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Bank Branches – “News of my death has been greatly exaggerated”

As I think back to the turn of the century, I remember banking analysts, as well as technology luminaries, were all boldly predicting the demise of not only banks in general, but of the bank branch in particular. Their mantra was, “turn bricks to clicks”. According to their view, consumers were going to abandon the branch in favor of alternative channels such as contact centers, ATMs, the Internet and, more recently, mobile devices. 

But it didn’t quite play out that way. Despite the increased use of these non-branch channels, the bank branch or store, remains the keystone of most banks’ retail strategy, and is still a vital customer interaction and revenue channel.

Banks are clearly eager to capitalize on the revenue potential afforded by their branch networks.  While many low value transactions are covered by self-service channels, the branch is proving to be the preferred channel for high value transactions where person-to-person collaboration and interaction is important.  In this role the branch experience provides an unparalleled chance to capture otherwise inaccessible sales and services opportunities, build personal customer relationships as well as to present a consistent bank brand and ethos.

Today bankers tell me that they want their branches to be places where customers can conduct their transactions quickly, in an environment that facilitates interactions with knowledgeable and qualified banking experts. More often than not, these experts are located outside the branch.   As a result banks are showing considerable interest in implementing technologies that provide consultative person-to-person interaction with experts, even when the experts are hundreds of miles away.

Virtually all the banks I’ve spoken with believe strongly that video technology is the key emerging technology that will enable them to transform and reenergize the branch.  Video collaboration provides the high touch experience required by their customers, while allowing them to optimize their product and service specialist’s time and expertise. At the end of the day, video technology not only delivers on customer requirements, but contributes to the bank’s top line and a more effective cost structure.

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