Popular wisdom says, and it seems that we all agree, that technology is changing the way people work in the branches and offices of credit institutions. It is not uncommon to hear that branches have died at the hands of Internet banking or that mobile phones will no longer mean that you need to go to the offices in person. If we add to that a bit of reconversion of the financial sector and a redimensioning of the distribution networks, it seems that everything would point in that direction.
Those clients more familiar with the technology, use both ATMs and online or telephone connections to carry out their transactions. And that’s probably where their relationship with the bank they work with ends. Neither they know their entity nor their entity knows them, the business relationship is simply the entry of the payroll and the payment of receipts. For this type of customers, more and more numerous, the only reason to move to the branch is if there is any significant change in their life, such as a wedding, a birth or the purchase of a home.
This situation has been driven by the same entities, which seems to have prevailed the withdrawal of the customer from the branch, often the customer even more profitable, in order to automate operations and reduce costs, and resources allocated to the office. On the contrary, banks have lost the opportunity to discuss, analyze and study with their clients, their financial needs, and examine with them the financial services they could offer them.
Banking offices should not only take advantage of the presence of their customers in them, but also encourage customers to approach them and do everything possible to get to know them better, in order to build loyalty and lasting relationships that are beneficial for both.
Credit institutions must be able to migrate from a branch model based on the transaction to a new model based on commitment and personal relationship, but for this it is necessary to have a “road map” that helps change the culture, skills and resources.
The best way to get to know customers is to talk with them. Those days of trying to open a checking account in ten minutes, in an Olympic speed competition, should have disappeared. You have to take the time necessary to explain to customers what they can expect from their bank or cashier and take advantage of those moments to ask questions to the clients and get a fundamental information for the future business of the office: What form of communication Do you prefer ?; For transactions of a certain level of complexity, do you prefer to be online or at the branch? What are your financial objectives ?, etc. We must take advantage of the unique opportunity that is offered to position your financial institution as the trusted advisor.
Another way to find out the needs of customers and their communication preferences is through a “we want to know” campaign, inviting them to come to the office, greet them and meet them. These invitations can be framed with the possibility of meeting experts who can advise on their financial concerns, thus strengthening the role of the entity and the relations between both. Try to avoid the temptation to place the product of the day and focus on relationships. Make sure that the client perceives that he is being listened to and that he is someone important.
But to initiate the opportune steps towards what it is to be an authentic “relationship bank”, a real change in the way of thinking of many credit institutions is necessary. An interesting example we have in a bank in the US state of Delaware, which began hiring employees not having previous banking experience, but experience as employees of commercial establishments, looking for another type of profile and skills closer to this new type of banking they were looking for.
And to ensure that these changes are successful, the employees of the branches and banking offices need to see also a genuine commitment on the part of their managers towards this new type of commercial relationship. Carrying out an internal communication campaign that insists employees on the value of the change towards a relational model rather than operations, will serve to reinforce the idea of the importance of establishing and strengthening relationships with customers and not just the sale of products. If we also create work plans and objectives based on the overall management of the portfolio and customer satisfaction, rather than standard criteria of units and revenues, we will have taken a big step.
The new commitment model requires that the staff that serves clients is adequately trained not only in products, but in the management of that client. Historically, many banks have based their training on face-to-face programs, or on closed distance training programs, followed by alerts and notifications that allowed updates on knowledge. However, this traditional model is not easily scalable and the distribution of knowledge through notes and bulletins is not easy to measure its practical results. Implementing solutions that use alerts and automatic programs in the computer or workplace, and then link them with actions and performances, offer credit institutions the possibility of achieving much more interesting and easy-to-measure results. As the products that banks and savings banks use are continually changing, campaigns are happening and the needs of customers are evolving, credit institutions should be continually updating their employees’ training. By establishing a permanent mechanism for this, the branch and employees would benefit from the possibility of measuring performance, as well as ensuring that both the client and the bank expect that their expectations can be met.
Now that the banking landscape is changing by leaps and bounds, one thing is for sure, as more and more customers are entering the digital world, the branch’s opportunities to interact with them will be diminishing. The most advanced banks can not afford to delay in the design and implementation of a strategy that takes advantage of the branches to create and strengthen a long-term beneficial relationship with the client, based on personal knowledge and interaction. The key to success lies in the training and adaptation of the employees that serve customers, who have to migrate from a service based on transaction processing to become relationship managers, while at the same time having A deep knowledge of products and services.