Banks worldwide embrace new technologies and branch strategies in response to changing customer behaviour and expectations
The demand for self-service continues to rise
RBR’s report Branch Transformation 2021 reveals key trends in customer behaviour which help to shape and drive branch transformation initiatives around the world. One notable trend is the ongoing shift away from the teller counter to self-service channels. In response to this change, banks are offering a wide range of self-service options, from the traditional ATM to non-cash kiosks. Kiosks can perform a variety of functions, such as bill payment or card issuance, and are present in the majority of the 24 markets covered in the report.
Self-service devices are often located in bank lobbies which are accessible after banking hours for customers’ convenience. As demand for self-service continues to rise, the creation of these lobbies has become central to many banks’ branch transformation schemes. Société Générale in France, for instance, has been remodelling its branches to include self-service spaces with extended opening hours to benefit people who finish work late.
Customers expect personalised services
Tailored experiences for online shopping and streaming services are increasingly the norm and the study reveals that this expectation of personalisation even extends to banks. To cater to this demand, some banks look to redefine the teller role, placing more emphasis on building customer relationships. This is aided by the shift towards self-service, which frees tellers from performing traditional over-the-counter transactions.
New branch layouts are used to foster stronger relationships. Open-plan branches – in which bulletproof glass and teller counters have been removed – allow customers and staff to engage more easily. Some banks in Russia are even moving towards a deskless model in which staff-customer interactions take place side-by-side in informal seating areas.
COVID-19 made crowding a key issue
To further improve the branch experience, many banks make use of technology to reduce queues and minimise in-branch crowding. Self-service appointment scheduling is available at self-service terminals in over half of the markets RBR examined. Once inside the branch, customers can often direct themselves to the correct area using interactive signage. A small number of banks even make use of welcome robots to direct customers, such as China’s Bank of Communications in its flagship branches.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns about the transmission of the virus made crowding an issue of hygiene as well as convenience, placing new relevance on queue management technologies. The demand for social distancing highlights the fluidity of customer expectations and the need for banks’ continued adaptability.
Emily Beeby, who led RBR’s Branch Transformation 2021 research, remarked: “Although branches vary by market and bank, they are united by the desire to serve the customer in the way they want to be served. This means that as customer behaviour continues to change, we can expect branches to evolve, implementing new strategies and adopting new technologies.”