I hadn’t thought I’d ever write about a branch, yet here we are. It isn’t even because I’m fresh out of fintech and digital experience topics – I am so not out of those, I’ll be starting a podcast likely called ‘What my #FinTech?!’ that you can tune into if you’re sick of the political correctness and ready to hear whining, complaining and righteous ranting on the topic of technology and finance. I’m writing about the branch because I think it matters, and had an a-ha moment.
Last week, I was with a very digital branch, and while we were dissecting the death of the critical thinking, self-directing high street bankers who could make decisions and build relationships (not only mindlessly follow process), we realized these places where the customers would have to go to so that they could meet one of these old skool superstars were really unexciting.
We all expected branches to go away (as Brett King promised in 2010), but they didn’t. They will not. Then we decided to ‘make them into an experience’ – most of the time, it meant better colors, newer, funky furniture and if we were lucky some iPads in the prying hands of tired tellers. Banks had decided face-to-face advice is irreplaceable, and getting video a la mBank was a distant dream, so they were keeping the branch, but they were making them awesome; into ‘lounges‘.
Fast-forward to 2012 and the new branches where you could ‘relax’ by getting a coffee and having free Wi-Fi were all the rage. As many of us must have done, I became convinced that I must simply not be the right segment they were trying to attract to find these features utterly unappealing, and to this day I don’t believe I’ve ever tasted the mythical branch coffee. I have to say I find this trend that incubators share with branches really condescending. How large is the ‘will work/sign a mortgage for Wi-Fi and coffee’ segment?!
Pampering bank branches
You know what would work? Stuff we need or stuff we like, such as chargers. Tell me my branch has Starbucks-like chargers everywhere and I may stop to get the nanny’s cash out in the branch tonight – catch me then to tell me I ought to have another savings account in case Her Majesty decides to slap another tax on au pairs.
A free MOT while my mister gets investment advice would mathematically lure him in. With how many flimsy cars we’ve amassed, he would be all ‘adviced out’ in half a year. You know what else would get him in for a chat? A pint, that’s what, or a posh glass of wine or whiskey. Yes bank, if you want the slightly more grown-up segment in for a chat, make it fun for them rather than plying them with coffee. Take a page out of the book of other retailers, such as L’Occitane and Rush: their customers will always rather head there than the competition, not because they can’t afford to pay for their own glass of bubbly, but because for as long as they’re there, they feel well treated, cared for, and pampered.
Change those horrid chairs and flimsy partitions and offer them a glass of something. Is there some piece of regulation here that I’m missing? Is getting a drinks license disallowed, as giving financial advice to people under the influence is immoral or illegal? I doubt it, but if so, fair enough. How about cake, nuts, posh salami? Just make this an experience for me. Asking for a slight sliver of delight can’t be too much when you ask for my attention to sell me something for the next 20 years, can it?!
Or even find out what individual customers like and then offer them an experience to suit it outside the branch, such as a Ferrari driving session or a balloon ride – something to bring them back in to tell you about it (and get that fixed term while at it). Send them a basked of baby formula and the number of a savings account you already opened for their newborn, and ask them to only fill in their name. Send an ‘I’m so sorry, condolences, Peter – your Branch Manager’ card when you know they borrowed for a funeral. Don’t even try to blame it on bad CRMs – just ask! Make your people be eternally curious and passionately caring and they will build your CRM the same way that the old skool branch manager did. A conversation between people that reveals human moments and ways to make them pleasant for your customer.
Oh I don’t know, maybe none of the above will work (save for the booze one, that’s an important one to try), but do the thinking as to what it takes to make your branch experience one that’s filled with delight and joy, then expect to see us (if you’re not gonna close all the damn places)!
OK, so here’s the secret to in-branch engagement. Ready? Pen at the ready? Catch me when you can, make me go ‘wow’ when it matters. Got that? Cheers. Let’s catch up over a drink soon.