Human Touch

TouchingScreenCommunity banks are faced with a tough situation. Due to mistakes made by large mega banks, all financial institutions, including community banks, are encountering increased federal regulations.  The increased federal regulations bring increased operating cost and causing banks of all sizes to cut cost in other areas.

One way mega banks are trying to decrease expense is by replacing tellers with self serving kiosks. These kiosks are high tech machines that are similar to kiosks at airports.  These kiosks can do virtually anything:

  • Handle cash and check deposits
  • Withdrawal cash
  • NCR scanning capabilities

JPMorgan Chase is currently leading the way with these kiosks and have already added several of these machines in their branches.  The organization has stated customers enjoy using it and plan on expanding the service throughout the entire company.  This is causing other financial institutions, including community banks are looking to follow suit.

But if community banks follow this trend, will they be shooting themselves in their foot?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to build a debate against kiosk or even suggest it’s a bad idea for mega banks.  Heck, I have used kiosk before at airports and have been satisfied with them.  But is this the approach community banks should use?  After all for years community banks have prided themselves on customer service and personal touch.  Community banks can avoid a negative perception by considering other technology alternatives.

Negative Perception

Banks are already seen as emotionless and robotic.  Why add fuel to the fire by phasing out tellers with a kiosk?  Why not focus on building up your staff.

  • Education and Development: By providing training to your staff, you can start building your team internally.  Product knowledge, soft skills training, and learning how to uncover needs are three education programs a bank can start implementing. Another approach is teaching your tellers how to open accounts so that when the time is necessary, they can assist customers with that need and eventually be promoted.
  • Cross Selling Opportunities: How effective is a kiosk with cross selling?  People who constantly interact with someone will get to know them overtime and can offer solutions that a kiosk may not be able to uncover during a transaction.
  • Customer Service: When you need help solving a problem, what makes you feel more comfortable: speaking with a knowledgeable person or typing into a kiosk and searching for an answer?

Other Technology Alternatives

I understand the need to cut cost, but why not look for ways to cut cost and provide an outlet to communicate to customers.  Here are two examples that not only allow you to enhance customer communication, but can also provide direct advertising opportunities.

Electronic Statements

Electronic statements are a “greener” way to deliver information to your customers, while reducing expenses.

  • Cost Benefit: Save the cost of printing paper and paying for postage.
  • Customer Communication: When sending the email notification to your customer, add customized text that can promote a service or upcoming event at your office.

Mobile Banking

Depending on what type of mobile banking service you offer your customers you can receive a number of benefits.

  • Cost Benefit: Potential to reduce “account balance” phone calls to your offices; which allows staff to focus on other task.
  • Customer Communication: Provide push notifications about account balances, upcoming transactions, or special product pricing.

Finding ways to cut operating cost is essential in any business.  Just don’t loose focus on customer service when reducing cost otherwise you may end up reducing the number of profitable customer you have.

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About Jeremy M. Price
For twelve years, I had the pleasure of working in community banking. Starting in customer service, I worked my way up to a senior level marketing and human resources director. It was great leading teams that improved strategic initiatives including, but not limited to brand awareness, digital communication, employee development and product development. This experience has now led to an exciting role with CRS Data. As the Product Marketing Analyst, I am currently reviewing the company's banker suite product. This product is able to help community banks reach their fullest potential in real estate lending. I am extremely fortunate to share time with my son while enjoying life in East Tennessee. The two of us enjoy the views of the Smokey Mountains, eating good food and having fun. During my free time, I enjoy running races, traveling and listening to great live music.

3 Responses to Human Touch

  1. Dave Lewis says:

    One of the important aspects of the community bank/credit union is the interpersonal relationship one establishes over a period of time with tellers, loan officers, etc. But, with that said, in my opinion, the most important aspect is that when you have a particular issue that, for whatever reason, a kiosk is incapable of addressing other than “Please wait for the next available operator”, a person is available to assist you in your moment of need.

    In today’s world, seniors comprise a large part of the banking industry’s customer base. In today’s techo-frenzy lifestyle and, requirements, seniors are the most adversely impacted. Most are out of the job market and are not tech-savvy. Additionally, hearing is an additional handicap that many retailers and banking service reps fail to recognize.. An impersonal operator, or a preset on a kiosk can do little to alleviate the frustrations of dealing in today’s world when an Ipad could be taken out of context as a new “Depends” model. The plight of the senior is want with frustration and humiliation in certain service industries, not through overt effort to do so, but by simply failing to recognize the issues at hand for geriatrics and their inability to be tech-savvy. Isolating a segment of the service industry customer was not done through intent, but it is happening through neglect. A kiosk simply serves as a convenience to save money by the banking industry without thought to the customer base.

    Good article, Jeremy! Hope you can get out with us soon. Dave

    • Thanks for the feedback Dave! You drive a good point home concerning seniors. In fact, many branch managers will tell you that most of the people who actually come to the branch are seniors.

      Hopefully we will be able to catch up soon.

  2. Pingback: Running Scared | JuMP Around

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