Tulika Sarkhel
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With digitization taking over the banking industry by storm, and customers taking to online and mobile solutions in droves, physical bank branches stand the risk of becoming obsolete soon. In January this year, Wells Fargo announced plans to close 400 out of its 6065 branches across the US by the end of 2018. According to the research services firm Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, almost half of the existing bank branches in the US could be shut in a decade’s time.

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The rising costs of maintaining brick-and-mortar operations and low footfall are some of the reasons behind these branch closures. But, the fact remains that in spite of the surge in use of digital channels, many customers still prefer to visit bank branches, especially for financial advice or high value transactions. Visiting bank branches may also be inevitable in some instances – as was the case during the recent demonetization exercise in India.

Empower bank tellers to amplify customer experience

Shutting down branches can be a dilemma for banks. Whatever be the reasons behind branch closures, banks will have to keep a certain number of branches operational in the future, to satisfy customer demands. The best way to ensure the survival of branches is to make them profitable. Banks need to make the most of customer touchpoints by empowering the customer-facing staff. Bank tellers are often the primary point of contact for a customer. What if you were to equip them with analytical insights? Won’t that give them an opportunity to improve customer experience by leaps and bounds?

Setting aside data security concerns for the moment, let’s consider an example of how analytics can empower bank tellers. Say I plan to visit Singapore on vacation, and make a trip to my bank’s nearby branch to buy some dollars. As soon as I reach the counter, the teller asks for my account number. She punches it into her system, and asks me whether I would like to buy some forex or whether I would be interested in carrying a travel card with me. I am pleasantly surprised. She offers me decent rates, I buy the forex and also get a travel card free of charge. Now, how did the teller know what I was looking for?

The answer lies in analytics. Here’s how it works. While I was busy looking for forex rates on my mobile banking app, the bank’s system registered my search patterns. It was also able to derive intelligence by analyzing my past online behavior on its website. For example, I might have paid Thomas Cook through an online banking transaction in the past during the vacation season. Having understood my behavior, the system applied analytics to identify my current requirements. It then passed on these insights to the teller’s system as soon as my account number was keyed in. And voila! The teller was able to proactively assist me – much to my delight.

Turn around the way bank branches operate with prescriptive analytics

By making prescriptive analytics available to the front-office staff, banks can transform the way branches operate. Analytics helps chart patterns based on customer behavior across a number of channels, providing banking staff with actionable insights. Bank tellers thus equipped to play a more proactive role through system generated real-time suggestions, can recommend products to customers based on their usage patterns, personalize customer experience, and increase cross-selling opportunities. Similarly, with social analytics, tellers can determine the credibility of a customer and avoid incidents of fraud or money laundering, thereby reducing the probability of incurring additional costs.

Transform the role of tellers: Achieve greater customer satisfaction

In the future, driven by the growing adoption of analytics, the role of tellers will further evolve into a more hybrid one. For example, tellers will be able to help customers with contextual services such as loans or other advanced services, in addition to routine services such as cashing checks and dispensing money. This, in turn, will help drive more personalized experiences and customer delight.

Have you considered using analytics to empower tellers at your bank and ensure more profitable branches? Do share your thoughts with us in the comments section.


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