“Relationship management” is a key theme in most branch planning nowadays. A good branch manager, new accounts representative, and even teller are expected to be guides, so to speak, for customers in their travels through the myriad products and services the bank is trying to sell.
If we take a snapshot of customer behavior today, where are those travels taking the customer? How much are branches expected to manage customer experiences they don’t actually handle directly? We’ve been thinking about this at Cornerstone (I know – we don’t actually have lives), and as I was sitting in a branch just last week watching employees serve customers it struck me how many times those employees needed to talk about some transaction or event that occurred somewhere else.
There are numbers to back up that observation. Based on the surveys we conducted with banks and credit unions this year, I can tell you that for every 100 times a customer visits a branch, that customer also performs:
Think about it. Even if a debit transaction at the store is weighted as less important than a branch visit, the message is the same – more than 75% of the customer issues a branch deals with may have been caused by an encounter the branch had nothing to do with directly.
Now, this hasn’t gone unnoticed by any means. In fact, there has been a great deal of focus and increased demand on branch systems and their ability to integrate the account information, transaction history and customer contact history needed to competently service the customer. Vendors have felt this heat, and rightfully so.
But how well are branch employees armed with the non-systems part of this equation? How well do branch employees understand how all of the other contact points and channels actually work? Do they understand the entire process beyond just how systems work? This is an issue that executives in charge of branches need to take a hard look at, because, in the long term, branch knowledge of the entire process a customer goes through in these non-branch encounters will be more important in giving great service than the systems branch employees have in front of them that provide the information.
Let’s get specific. Here are 10 areas of questioning about branches that the best practice bank will be able to address with authority and confidence:
Bonus question – If a business customer walked into the branch and dropped an account analysis statement on the desk, how many branch employees could discuss it with confidence and credibility?
These are only some examples. Anything here you think a branch shouldn’t know? Would you be confident on the front line with customers if you couldn’t answer them?
Here’s the point. Any of the customer encounters listed above might occur completely outside the branch and never need branch employee involvement. They are also all encounters that might require a branch employee to be in the thick of at any time of day, when they can’t pass off, and where the customer’s long-term impression of the bank is at stake.
Anyone who spends a few days in a busy branch will see quickly that these are examples of things branch employees need to know. Never mind that “there’s online help and manuals.” Not good enough. Branch employees need to be able to explain them ad hoc with authority to a worried (or maybe steamed) customer. And here’s a note from the field – they’re dying for this training and knowledge. Branch people are nutty about understanding how things work, and I think nothing, absolutely nothing, will cause them to sit up straight, look customers dead in the eye, assist them with flair, and cross-sell them the next product and service you want them to get than the confidence this type of understanding and knowledge brings.
Check the 2007 branch training budget and ask how much is being spent on sales behavior, how much on systems, and how much on just explaining how things work in banking.
Is the mix right? Think about it. They’re your customer guides, after all.