Conversations about customer channel migration, branch sales and growth are gaining momentum. But while customers are evolving and adopting less traditional ways of banking, many branches are stuck in a time warp and continue to operate as order takers versus consultative advisors.
For years, banks have focused on deposits for driving low cost funds to support commercial lending, but in today’s banking landscape, deposits are making a resurgence as the priority. But competition is stiff, so maintaining wallet share through relationship building is just as important as ever. The challenge, however, is that in the branch networks, customer-facing employees are engaging and reacting to customers in much the same way as they have for the past 20+ years. They are trying to build and foster relationships in a way that is not always relevant to a multi-channel client, and they are not getting the support or training they need to function any differently.
If bankers don’t recognize the growing reliance customers place on multiple banking and payments channels and help branch employees evolve to the same level as customers through training and education, they will not be able to effectively engage with and cross-sell to customers. If they can’t solve complex customer problems regardless of the channel used, how can they build and deepen relationships? If they can’t build relationships, how can they increase wallet share? If they can’t increase wallet share, how can they increase deposit share?
In their efforts to empower branch employees to evolve and support the client’s desire to bank virtually, branch managers need to make sure customer-facing employees are prepared to answer these five basic questions:
- How do the institution’s Internet banking and mobile products work?
Credibility is a key component in any sales or servicing encounter, and if every branch employee can’t show customers how to use digital channels and evangelize why they should, they will slowly lose credibility in customers’ eyes.
- How do customers learn the status of their online loan applications?
If branch employees are going to be relevant to multi-channel customers, they need access to the status of an online application. They also need to understand what they are looking at when they see it: stage in the process, next steps, decision criteria, etc. The “Um, let me get you to somebody who can help you” answer does not inspire customer confidence.
- What is P2P and Venmo, and why should customers use debit cards or P2P payments instead of checks?
Employees that cannot answer these questions are not relevant to Millennial customers. Customers drive the need to transact more digitally, and branch staff needs to be well versed on how to make sure the bank’s payment products, including its P2P solution, digital wallets or other non-check solutions, are part of all those transactions. Branch staff also needs to be able to help customers leverage those tools as they migrate to digital payments.
- What happens when customers use their debit cards? Is it better to use a PIN number or sign for a transaction?
Interchange revenue is one of the biggest components, if not the biggest, in checking account profitability and stickiness. Branches can move the dial on transaction count and revenue, but they won’t if employees don’t understand how interchange revenue works and why they need to push adoption and usage.
- What is a credit score? How do customers see theirs?
Customers are far more aware of credit scoring today based on fraud education, and they are prompted daily to check out their scores with one click services through vendors like Credit Karma. They also get notified of their credit scores whenever they fill out a basic loan application. So when customers ask what the number means and what’s contained in the free credit report they carry in, it is important to be able to explain what they are actually looking at and its impact on their purchasing power, not just fraud detection.
Branch managers need to be thinking about what they are really losing by not training and educating the workforce. Branch employees can best sell and support products and services they really understand, and managers need to give these customer-facing teams the knowledge they need to be true, multi-channel relationship managers. Consider making a short video from the CEO and a training soundbite that educates and empowers team members part of the bank’s continuing education strategy.
Whatever the tools, in the end an investment in employees has a triple retention impact at the bank—on its customer base, its employee base, and the next generation management team.
Thanks to Roger Bussey and Tony DeSanctis for their contributions to this article.