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So How Do You Thrill a Customer? Solve Their Vexing Problem!

Today, I conducted a webinar, part two of a three part series on branch transformation. Today’s webinar was focused on how financial institutions need to change the focus of what actually occurs in the physical branch. I am advocating for a dramatic move away from the traditional transaction/new account opening focus to an engagement center. Activities that will actually draw in existing and potential customers in three distinct categories: consultative selling, education, and problem solving. Based on the feedback from the webinar, this message resonated with the FIs that signed up for the series.

Not an hour after the webinar ended, I was clearing out some emails and found this article from Bank Innovation. The story was about a new study released by Ernst and Young that revealed the results of why people make the choices they do regarding primary banking decisions. Interestingly, the three areas that EY highlighted from the study are simplicity, advice, and problem solving. I found the fact that their three key areas were so similar to what I had advocated in the webinar both validating and challenging. Validating in the sense that what I was providing in education for the attendees was in alignment with a new study right on topic. Challenging in that I still don’t see much movement in community bank and credit union C-level executives’ attitude regarding how rapidly the virtual branch is advancing and the associated impact on the branch.

I firmly believe that we live in an age where people of all ages and companies of all sizes know how powerful and liberating mobility has become. People are shopping, receiving entertainment, transacting, and interacting via mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets have enabled anyone to be able to access their financial institution at any time and place they choose with whatever device they have in their hand. How powerful! The resulting decline in branch traffic and any measurable statistic on transactions has been precipitous. Yet many bankers cling to the traditional structure and say that it is in the branch where true customer service is manufactured. And to them I say: customer service is what any one customer says it is and nothing more. Once someone has deposited a check from their mobile phone at 11:00pm on Sunday evening, can you really say that requiring them to make a trip to a branch Monday morning is better customer service?

One of the most telling statistics from the EY study had to do with satisfaction with their institution across four categories: products, channels, benefits, and problem solving. Not surprising (at least to me) was that satisfaction with problem solving ranked the highest, with 56% saying that when their FI solves vexing problems, that brings the highest level of satisfaction to account holders. See chart below:


In light of this fact, it is interesting to that so few FIs make any actual real effort to be in the problem-solving business. The model I advocate for banks to consider and possibly emulate is the Apple Store and the world-renowned Genius Bar. How hard would it be for a bank to have one? You already have a really good bar structure– you call it the teller line–just cut all that wood off the top and you’re left with a great looking long piece of marble or Corian. Put some geniuses behind there and you are in business. Once your customers and members knew that such a resource existed from your institution, they would be calling making appointments the next day. And perhaps, just as an Apple store in the mall is slammed at 11:00 on Wednesday, so your branch would experience the type of activity that befits an engagement center, drawing in virtual branch customers and prospects alike.

To get the full story, sign up for the webinars. (If you missed them, you can always ask for a replay.) But even if you don’t, I strongly urge you to revisit your strategy on branch transformation. These physical locations can become powerful engagement centers. But it won’t happen organically; you are going to have to push a new paradigm, a different attitude towards what constitutes customer service.

For more information on Q2’s Webinar Series, contact q2webinars@

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