The pandemic may have upended financial services and pushed many consumers to bank online, but there are still instances where in-person interactions are preferred, even necessary.
Erica Pilon, chief product officer at NCR, told PYMNTS that financial institutions (FIs) can go digital while leveraging the core strengths that come with the in-branch experience.
The conversation took place against a backdrop of data showing that while 48% of bank customers still use branches for some activity, only 11% bank primarily in branches.
Pilon noted that when the pandemic started, branches closed and call center representatives worked from home. Consumers had to, by necessity, get the support they needed through digital channels. Now, with the tight job market, she said, financial services companies (and companies in other verticals) are finding it harder to staff these centers.
To that end, companies like NCR have worked to create ecosystems built around self-service and digital support systems. Pilon said that in NCR’s case, the company’s own digital support model starts with a conversational assistant chatbot that leverages data gathered from the company’s systems.
If that interaction proves insufficient, she said, a live company representative can be brought into the conversation. The next level could be video chat, she added, saying all of these levels are offered in FI mobile apps, online banking and ATMs.
Read more: Most consumers expect digital banking to be personal banking
…And the Physical Channels
Nodding to the fact that physical branch settings still matter, Pilon said the main reason some consumers may opt for physical banking is because they need to speak to someone with a certain urgency, especially when the going gets tough.
“These consumers might be opening an account or in the middle of a complex transaction,” she said, “or maybe they need a certified check, which actually can’t be done through a digital channel”.
At a high level, she said, omnichannel banking – with a physical-to-digital and digital-to-physical flow continuum – could learn from customer experiences in the quick service restaurant industry, where customers have been able to order ahead for years now.
Banks, she said, can pre-arrange transactions on the digital channel before closing them at the branch – where users can be ushered into activity-specific queues that get them out more. quickly. Or, conversely, in a branch, these same users might be able to digitally sign collection slips and other documents. She pointed to last year’s acquisition of Terafina, which offers technology for simplified account opening and digital onboarding. In this case, a consumer can start opening an account through the banking app and then visit a branch for further assistance.
This cross-channel experience, Pilon said, “may push users who are hesitant to use the mobile app — but are in a branch and have the mobile device — to think of digital as an add-on to the physical channel. “It also helps FIs with their own customer authentication, which can help them increase revenue and reduce fraud.
Additionally, blurring the lines between digital and in-branch channels can help fill the “gaps” in digital banking services among underbanked consumers who still rely heavily on cash. Banks can offer digital wallets that can store cash transaction receipts to track spending and eventually switch to basic financial services.
With the right data in hand, she said, NCR’s FI customers can create personalized experiences. They can encourage the use of Zelle and basic accounts, for example, to customers who show a strong predilection for P2P payments. Or for users who are heavy digital users, the IF could offer what Pilon called “white glove” support to guide individuals through a variety of tasks in their day-to-day financial lives.
Regardless of demographics, she told PYMNTS, “there is always a very strong need to have a strong digital support channel for self-service so that consumers can take advantage of some of the things they would traditionally do in-branch – and still have a personalized and engaged experience in-branch as well,” she said.