return on their branch investments.
Digital won’t replace branches outright, but banks need to think about blending digital and in-person experiences and creating a data fluent branch employee to maximize untapped value. Here’s how:
Money is and always will be personal. Banking will continue to have in-person elements, balancing an increasingly digital market where consumer expectations hinge on efficient, customer-friendly digital tools. This will challenge banks to manage relationships and tighten the way in which hybrid platforms are managed more intentionally.
By leveraging strong digital tools and enabling carefully curated, personalized experiences to reduce unnecessary friction from customer interactions and follow-ups, banks free their employees to focus on driving value and deepening relationships with customers in person, on the phone, and over video channels.
Without understanding how to effectively empower employees with tools and insights from your digital investments, you will struggle to maximize value and unlock the potential of your branches.
Streamlined or automated processes can be used to handle the low revenue-generating areas, while employees focus greater value activities. West Monroe has uncovered that branch employees typically spend 25-30% of their time on low-value activities that can be reduced or even eliminated—with 15% of tellers’ time spent looking up account numbers and conducting balance inquiries.
With inflation persisting and an economic correction still top of mind, banks specifically need to be thinking about defaults, credit quality, and deposit runoff potentially threatening performance—evaluating profitability, determining where and how to best meet and serve customers, and determining the types of digital solutions that will get them there can create a proactive protection layer over banks in a murky climate.
The relentless challenge posed by fintech and non-traditional banking services only underlines the need for banks to establish relationship primacy with their customers.
The notion of “omnichannel” is still evolving and implies that banks can and should be everywhere on every platform. The reality is that banks should be evaluating and determining the strongest solutions and intersections between digital and in-person—and ultimately converting branches into revenue centers from cost centers through investments in these intersections.
Banks must find ways to meet their customers where they are, with precisely what they need, and at the right time—all while managing risk and driving efficiency.
The industry is currently right-sizing to best meet the needs of the modern consumer, benchmarking in-person and virtual customer experiences, recognizing that the “goldilocks” approach is the future of digital and of banking. It isn’t just about the role of the branch or the role of digital, but rather how those channels interact to engage employees and customers most effectively and efficiently—when and where they want it most instead of trying to do it all in both digital and physical means. Mobile and online-first banking is popular across generations, but the need for efficient, in-person interactions remains.
A blended approach holds the greatest value proposition for banks and customers alike. Leveraging data and technology centered around human guidance and judgment will provide customers with a strong, evolving digital experience with the benefits of expert interactions through hybrid platforms.
As the “omnichannel” undoing takes place, banks will evaluate where they can be the most efficient while providing the best customer experience and doubling down to meet consumers. Even with investing in lead channels, banks will be challenged to mask organizational complexity for their consumers. A multichannel experience, above all else, must appear seamless to consumers; those who are able to do so the best will stand out among peers.
We’ve seen that banks that successfully adopt and scale a multi-channel strategy rooted in digital see 30-40% capacity growth, 10-15% in annual cost savings, and potentially 20-25% market reinvestment. By keeping data at the epicenter of everything an organization does, banks will be able to keep customer data moving throughout the value chain to inform decision-making, enhance products and services being delivered, and accelerate growth. A key part of this is through an engaged workforce with the right talent and a digital mindset in place; the shift from bank-centric to customer-centric will come into play here.
Because digital and physical operations have long been viewed and operated as separate, the resulting disparate systems and limited data availability and fluency make it challenging for branches to integrate insights from digital channels—leaving employees ineffective at driving revenue or using digital tools to provide maximum value. If employees were empowered to leverage data and digital for their benefit to make in-person engagements more valuable, change can begin to happen, resulting in greater synergies. The combined power of accessible data and digitally enabled employees in branches is invaluable for banks seeking the best of both worlds.
It’s no small feat. Looking ahead, banks will need to embrace a mindset shift from the traditional bank centric approach into a multi-channel customer-centric approach, powered by data and digital solutions—sooner than later. Those that do so will succeed, tap into that value stream, and meet their customers where they are.