by Bren Galvez-Moretti
"Those who still classify the Internet, ATM and Mobile phones as "alternative" channels will be playing catch up for the next decade." - Brett King, Bank 2.0
Banking services, and the way they are delivered to the customer, have been constantly evolving. From the first ATM, to plastic cards, to
mobile banking, the bank has always sought to maximize efficiency in the way high-volume transactions are performed. With the technology
available, and users becoming more comfortable and savvy about their own options regarding user experience, banking has fallen behind users'
expectations. Customers anticipate multi-channel anytime, anywhere access to services, products, and customer service and information, due to
business models that operate under these premises, especially in the retail industry.
In the past, the 'banking experience' might have included a firm handshake from your bank representative when entering the branch to discuss a car loan. Today, the customer expects to be able to research, access, and use bank services on his/her own terms. The main problem with the banking experience at the present time, is that the vast amount of services offered by banks are 'siloed', meaning, they are administered by discreet departments with their own goals for growth and customer service, and more often than not, do not communicate with each other. The result is a fragmented experience for the customer, and a costly, wasteful allocation of resources for the bank.
Compared to the fast pace at which social networking provides feedback and addresses needs, banks are lagging behind in the way in which they manage their communication with their customers. Currently, the 'app' is the most popular way to access information via mobile. Surprisingly, very few banks have their own apps, and the ones that do, have very limited resources available to customers through them. Very few banks have a Facebook page or a Twitter account, and you cannot contact your bank via text message. In a society in which customer participation and feedback is key, and customers rely more and more on 'expert consumers', the current model of communication is unsustainable.
The emergence of internet and mobile banking has forced banks to rethink the role of their branches within the consumer experience. Once the center of the banking experience, the branch is now part of a much more complex system of outlets for a broad portfolio of services. The branch has seen recent transformations in an effort to keep itself relevant to customers. New models aim at establishing a public presence and create awareness to attract new customers, while adding value to the experience of the existing customer. Innovative branch models, which operate with re-designed space typologies and functions, are more efficient and reduce operating costs for the bank. Pre-fab 'pack-and-go' modular branches, for example, have become a popular way for banks to reach out to customers during special events, promote their brand, and to test out consumer demand in certain areas.
Since the branch should be an access point within a network of distribution outlets, visiting the branch should offer an enhanced experience of products and services that can be purchased and accessed remotely respectively. All forms of banking should be available, enabled, and enhanced at the branch location, and at the same time, all services offered by the branch should be distributed and accessible through internet and mobile banking. The branch is no longer a site for transactions, but rather, a mediator of knowledge between the customer and people with finance expertise; an accessible repository of the customer's financial information, with the added benefit of expertise tailored to his or her 'banking profile'. The face-to-face interaction that takes place within the branch is a conduit for accumulated knowledge about the customer, which is pulled from the different parts of the organization.
Customer behavior and developing technology will drive the future of banking to services that are enabled by an integrated multi-channel strategy -including the branch, and customized user experiences, supported by anytime access to real-time data exchange.
ABN Amro's teleportal branch uses interactive telepresence technology to bring expertise to its customers on an on-demand basis. The customers
interact with a threedimensional projection of a bank employee in a conference room setting, simulating a live meeting. The branch, otherwise
unstaffed, performs many of the functions of a traditional branch, with the added benefit of providing specialist knowledge usually unavailable
in the conventional model. The teleportal branch model responds to a latent desire for costumers to self-direct their banking experience across
touch-points, while demanding face-to-face interaction from banking experts in an advisory role.
How can multiple channels deliver an integrated customer experience?
ING Direct, an on-line only bank, has developed a new model to manifest its presence in the city. The ING Cafes, currently with 7 locations in
the United States, work as a flagship store, offer free coffee, and are strategically placed in busy areas usually across the street from other
banks' full-service branches. The Cafe is composed of a coffee shop, a lounge, a retail shop, and an 'Experience Zone' where new and existing
customers can become familiar with the bank's services and products. Staff is available to answer questions, and all banking is done through
internet channels. The Cafe regularly holds chamber and charity events, financial education seminars, expos and festivals.
How can new typologies respond to new banking models to enhance user experience and add value to the branch environment?
ABIL, a new self-service machine developed for BBVA by IDEO, aims at transforming the traditional ATM machine into an efficient device with an
updated user interface.
Privacy is addressed by turning access to the device by 90 degrees. The form itself is simplified with the design of a single slot for deposits, withdraws and receipts. An intuitive feature of ABIL is the representation of physical elements on the touch screen, which the user can see until the device dispenses the real thing.
How can self-directed interaction models be designed to be intuitive and enjoyable?