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.
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.