Making business more “human” has become an effective way to increase customer loyalty. Apple and Starbucks have been very successful at attracting and retaining customers by creating exceptionally appealing in-store experiences. For example, Apple built a lifestyle theme around both its products and its retail outlets that customers easily identify with and want to be part of. Starbucks gained the coffee culture competitive edge by launching stores that invite customers to lounge on a couch, listen to music, and boot up their laptops while enjoying unique beverages and tasty snacks.

Banks are catching on that they too can create compelling “in-branch” experiences that are equally appealing to their customers. A case in point is Capital One’s 360 Cafes, which offer customers a comfortable environment for handling transactions, meeting with branch representatives, or simply enjoying a cup of coffee while taking advantage of free Wi-Fi.

A transformation in branch banking

But there’s more to this new customer experience than comfortable couches and cozy, Internet-enabled bank lobbies. Now that online banking has gone mainstream, bank branches and their employees are free to transform themselves into the human face of the brand―blending the best of online and in-person banking to create entirely new and differentiated customer experiences. This transformation marks a significant change for bank employees, not only by opening the door to new profit growth opportunities for the businesses they support but also in terms of allowing them to make a more strategic and impactful personal contribution in their everyday work lives.

And it’s all thanks to technology. Interestingly, technology has been a double-edged sword for the banking industry. It’s been estimated that digital disruption has put as much as a third of bank revenues at risk. As online banking has become commonplace, branch visits have steadily declined. In fact, there are those who have predicted the end of the branch workforce.

Opening doors, figuratively and literally

The good news is that, as is often the case, disruptive forces close one door and open many others. While standard banking transactions may have migrated away from the bricks and mortar branch, the gap they’ve left is being filled by a model of the bank branch as a strategic life partner that assists customers with achieving long-term financial goals in areas such as wealth management, home ownership, and retirement planning. Digital capabilities are becoming tools to enable this new role, rather than disruptors upending it.

With 78 percent of America’s bank customers expecting to continue to visit their local bank branch on a regular basis into the foreseeable future, clearly there is a place for the brick and mortar bank branch in today’s financial services environment. However, the look, feel, and function of that branch is changing.

The bank branches of the future will fulfill three essential roles:

  1. Digital ambassador—helping customers successfully navigate the world of digital financial services
  2. Full service advisory—guiding customers through complex financial planning and specialised services
  3. Problem solver—offering faster, better, first-contact and personalised solutions to customer issues

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the success of this new model depends very heavily on the caliber of the talent that staffs the branches of today and tomorrow. Statistics show that only a very small percentage of customers change financial providers because of the quality of services (including digital capabilities). However, approximately one-third leave because of poor customer service.

In my next posts I’ll delve more deeply into the new, human-centric branch experience and the human capital implications of this transformation. I’ll also share some “how to’s” on acquiring and keeping the right type of talent to make sure your firm excels at delivering the human touch in banking.

To learn more about the human touch in banking, please see:

Branching out: The case for the human touch in banking

Transforming the banking branch

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