The past year has seen the environment in which we manage our lives, work, and live change drastically. Some changes we hope will disappear completely, such as mask-wearing and social isolation. Conversely, some alterations to our habits and have been supremely beneficial. Necessity has been the breeding ground of innovation for developments that have previously been overlooked or dismissed. Banking by appointment is one such alteration.
While making an appointment for your banking needs is far from a new invention, its most recent incarnation is both a leap forward in logistic and technical advancement and a step back to a more customer-centred and personalised finance management system. Personalisation is the key to greater engagement with clients and targeted customer experience models. There’s a reason it’s called retail banking; people shop around for the best possible experience and choose accordingly.
With personalised banking making a return to finance management, banking by appointment is a perfect complement to the 24hr, easy-access apps and web banking developed over the past two decades.
Before the pandemic came
Before Covid-19 made its impact on the world, there was a steady decline in physical banking premises. Fewer highstreet bank branches were available because, as a population, the convenience of doing most of our banking online or over the phone was too great. We could access our finances online or talk to someone over the phone, and for some of the time, that was fine. We took the hit to the in-person visits to the bank in favour of convenience.
For the most part, that was all good. Physical premises still kept to traditional 9-5 operating hours, and many of us needed access to banks outside those hours. However, the actual efficacy of online queries and phone conversations declined. Having to wait in phone queues to speak to the right people for our issues and getting vague answers via chatbots have become common occurrences in the realm of remote digital banking.
Innovating banking access through the pandemic
Even though much of personal banking has become digitised through web banking and mobile apps, there has still been a need for one-to-one meetings with finance specialists for individualised banking needs. That’s why you will still find brick and mortar branches – even if there are far fewer than before the internet rose to commercial prominence. You might have thought that in a time when remote digital access had all but replaced the physical premises, that online appointment booking and scheduled meetings would have already been in place. Not so much.
With the arrival of lockdowns, limited capacity, and social distancing came the need to innovate to ensure those who needed access to personalised banking could do so. Banking required innovation to allow their customers easy access to their financial demands.
Temporary branch closures meant that people couldn’t see their financial specialists in person, so new methods were required. However, there was the assumption that “it wouldn’t be for long” and we would all go back to normal soon. This meant that many temporary fixes only needed to function semi-effectively and in the short term. You wouldn’t expect people to use “drive-through” banking in the long term. But for the short term, it worked.
As one lockdown became two, it became clear that better methods were necessary. Banking by appointment became necessary. Whether that was with a financial specialist on the branch premises, or a scheduled appointment via phone or video.
Some banks developed their appointment booking systems in-house, while others outsourced their scheduling systems to external SaaS companies. Either way, it was an effective and efficient solution to ensuring limited contact and capacity and social distancing. More enterprising banks also included video and teleconferencing appointments for those who couldn’t meet in person.
Accommodating customer expectations and habits
What was supposed to be a brief period of mitigating circumstances to curb the Coronavirus spread has turned into more than a year of new customer behaviours, habits and expectations. Sometimes customer expectations change gradually, but not so this time. We have been thrown into the newness dictated by circumstances and necessity, and in this case, it’s a good thing.
New working situations mean that traditional access to banking advice in specialist fields is not as easy as it might once have been. However, even when we eventually emerge into the future’s new normal, there will be changes that persist. Maintaining the changes that have made banking more efficient during lockdown will be essential.
Once this crisis has passed, customer behaviours will have changed significantly to adjust to new provisions. Customers will demand the same service standards, and there will be an expectation for them to continue.
The power of banking by appointment
There is power in banking by appointment. Before, people might have had to spend a significant amount of time on hold waiting for the specialist they needed for their particular issue of the time. With online appointment booking, the customer is far more in control of their financial management.
Generic chatbots, FAQs, online application forms, and customer service helplines all put the power of access in the bank’s hands. However, over the past ten years, it has become more critical for customers and clients of any kind to have control. Customers want the power to control when, where, and how they access services and products. Banking is no different.
