As a bank trainer, I walk through a lot of bank branches and I’ve noticed something over the years…in today’s branches, there are very few employees, a whole lot of empty offices and work stations and no customers. Oh there’s an occasional customer that drops by just to avoid the drive-thru teller line, but that’s rare. And this drastic change in the branches didn’t just happen. Over the past three or four decades banks have worked hard to get customers out of the branches and the need for expensive branch staffing. This started with ATM’s and has exploded with internet banking and various banking and financial apps.
The great banking debate today is whether branch banking will survive. If you Google “The future of branch banking” you will get hundreds of thousands of articles, reports and opinions on both sides of the debate. Regardless of the future of branch banking, one thing is for sure, doing nothing is not a viable option for banks.
Some banks are just tossing in the towel, cutting the branch staff and shutting down branch locations. Others are trying to make the branch experience more customer-friendly by cross-training their branch staff to be able to handle a variety of banking needs. Both are reasonable options but…what are some of the “out-of-the-box” ideas for the branches? Here are two ideas you probably will not hear in most bank boardrooms:
Idea #1: Customer Training Centers… Provide hands-on training for customers in the branches on how to best use the bank’s “on-line” services. If customers are looking for ways to stay out of the branch, why not provide them training how to do that better? Once or twice a month branch employees along on-line bank experts would conduct free training in the branch on how to best navigate the bank’s on-line services and how to interface with various phone apps. This approach will help build stronger relationship between customer’s and branch employees plus it could help sell more bank services.
Idea #2: Small Business Loaner Office… Allow local small businesses with accounts with the bank to “reserve” an office or conference room for up to four hours free. They could use the office or conference room to return business phone calls, meet with prospective customers, interview new hires or just do office work. Currently small businesses are using Starbucks and Panera Bread to fill this role. This approach will build a closer bond with the small business customer and it may also bring in more small business owners that want to access the loaner office service.
I’m sure there are plenty of "traditional" bankers that would laugh at these options but they are definitely “out-of-the-box.” If you have some different options for bank branches, please send them to me at email@example.com .