Our increasingly digital existence means we can do pretty much anything with a secure internet connection and a bit of plastic. We can order groceries to our front door, send flowers to our mother, and transfer money within (and outside) our accounts. Online banking has virtually eliminated the need to visit a bank in person, but does this mean bank branches are obsolete?
It’s easy to think that bank branches are dead with new features being introduced – like video banking – to the industry. As Shital Chauhan, Expert Business Analyst at Misys Financial Software, writes in a recent article: ‘Video banking enables banks to preserve the human interaction that customers still desire…The industry’s dependence on interactions across its ecosystem makes it imperative for banks to examine ways to involve and interact with customers anytime and anywhere. Video banking, like mobile and digital banking, will run in tandem with branch services…If done correctly, it will help banks to meet and exceed customer expectations and position them to be more competitive.’
Although the evidence makes us think otherwise, bank branches aren’t completely irrelevant. In a report by TSB, they found that 69% of people believe that it’s important to have a bank branch close to where they live. Clearly, there’s still a need for banks to have a physical presence on the high street, but how are they attracting customers?
A more luxurious customer experience
In the same way that Skype will never replace a face-to-face conversation, digital banking will never completely replace a personal interaction. Bank branches are realising that they need to offer an enhanced customer service experience to draw clientele in. North Shore Credit Union in Vancouver, Canada has done just that by reinventing themselves as a Financial Spa, described as ‘an environment that calms and relaxes yet sets the stage for a productive and engaging financial discussion.’ There’s a kids’ zone, soothing hot towels, locally-made art on display, soft music and a calming interior to make you feel like you’ve literally stepped into a spa. To read more about the story of the Financial Spa, read this case study here.
A more convenient customer experience
We’re a culture of multitasking: catching up on emails while we eat lunch, or doing an hour on the elliptical while preparing a presentation. And now we can get our banking done over a cup of coffee with Capital One. The American bank has opened a series of Capital One 360 Cafés all across the country. These convenient spaces allow you to take care of your financial needs with a banking associate and indulge in a nice hot drink. To give them a competitive edge, they also offer free Wi-Fi with plenty of ports for charging your electronics.
A more inclusive customer experience
Barclays has found a unique way to get customers to visit their branches with their Digital Eagles programme. Designed to help the young and old alike build their internet skills, Digital Eagles offers in-branches services all over the UK like Tea and Teach – free sessions where you can discuss and learn valuable online skills over a cuppa. They also have a Code Playground, where kids can learn the basics of coding, to engage with the younger set.
Fighting to stay relevant
As online banks continues to advance, bank branches know that in order to increase footfall, they need to come up with truly innovative, competitive offerings for their customers. From coffee to coding, the banks are proving that it’s not all about digital.