Many customers love the convenience of running their lives from their smartphone or other device. Now, there’s an amazing array of high-tech tools to help them make the most of their money. From budgeting to managing multiple accounts and comparing rates – there’s an app for everything.

However, for many customers, money can also be an emotional and even stressful issue. Even the most tech-savvy millennial can feel overwhelmed when it comes to complex financial decision making and welcome the reassurance of face-to-face service and advice.

This is where banks with a digital branch network have a significant advantage. Unlike a traditional branch, a digital branch introduces interactive digital experiences where there are no tellers, no lines, but digital screens, self-service and assisted service terminals instead.

When customers need you, can you step-up to the challenge?

Although many have predicted that the days of the bank branches may be over soon, we believe they have a bright future.  They offer banks the perfect opportunity to really be there for customers – just at the point when they need you the most.

According to Deloitte’s global digital banking survey, even many younger customers (48% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Z) prefer to visit a branch at some point in the onboarding process.

That’s not to say the bank branch landscape won’t change. In fact, technology, new competitors and changing customer behaviour are already driving a significant shift from traditional to digital branches. If branch banking is to remain relevant to customers in the 2020s, staying the same is not an option and the pace of change needs to increase rapidly.

Nearly every consumer activity has shifted to digital in some way; from listening to music, to shopping and booking restaurant reservations. In this constantly connected world, customers want better value from their banks as well as personalised and directly relevant offers and communications. They might love digital but they also demand for a human touch at key financial moments. As such, improving digital customer engagement and creating frictionless and seamless customer experiences at branches is now high on the agenda for many banks. It’s time for them to reimagine the ways to deliver the knowledge, interaction and value that is relevant to each customer.

Technology changes everything

For business leaders in the banking world it’s no longer about ‘managing branches’. Instead, future-ready banks are rethinking the branches’ role and managing omni-channel distribution strategies that balance customer needs with efficiency. They are also focusing on value-added activities and relationship building. In this new business model, the role of the digital branch is to deliver a differentiated customer experience through branch designs based upon a deep understanding of customer needs, behaviour and usage. At the same time, there’s a need to minimise the cost of delivery.

Three ways to create digital first engagement in branch

The design, capability and function of branches need to appeal to a diverse range of customers, from the digitally savvy to the more cautious. They also have to fulfil a broad spectrum of financial needs from simple deposits to complex financial arrangements, such as mortgages or business loans. Here are three ways customer-centric banks can boost engagement in branches.

  1. Integrating digital customer experience with physical presence in the branch

A digital customer experience often begins with online or mobile account opening capabilities. Smart banks can extend this digital onboarding into an engaging digital branch experience.  A new branch layout that encompasses self-service terminals, kiosks, digital touchscreen walls and virtual Meet & Greeters provides an enhanced banking experience to digitally savvy customers.

  1. Provide face-to-face alternatives

Customer centric companies live and breathe their customers’ needs and are laser-focused on creating amazing experiences. An effective digital branch design gives customers the option to immediately transition from self-service to human engagement and interaction at key moments. As technology frees branch employees from repetitive transaction handling, they can focus on guiding customers that are more cautious on how to make the most of the innovative self-service capabilities of the digital branch.

Even mobile banking customers sometimes welcome the reassurance of a branch. Maybe they’re making a more complex financial decision, such as choosing a mortgage, for the first time. Or, perhaps they’re stressed over an unusual transaction on their account and want to speak to someone urgently.

At some point in the journey, most customers face a situation where they value face-to-face help and advice. Digital branches can meet this customer need. They also offer the opportunity to exceed expectations.

As tellers are no longer behind intimidating glass screens, they can become friendly advisers. Bankers and customers can sit side by side, looking at the same tablet screen with a consolidated user interface for all banking functionalities, to answer questions and solve problems. We call it hip-to-hip banking.

  1. Ensure a seamless omni-channel experience

Louise is generally quite confident with using technology and she’s perfectly happy starting her account opening process online. But, when she’s asked to provide documents she prefers to take them into the branch rather than uploading them and scanning a digital signature. She has a busy work day ahead so she’s happy when she discovers she can ‘take a ticket’ using her mobile app queuing system to make an appointment at a convenient branch – no-one likes to spend their lunchtime in a bank queue!

A virtual Meet & Greeter at the branch directs Louise to an assisted kiosk. The adviser has all her details on screen and takes care of everything in a matter of minutes. Louise is delighted with how quick and easy it is.

Her adviser also offers to show her the other digital tools available in the branch. She still has plenty of time for lunch, so why not? There are interactive screens, touch-tables and tablets. Even smart ATMs that give Mobile Cash withdrawals if she doesn’t have her debit card, and Easy Card terminals that can process, verify and issue a credit card application in a matter of minutes.

Seamless omni-channel capability is all about allowing customers to choose when and how to complete any financial process. If they choose to start a transaction using digital channels and then pick up their request face-to-face in the branch, that experience should be easy and engaging across every channel.

Louise is impressed with the joined-up customer service at her digital branch.  It was convenient, personalised and friendly. And, she’ll probably be back.

Digital branch platforms, such as VeriPark’s VeriBranch, can transform branch effectiveness.  Many people, like Louise, are hybrid customers. They find smart, sophisticated self-service terminals convenient for day-to-day transactions but still value the reassurance of face-to-face support.

Digital branches leverage technology to become added value advice hubs. They offer banks valuable opportunities to build profitable customer relationships alongside enhanced operational efficiency.

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Banking Reimagined: Building Resilience to Thrive in the New Normal

There has never been a more important period for financial services to embrace digital transformation.

From reimagining the workforce of the future to accelerating digital transformation in digital lending, creating branches of the future to digital customer onboarding, these insights will empower you to thrive in the New Normal and give you the keys for digital success in financial services.

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