Bank to the future – from Main Street to Metaverse

Learn why retail banks are cross-skilling employees so that they can handle a broader range of requests and deepen customer relationships.

  • It took 50 years for telephones to reach 50 million users.
  • 28 years for credit cards to reach 50 million users
  • It took Pokemon Go just 19 days to reach the same mark.

That’s an interesting stat to wow your friends, but it’s more. It’s an indication of how technology and super-fast worldwide communication has transformed businesses’ ability to reach customers.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in banking, thanks to the warp-speed advance of fintech. Despite the rapid rise of online banking, 62% of US consumers expect to use branches in 2024, according to research firm Insider Intelligence. That’s a lot of people expecting stellar face-to-face customer service.

To meet rising customer expectations, forward-thinking retail banks are upping their game. Organizations are installing appointment booking systems and cross-skilling employees so that they can handle a broader range of requests and deepen customer relationships. The result is that customers will feel more valued and relationships will feel less transactional.

This is how banks can remain relevant from Main Street all the way to the metaverse.

Attensi identifies 10 key shifts which continue to shake up banking …

1. From bricks to clicks

Bricks-and-mortar branches remain important – but less than they were.

Their numbers are shrinking in the US by between 3-4% a year.

In 2021 there were about 5,000 commercial banks and savings institutions in the US, with around 72,500 physical locations, down from 85,000 in 2008-09.

2. Customers vote with their keypads

Customers increasingly choose digital services for their daily banking. In 2021 a Chase Bank study found a majority – 54% – were using online banking more, and that trend is only going in one direction. On the flip side, accounts that only use digital self-service channels record fewer transactions, are funded to lower levels and are not big value drivers for banks.

3. You can’t close your way to growth

That’s the message for businesses who imagine they can bank a huge cost saving from throwing up the shutters at their branches.

Although there is a clear move to online, most customers still want access to a branch – even if they don’t use it as often. According to a 2021 Sykes survey, 55% of customers said they visited a bank in person in 2021.

A local branch is still seen as a vital service for most Americans, and it will influence who they trade with.

The message is that banks must think hard about the implications of branch closures, and consider carefully how they reinvest any short-term savings from shutting up shop.

4. Staff need new skills

Customers want different, more personal services when they do visit a branch. The need for staff to handle routine tasks such as processing checks and depositing and withdrawing cash has dwindled. Now customers are more likely to call in person if they want face-to-face advice. It means that roles are changing. And that switch means a fresh focus on how staff are trained, and on the skills and behaviors they are trained in.

5. Let’s get phygital

You can rely on the best business brains to turn simple concepts into the worst-possible jargon! In that spirit, welcome to the world of ‘phygital banking.’

That’s how the industry describes the cross-over between digital and physical banking, at a time when customers still crave both.

Clearly traditional banks aren’t switching to the virtual arena overnight, and there is a need to blend the old and the new. For now, banks are embracing an omnichannel strategy that allows customers to access their services in the most convenient way for them.

6. The white heat of competition

The explosion in fintech has opened the sector to countless new operators and new business models.

It has created white-hot competition.

To stand out from the crowd banks must offer ‘undeniable value’ – a suite of services and products that meet all customer needs and wants across an array of platforms as well as in person.

The omnichannel mix of virtual and personal services is critical for banks who want to stay ahead of their rivals – and keep all their customers happy.

7. Introducing the Universal Banker

There’s a growing move towards the ‘universal banker’ – highly trained and super-skilled individuals who can handle the complete range of a customer’s requests. The role requires a wide set of personal qualities and specialist skills, and the ability to manage sensitive financial matters from beginning to end.

The new breed of universal banker offers a seamless customer experience – and satisfies the needs of consumers who seek the help of ‘a friendly human’ to supplement online service.

Not surprisingly, the best possible training and continuing professional development are vital in building the skills and knowledge necessary to make the role work.

8. Do you pass the comparison test?

It’s never been easier for consumers to compare brands – and it’s getting easier. People expect to use comparison sites to assess different businesses against their needs – and that applies to banking.

It means that customer service must be pin-sharp, and your market knowledge must be total at all times to avoid being blind-sided by the competition.

Both these factors shine a bright light on the necessity of getting brilliant training into your business.

It’s plain that neglecting staff development is a luxury no employer can afford.

9. You have to know it to coach it

As the industry faces seismic change, leaders are expected to educate their staff in new skills and new roles.

That can be tough. Not everyone is a natural coach or teacher – everyone benefits from guidance, and in training on how to train others.

At the same time, employees are expected to help customers through new digital processes and ways of banking. Training employees effectively and efficiently is critical for retail banks to thrive.

10. What gets measured, gets done…

…And what gets rewarded, gets repeated.

That’s the foundation of what Attensi does.

Our training methods and tailored solutions offer banks new ways to address an old need – educating employees.

Our training rewards repetition, and through repetition learners retain the necessary knowledge to meet customer expectations and shine in the workplace.

And you can take that to the bank.

Thanks to Stephen Griffin, Regions Bank; Clinton Cheng, Visa; Jonas Vernon Ng, Laurel Road/KeyBank and Ashley Ross, Bank of America for their commentary at the Speakers – Bank Customer Experience Summit in Chicago which informed this article.

Are you ready to level up your training?

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