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Interaction Technology: Neutralizing the Barriers of Time, Location, and Staffing Levels

In my last blog, I continued the discussion about the 24-hour bank and how banks must transition from the physical business model to the digital business model. As part of my series on the 24-hour bank, this post builds on the question of how banks could begin to develop the capabilities, enabled by technology, to address the operational and logistical challenges inherent in operating in a customer-driven 24-hour world.

First are the factors that shape our existing banking distribution model: the traditional route to market and how clients connect and interact with their bank. Starting with branches, the traditional distribution model has evolved with the development of technologies such as the telephone, ATM’s, and the Internet. While these technologies provided increased options for clients to interact and transact, they were still affected by constraints of the existing operating model– the availability of bank staff with the requisite skills.

How so? Contact centers, telephone, and online banking required a shift in staffing models to enable customers to interact and transact outside of the normal work day. ATM’s began to allow customer self-service for certain basic transactions at any time of day. Collectively, these technologies extended operating hours for clients, but services were limited due the fact that the expertise required for more complex services were still unavailable outside the traditional workday.

24-hour banking is based on the notion that client needs can be served around the clock. This requires the availability of the requisite skills around the clock, and when you factor in the global footprint of major banks, this presents a staffing, scheduling, and cost challenge.

video image v1This is where collaboration technology comes in. A unified platform that ties together all modes of communications, coupled with video, now make it possible for banks to cost effectively staff and serve in a 24-hour operating model. A subset of collaboration technology is what we call Unified Communications (UC). UC makes it possible for the expertise required for service to be anywhere – untethered from the physical branch or contact center and easily reached. It also provides the built-in network intelligence that connects the client, whether on the Internet or a mobile device, with the right expertise dynamically.

Clients are already untethered. Now bankers can be untethered as well. When banks ‘untether’ experts, significant benefits can be derived. These include:

  • Increased productivity from a mortgage specialist, who instead of traveling between branches, can service more clients from their office through video.
  • Increased sales opportunities as more business is closed sooner.
  • Increased client satisfaction because their needs are met faster.
  • Greater leverage of existing staff across a wider geographic footprint.

Moreover, the tools that enable 24-hour operations also positively impact in-branch operations. In-branch video access to experts located elsewhere can better serve branches with peaks and valleys in customer traffic. For example, the bankers in a branch with low traffic could be redirected to serve customers in another branch with traffic that exceeds staffing capacity.

We’ve also seen how the use of video to connect experts with clients can be used to provide specialized support previously unavailable in all branches. Through video and Unified Communications, literally every specialist within your organization is available to your clients – anytime. Several banks have started to rollout and use collaboration technology to better leverage key staff and grow their business, as referenced in an article in the American Banker magazine on Bank of New Zealand , and in coverage of the “Nationwide Now” program at Nationwide Building Society in the UK. In a recent blog, my colleague Leni Selvaggio discussed how American Express is piloting mobile collaboration in exciting new ways for clients.

As more banks deploy smaller footprint branches in an effort to optimize distribution costs, these technologies will enable them to provide a full suite of services with fewer staff. The bank branch of the future may be smaller, but the services they will deliver will be bigger than ever.

In subsequent posts I will discuss the additional technologies, related business practices and policies essential for success in today’s banking landscape.

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