In recent years the banking industry has spent millions adapting to the continuing digital revolution, working toward improving the user experience for tech-savvy consumers who interact with their bank online or via their mobile devices.
While crucial to success, that investment must come alongside—rather than in place of—investment in updating the user experience those same consumers have when they walk into a branch. Conventional wisdom may hold that the bank branch is heading toward obsolescence, but our research has shown otherwise.
One of the most important aspects consumers consider when choosing a bank is that the bank has a location that’s convenient for them to access. Consumers may not go into bank branches as frequently as in the past, but they still want a nearby branch available if they need it.
As both digital and traditional channels continue to evolve, the gulf between the best practices in each continues to grow.
Digital banking can handle most rote, daily banking tasks such as making deposits, checking a balance, and, increasingly, even opening a new account. Consumers expect to accomplish all of those transactions quickly, seamlessly, and securely via their digital device of choice.
Branches, on the other hand, have taken on the role of problem-resolution centers, which remains a crucial part of the customer experience. The branch itself is transforming to be more high-tech and physically smaller than the branches of the past, but no less important.
When issues arise, consumers head to their branch to get it fixed. They often also want in-person handholding for life event transactions, such as applying for a mortgage. Given that those in-person interactions happen with less frequency than they have in the past, they represent an even more critical opportunity for banks to deepen their relationship with the consumer.
Banks must empower their branch staff to be able to solve problems, rather than push customers back to the website or handing them off to phone-based customer service. But at the same time, they should design in-branch experiences to complement their digital channels, weaving them together into a seamless experience.
The role of research
Robust testing and competitive intelligence is key to creating best-in-class user experiences, whether they take place in person or online. As banks roll out plans to evolve their in-branch experience, testing helps establish whether those initiatives are playing out on the ground as hoped. Typically, the process involves testing, making corrective action as necessary, and then testing again.
On the digital side, competitive intelligence remains vital as well. Understanding the landscape, both within the United States and abroad, helps banks understand what they must include in their digital offerings, as well as how to create an experience that’s easy and intuitive enough for all consumers to use.
The two facets of user-experience research are not mutually exclusive. One large client institution, for example, uses customer experience research to test problem-resolution scenarios in their branches and at their call center. They measure not only how well the frontline handles the problems presented but also whether the employees use the opportunity to explore customer needs to build better relationships. The same institution uses digital channel research to benchmark their mobile application against their top competitors. They use this research to ensure they have functionality that help their customers manage their day to day financial life.
By looking at both traditional and digital channels, this institution ensures they offer superior frontline customer service and best-in-class digital channel features, joined together in complementary experiences. While the type of research might vary, it’s essential for banks to think about both experiences in order to create the well-rounded relationship that today’s customers demand.
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