The following post is written by Dhananjay Unde, Nextenture’s head of operations within the United Kingdom. He has years of experience within both the software and banking industries, also earning an MBA in finance, strategy, and marketing from the London School of Economics in 2009.
I had an eye-opening experience last month; one that left me thinking about the tremendous opportunity for banks to serve the customer better. I had just registered a new business in London and I was on the hunt for a bank where I could quickly and easily open a Business Account. You’d imagine that it should’ve been fairly straight forward and perhaps something I could’ve accomplished in a matter of a few hours. However, expectation vs. reality is what’s important. I called up a couple of big Retail Banks, but grew tired of the standard scripted answers asking me to call another number and book an appointment. Finally, after tolerating significant wait times on the phone, I was told that most of the appointments were available only after 3-4 weeks!
In most high street branches, the available staff members that can open Business Bank Accounts are only available once a week. Think about how much worse it is when these people have time off? With around 120,000 new businesses launched in the UK each year, and with each business account being a paid service, you’d imagine that banks would be better geared to serve these companies, that could very well be the next Google or Microsoft, but they aren’t.
Fed up with the agonizing waiting times, I decided to visit a few local branches. I went from bank to bank, only to be welcomed with a warm smile, but then handed a card with a telephone number to schedule an appointment. Even the branch couldn’t schedule an appointment for me or answer questions regarding what documents I needed to bring with me.
I eventually decided to visit a new bank known for running their branches as ‘stores.’ To my surprise, I was welcomed in and asked to wait at a desk. After a few minutes, an employee started the account opening process. Without missing a beat, he gave me everything I wanted. Even better – I was told that I could visit them on Sunday, as well as given a list of available products that could help a new business. Unlike every other bank I had visited, I actually had my needs immediately addressed.
On my way out, the Branch Manager asked me why I chose his bank over the other ones. I told him about my previous frustrations and he promptly answered that as a manager, he took pride in maintaining a “staff availability” approach, much like how a store manager would for retail stores. The way he set up his bank, services were instantly available for walk-in customers.
In his words, running a bank as a store essentially boils down to staff availability at all times. It comes down to managing multi-skilled staff members and efficiently scheduling ‘shifts’ in a branch. Look at the Retail sector, where Shift Scheduling, Task Assignment, Time and Attendance, and Performance Management are age-old tried and tested staff management concepts. There is a tremendous need for banks to take a look at retail stores, learn, and apply a similar approach.
Over the last five years, we’ve seen an unprecedented push by the banks to invest in digital channels. With the increasing need for experiential retailing, and with consistent changes in labour laws across a variety of industries, it’s all the more important to invest in solutions that lead to greater customer engagement, optimized labour management, and savings in operations costs.
One idea for banks to consider is delivering services like account opening, mortgage application, and card replacement as “walk-in” offerings for each branch. Currently, customer interactions within banks are limited to pointing the customer to a digital channel. This needs to change – and banking should evolve its approach to customer service.
In other words, ‘Retail’ must be reintroduced in banking. Investing in ‘Workforce Management’ tools and technologies similar to stores will help banks ensure availability of skilled staff in branches and optimize their valuable human resources.