A few years ago, we shared our optimism for community banks; the economy was enjoying an uptick, millennials were up for grabs and most people still felt wary of big banks. As we think about community banking in 2020, we still share much of that optimism, but for different reasons. Today, community banks can harness the positive economic outlook to attract more customers and remain relevant in some surprising ways.
While many big banks are choosing to shut down branches and invest in fintech, AI and chatbots, we believe community banks are uniquely poised to cater to the needs and preferences of their younger and older customers. In a recent survey we conducted, we learned that customers at every age—including, surprisingly, the younger generations—still prefer to visit a brick-and-mortar branch to make deposits, pay bills and receive face-to-face customer service.
There has never been a more imaginative time in the world of banking design, even as branches continue to be shuttered. Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways community banks are reimagining the physical branch and pushing their customer service strategies.
Self-service kiosks can be both a cost-effective and time-saving way to provide better customer service, while also keeping the physical branch welcoming. The self-service kiosk has been a hot-ticket banking item for nearly a decade, but as the technology has advanced so have the capabilities of these machines. This is so much more than just an ATM﹘think slim tablet, friendly video tutorials and interactive forms.
One popular manufacturer of self-service banking kiosks estimates that a kiosk can reduce the amount of time for one transaction from nine minutes (using a teller) to just 40 seconds. That’s more than 13 times quicker! With more customers executing their standard transactions such as withdrawals and deposits on the self-serve kiosk, your customer service representatives are better able to focus on more complicated requests providing better, relationship-driven customer experience.
Café Culture Meets Banking
By now most of us have formed our own opinions on the Capital One Café model. Ironically, the big bank that was launched first as a digital bank is now leading the way for physical branch design with the introduction of coffee shops intended as gathering places, with a side of banking information, of course, in major cities across the U.S. These “coffee shop banks” are open to anyone, with open seating, Peet’s coffee and pastries. Customers can open their laptops and check emails, or they can browse information about mortgage lending and speak with a Capital One teller to learn more.
One community bank in Wisconsin has built on this model to challenge the concept of the bank branch in new ways that leverage our sharing, gathering and café culture while also giving more to their local communities. Shepherd’s Community Café is a partnership between Community State Bank in Union Grove and a local community college. Not exactly a bank branch location, this café fosters community inclusion and collaboration. The café trains and employs individuals with intellectual disabilities, and all proceeds go to support students in the Shepherds College program.
One community bank, Citizens Bank in Edmonds, Okla., opened a coworking space, Vault 405, for its banking customers. This space, launched in March 2018, is available to its business customers and nonprofits, providing private offices, a podcasting studio and collaborative workspaces. Citizens Bank was even able to use its banking app to give users access to the space. Within six months, the space was filled-80% of it with new clients.
These two community banks have been able to take the café branch model even further to strengthen ties with their cities and provide services to their customers such as giving back and a space for sharing and collaborating.
You can still provide personalized service in a digital world
Another Wisconsin-based community bank was able to provide a creative take on the relationship approach without a physical location. IncredibleBank, formerly known as River Valley Bank, is an online community bank with the commitment to deliver “incredible” customer service better and faster than other online banking services. The idea, and execution, of this promise resonate with the public.
Focusing on the customer journey, IncredibleBank promises to return every call by the end of the day, always providing personalized customer service. (There is never a robot, or a recording, on the phone when you call IncredibleBank.) They even provide special training for customer service representatives to work with elderly customers, particularly those with dementia, to gently guide them throughout their banking journey.
As we look toward a 2020 rife with all the fancy fintech trends, we are pleased to report that under it all, relationships continue to be key for banks. We share the same optimism we have always had for the promise of community banks, but with added direction. Investing in resources—whether physical or human—that provide your customers with enhanced service experiences and shorter wait time, while satisfying their preference to visit a physical branch or develop a trusted relationship with a customer service rep, will be your best bet for a prosperous 2020 and beyond.
People go to community banks for that personal, local touch. There have never been more resources to help your bank deliver.