The Perspective 
Monday, 29 October 2007
Two financial institutions (FIs) sought to enhance customer service; one through self-service and the other through assisted-service. Both approaches enabled the FIs to reduce wait times for customers and free up staff time for higher value activities. For one credit union, it also saves space in compact in-store branches.
BECU (formerly Boeing Employees’ Credit Union) in Seattle has moved to a self-service route. The largest credit union in Washington State with more than $7 billion in assets, BECU serves more than 500,000 members from 37 “tellerless” in-store branches.
These tellerless branches are half the size of a typical in-store branch, ranging from 350–400 square feet, yet fulfill all the functions of one. BECU has used self-service technology to allow it to fit more functionality into the smaller footprint it has available in many supermarkets.
Each tellerless branch consists of two workstations and an ATM, as well as a few Internet kiosks to demonstrate online banking, and a phone to reach the call center. The employees at these branches are consultants who cross-sell products, rather than tellers who process transactions. The consultants are available to service, educate and advise BECU’s members.
For example, if a member brings a deposit to the consultant, the consultant will teach the member how to use the ATM to make deposits. (If the customer doesn’t have an ATM card, the consultant drops the customer’s deposit into an “Express Box,” which is swept daily and processed in the back office.) If a member wants a balance transfer, the consultant escorts the member to the online banking kiosk, where the consultant teaches the member how to use online banking.
Consultants demonstrate the low-cost channels to members on a continuous basis, but do not directly handle transactions.
These branches represent what Celent believes to be one successful future path of in-store banking: They are designed to grow the customer base and then deepen relationships within that base.
Assisted service
First Citizens Bank in Raleigh, N.C., has 340 branches in North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee and Maryland. The bank, with $16 billion in assets and 5,000 employees, has been piloting assisted service.
The new system provides an integrated assisted-service environment where customers use the ATM-like interface to “tee-up” their transaction. The teller completes the transaction by collecting the deposit or dispensing the cash. Typically, one teller alternates between two customer stations.
As part of the introduction to assisted-service, the bank created a concierge position within the branch to route customers to the appropriate area of the bank and explain assisted service. The concierge worked exclusively with assisted-service customers during the first 60 days of roll out at each branch. This was one key to the project’s success.
Initially, tellers and customers were concerned about teller job security. Customers had relationships with the tellers and did not want those tellers replaced by machines. Tellers were told that the technology helped reduce customer wait times and it allowed staff to migrate from transactional to service positions — all while maintaining First Citizens’ focus on customer service. As a result, customer feedback was positive.
Business results also were positive. Simple transactions were handled more quickly and staff was redeployed to higher value concierge positions. Now about one-fourth of all assisted-service-appropriate transactions are going through the assisted-service line. FCB’s goal is to drive this number to 60 percent.
The conclusion from both financial institutions is that self-service and assisted service can play a role at the branch. There are many ways to deploy assisted service, but to do it successfully requires people trained to assist the customers through this transition.
The author is a senior analyst for consulting firm Celent LLC's banking group and is based in the firm's San Francisco office.
Posted by: Bart Narter AT 11:42 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
Thursday, 13 September 2007
When you think about innovative companies, you’d be hard pressed to find one more notable than Google. On the outside, they are one of the leaders of search and advertising on the Internet. Behind the scenes, they are fueled by innovation.
While most companies keep their trade secrets, well, secret, Google is willing to broadcast its findings. The second day of Digital Signage Expo 2007 in May began with a power breakfast focused not on digital signage, but innovation. The speaker was Jim Lecinski, managing director for Google.
I can imagine the information was both eye-opening and welcomed by the digital signage professionals in attendance, most of who represented companies considerably smaller than Google. The presentation was comforting as it was informative, like a big brother giving his little brother advice as he enters high school.
Google’s innovations are seemingly endless, and obviously they’re doing something right. Lecinski broke down his company’s innovation strategy into nine notions. Each notion contains an important lesson that professionals from all parts of the digital signage and self-service spaces can learn from.
  1. Innovation, not instant perfection. Google believes in launching new products and ideas early and often, rather than trying to perfect those ideas behind closed doors before releasing them to the public. Then, customer feedback and popularity prove which projects are most successful.
  2. Share everything you can. Small teams that communicate openly have proved the best results for Google. They believe in transparency in the workplace so that everyone knows what everyone else is working on. (Scary, right?) They have a computer program where employees can look up names and see what others are working on, so if they have an idea to contribute they know who to talk to.
  3. You’re brilliant, we’re hiring. When Google interviews employees, Lecinski said they set the bar very high. They focus more on hiring generalists rather than specialists, as they have found generalists are more valuable and can contribute ideas to different parts of the company.
  4. Allow employees to pursue their dreams. Lecinski said Google allows its employees’ time in a 70/20/10 model. Seventy percent of the time they work on Google’s search and ad flagships; they develop new programs like Images, Desktop and Finance 20 percent of the time; and 10 percent of the time employees are allowed to pursue their own high risk/high reward projects. Lecinski said Google Earth is a result of one of those projects.
  5. Ideas come from everywhere. Sometimes Google turns to the public for new ideas. The Google mastheads, which are customized for holidays and events, are taken from non-employee submissions. One of the mastheads was designed by a 12-year-old girl.
  6. Don’t politic – use data. With all the ideas floating around Google, the best way to determine which may work is to use supportive data. As Lecinski said, “Data beats opinion.”
  7. Creativity loves restraint. Again, Google has to have some way to keep all of the employee-generated ideas streamlined towards the company’s goals. “Let people explore, but set clear boundaries for that exploration,” Lecinski said.
  8. Get users and usage – the money will follow. This goes back to one of Lecinski’s larger points, “respect for end users,” but is a principle to follow in any form of business. He says to focus on creating things that are innovative and useful for people, not something you can sell.
  9. Don’t kill projects, morph them. Google doesn’t waste ideas. Instead, they try to change and transform them into something the company finds useful.
Posted by: Bill Yackey AT 12:20 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  
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