People-savvy workers in tech-savvy branches


It has been noted on several occasions that the continual shift toward tech enhanced branches would make easier for bank clients, the ability to manage their banking needs. As a follow through, it has been determined that when relying solely on technology to reduce costs, advance customer convenience, and market technology as the future of banking, a realization is reached that something is missing. The human touch in concert with technology is where the transitions to tech-savvy branches find success. Here are three thoughts on how to improve the tech-savvy client/bank relationship.


1.    Hire people friendly people. In today’s banking business, reliance on technology continues to grow and branches are being patterned after the “Apple experience” where a person walks into a location and is offered help to navigate the differences, complexities, and challenges presented with the changes in the look and feel of a bank branch. Bank employees necessarily need to be at the ready to help people transition to these changes by standing along side and navigating people through processes until they are comfortable with their new banking environment. Social skills have become increasingly more important.


2.    Nothing replaces human touch. Branch Relationship Managers (BRM) should be established, as opposed to customer service representatives. The elevated title presupposes that new responsibilities are inherent in the position and that new awareness is necessary. A BRM should be a point of contact for retail banking practices and a person who becomes deeply involved in a customer’s banking activities and needs. Relationships and customer satisfaction can be enhanced through this process. As questions, relationships, and trust grow, customers will not hesitate to ask for services needed. Cross-sale opportunities are increased through this strategy.


3.    Hire capability and train for skill. With increased social skills needed in branch environments, capability focused attributes of employees should be considered in the acquisition process. This can been seen through transferable skills as well as direct experience with applicable abilities. While some entities believe that training creates the perfect employee, increased employee outcomes can occur when there is a focus on hiring the capabilities needed and then training the competencies that are missing. This lays the foundation for the type of employee needed to fill branch positions.


Branch Mangers can use a variety of methods to induce employee engagement in these activities. From my book, Great companies know: Employees are customers too, many suggestions are offered. Branch Managers should "Be Present", provide constructive and meaningful feedback, "Be an example" of the expected work, and reward employees when you catch them doing something right.


For many, the new look and feel of a branch presents certain discomfort and intimidation. For this reason a change in personnel attributes leaning toward customer satisfaction has become increasingly more important. Competent BRMs can alleviate anxiety for bank customers that are less tech savvy with close guidance during transition periods. Additionally, BRM can increase customer satisfaction through probing interactions asking for ways in which to further the financial partnership between bank and customer. The opportunity to increase the cross-sale of bank products becomes exponential, with BRMs as a point of contact, to bring other bank resources to the relationship.


About the author: Larry B. Friis was a banker for 23 years and has served on the Board of Directors of two financial institutions. He is the principal of High-touch Leadership, an advisory services firm to the financial industry. Larry is also an Adjunct Professor at UVU and BYUI where he teaches Finance and Business courses. Larry is a Keynote speaker.


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