When clients call a generic call centre, there is no guarantee that they will have easy access to the most appropriate person. In many cases, a general helpline will diver to a list of options “press 1 for…” That will then pass them to someone who might be able to help, or a long wait in a call queue. The power all rests with the bank.
When a client has a defined appointment time, they have the power to choose when that is, how they can talk to the banking specialist, and where they want to do it, and even ensure they are talking to the right people to help them out. The power resides with the customer, and that’s how they like it.
Banking appointments for the omnichannel experience
Banking by appointment is so much better than waiting in a phone queue, listening to hold music. Time is just as important as the finances you need to arrange.
Banks have taken remote access to banking and finance a long way. Integrated apps allow you to check accounts, cancel or temporarily freeze cards, apply for loans, and so much more. However, in-person services have drifted away with the reduction of highstreet branches. Video calling with an appropriate person isn’t as personal as popping into a branch. However, it does have the added convenience of not being time-constrained by normal working hours. It’s also easily accessible from a mobile or laptop, wherever you choose to be. That might even be halfway across the country on business.
Omnichannel service has been a thing for quite a while now and is as valuable to banking customers as other industries. Banking by appointment is a beautiful companion service to the remote access that most banks have already embraced. Moreover, it rounds out the extra service connectivity that omnichannel demands.
The banking industry benefits too
While banking by appointment has numerous benefits for customers, there are many beneficial aspects for the banks.
- Customer satisfaction and retention – clients who can book an appointment with the specific person they need are significantly more satisfied and increase in loyalty. This leads to increased NPS (net promoter score) and better recommendations.
- Detailed customer contact analysis – General help centre call numbers don’t give an accurate picture of the call volumes and reasons for contact. Banking by appointment allows banks to make a detailed analysis of their client calls, why they need help, and increase call solutions.
- It’s a handy marketing tool – A bank with a transparent appointment system on their home page is significantly more accessible and approachable to new clients. It also weighs heavily in the bank’s favour that customers can make an appointment at their convenience.
- Time-efficient – Clients who book in advance know why they want to talk to you. You can ask for that information when they make their appointment. When you know what the customer wants in advance, you can have all the information available before the call starts.
- People Efficient – For a single call to a help desk, there could be numerous transfers to different departments and specialists. How much time is wasted by both staff members and clients when switching from one person to another? Especially when the client has to detail their issue every time they transfer to a new person.
- Optimising staffing levels – When banks can see the breakdown of typical appointment times for contact with a customer, they can optimise staff shift numbers. Having enough staff to cover heavy loads at the busiest times maximises the number of clients who want their appointment then.
So the benefits don’t all fall on the customer.
Banking Appointment Considerations
We need to understand that beneficial developments that have arisen as part of the 2020-21 pandemic will not “go silently into that good night” once the crisis has passed. Banking by appointment is not going to disappear from our retail finance institutions. If anything, it will probably increase in popularity and use.
What initially arose as a way forward for banks and people to continue looking after their finances is a benefit people will not relinquish. Moreover, increases in WFH practices, which are predicted to continue, will mean fewer people close to their highstreet branches. Consequently, it won’t necessarily be easy for people to pop in on a lunch hour – let’s not mention the massive decrease in physical retail premises in the last decade or more.
The fact is, despite the ease of access to our bank accounts with web banking and mobile apps for managing our money, many people have missed the personal side of banking or even rediscovered it.
Is banking by appointment here to stay?
In contrast to some of the other developments from the past year, banking by appointment is one thing we want to keep. Moreover, any banks that haven’t implemented this while lockdowns have been ongoing should consider adding online appointment setting for their customers even after the crisis has gone.
Retail banking is just as subject to the vagaries of their customers’ demands as any clothing store or supermarket. Banking by appointment is a benefit for customers that will weigh heavily in the plus column when new clients are choosing a new bank account, like low/high-interest rates or fee-free credit cards.
Whether you have as few as two branches or ten in each city worldwide, SimplyBook.me can make banking by appointment happen for your financial institution.