With banking from anywhere becoming the new normal, there is so much to consider in terms of creating the best experience for your current and prospective customers. Banking from anywhere doesn’t only mean virtual banking, it means empowering your customers to bank when, where, and how they want to.
You might have heard it before, and we have too: “physical branches are dead” - but that’s not true. While there has been a rapid acceleration of digital banking and virtual services, there’s no denying that people still want human connection and interaction. There’s also no denying that many people want in-person interaction when receiving financial advice. That’s why the importance of omnichannel offerings will only continue to increase - at a rapid pace.
Virtual banking is here to stay
With customers still wanting to bank at branches, but COVID changing their banking experiences - a new question arises: Will the branches that customers are coming back to ever look the same? No, they simply will not. Like so much of the world, the way people and businesses operate will never be the same. So what can banks and credit unions do to improve customer satisfaction and lifetime value? They need to consider the full end-to-end customer journey.
“Banks need to make sure there are channels — branches and digital — available for everyone, no matter their personal circumstance.”
So, what is a virtual banking branch? While physical branches are being reimagined, the concept of a virtual branch - one where customers can still get the dedicated, personalized service they’d receive in person - is a great way to provide the banking options people are looking for. Many banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions have embraced a full appointment strategy to meet the needs of their customers. During the pandemic, customers grew used to the safety and convenience of remote banking appointments, and more people than ever adopted mobile and digital banking. In fact, according to research by Juniper, online and mobile banking growth is expected to increase by 54% compared to 2020.
With virtual offerings available to both customers and staff from the convenience of their homes or wherever they choose - the benefits are undeniable. A better customer experience, a better staff experience, and less reliance on physical branches means you can give your customers the personalized financial experiences they want while increasing your bottom line. Here’s how your bank, credit union, or financial institution can create a virtual branch to reap the benefits:
1. Invest in a bank appointment scheduling solution
First and foremost, to maximize operational efficiency at a virtual branch you have to have an appointment scheduling solution in place. Unlike a traditional brick-and-mortar location where customers can come in during business hours, a virtual branch will operate most smoothly with an appointment scheduling software where customers can choose a time that is most convenient for them.
The possibilities are endless to exceed your customers’ needs by operating outside of normal business hours with a virtual branch and appointments. The after-hours availability could significantly increase customer loyalty and be the reason why they choose your bank or credit union versus a competitor. Additionally, having more convenient hours and ways to connect with customers opens up your doors to more socio-economic groups.
Focusing on creating a virtual branch where staff and customers are located in the same time zone for easy connection is ideal. This makes it seamless for customers and staff to manage their calendars and shift appointments as needed. It might even make sense to create virtual branches by specific locations - states, counties, or cities - to give an extra level of personalization and connection.
Your team could also implement a virtual queuing solution, allowing customers to join a queue (either a single queue at a virtual branch or a queue based on service type) and they can meet with the appropriate staff member once they are available. This is a great way to provide instant service and gratification to your customers who need assistance but didn’t pre-book an appointment. It also guarantees they’ll meet with someone with the background and training to address their questions.
Seamless technology integrations
Finding an appointment scheduling solution that seamlessly integrates with all of your technology to enable a virtual branch is key. From Microsoft Office 365 to your CRM system, you need a holistic look into your business. This is another reason why finding a true enterprise appointment scheduling solution that connects with other enterprise technologies to give you all the information you need in one place.
So if you haven’t considered investing in appointment scheduling technology yet, now is the time. In fact, according to Deloitte, “The [pandemic] has served as a litmus test for banks’ digital infrastructure. While institutions that made strategic investments in technology came out stronger, laggards may still be able to leapfrog competitors if they take swift action to accelerate tech modernization.”
It’s time to get your virtual branch going to enable banking from anywhere. And a scheduling solution that can scale with you, provide top-level security, be accessible to all of your customers, and integrate seamlessly with your tech infrastructure is fundamental to your virtual branch success!
2. Reallocate bank staff to optimize your workforce
Next, in order to provide a seamless experience across all channels, banks and credit unions need to focus on optimizing their workforce to best serve their customers. By creating a virtual branch, or multiple virtual branches, your teams can easily reallocate staff that makes it better and easier for customers and staff members to connect.
With certain financial restrictions and mandates, you can ensure you have the right staff available for the various services your bank or credit union provides. For example, for a virtual mortgage appointment, it might be necessary to have two staff members on the call during the signing of the paperwork. Additionally, to serve more customers outside of your traditional business hours, you can work with your staff to determine their ideal working hours and provide customers a greater range of hours. So whether someone wants to bank with you at 6 a.m. or 10 p.m. - they can! This is also great for your staff, who can take on more appointments, build stronger relationships with their customers, and have a schedule that best suits them and their lifestyles.
3. Rethink your physical bank branches for cost savings
Where can you implement a virtual branch and give your customers the human interaction and level of service they have come to expect from your physical branch locations? By reducing the number of brick-and-mortar branch locations, you will see immediate cost savings on rent and upkeep. Yes, technology, IT, and security are all costs associated with digital experiences, but there is a tremendous opportunity to save and have a major impact on your bottom line.
Through a virtual branch strategy, you can analyze which locations are most successful, which are seeing the most traffic, and continue to educate your customers on the digital and virtual appointments you offer.
4. Focus on improving customer experience and efficiency
When financial institutions instill a customer-led culture, the customer experience is unparalleled. When creating a virtual branch strategy, your customers need to be number one. You need to consider what services you provide, and how it affects them personally. How can you humanize these engagements, providing top-level service while also giving them a reason to trust you? It starts with the relationships your staff members build with customers, and from a virtual appointment standpoint, it means providing a frictionless yet engaging experience.
Another benefit of virtual branches and appointments? Reduced appointment length. One top 10 bank has cut their appointment times in half with virtual branch appointments. This meant that customers are getting the same level of exceptional service via a virtual appointment in half the time - so it’s empowering them to not only bank where it is most convenient for them, it is making everything more efficient. They get what they need without wasting a minute of time. On the staff side, there is more time to prepare in between appointments, see more customers throughout the day (or night), and more easily manage schedules. It empowers everyone, all the way around.
Embrace appointment scheduling technology and automation at scale
Have a customer-led culture
Be operationally efficient
Empower your customers and staff
All of this can be accomplished by creating a virtual branch strategy.
If you’re looking for an appointment scheduling solution to make your virtual branch a reality, then be sure to drop us a line! JRNI has helped several leading financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, insurance companies, wealth management firms, and more increase customer loyalty and improve customer satisfaction through intelligent appointment scheduling. Want to see the JRNI platform in action? Then be sure to schedule a time to speak with an expert!
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