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From interactive ATMs to high-tech signage: more and more branches are going digital

Gain greater insight into the value of modern branches as part of omnichannel strategies in our Executive Report: Evolution of Bank Branches.

New technologies are constantly being introduced into the facilities to improve the customer experience and make employees’ lives easier.

The migration of transactions to self-service continues to accelerate across industries, including the use of interactive ATMs, or ITMs, said Stuart Mackinnon, chief operating officer of NCR Atleos based in Atlanta.

ITMs can perform all transactions of an ATM, but also support advanced transactions including credit card payments, bill payments, access to expanded transaction types across multiple checking accounts, and account opening.

“Other loan-related and problem-solving activities are now also available through the interactive video experience you get at ITM,” says Mackinnon. “The bank will have converted their traditional call center into a call center with centralized counters that will now pick up the interactive video call from ITM.”

Some institutions have replaced all their ATMs with ITMs as they slowly convert their branches. They keep their counters for six months or a year until their customers get used to the technology and feel comfortable with it. Counters accompany a customer to the ITM and help him understand the technology.

Over time, these banks may reduce teller hours and migrate the out-of-hours service to ITM. Some banks may also extend ITM opening hours, including offering full Saturday banking or even Sunday banking. While some banks are aiming for a consistent self-service experience across their branches, others have moved to the hub-and-spoke model, where the flagship branch has counters and the satellite branches have moved to ITMs.

“In this hub-and-spoke model, customers can do most of their day-to-day banking at satellite locations and if they need to do something more complex, they have the option of going to the flagship location on Main Street,” Mackinnon said. .

More and more institutions are also introducing advanced self-service equipment in the lobby that can effectively deliver the same volume of cash as a cash recycler behind the counter. “Branch staff can be used as greeters to help customers become familiar with the new technology, although most customers adopt it easily because the screen flows are similar to those on their mobile phones,” he says.

Solutions to maximize cash management efficiency include transit cassettes, which allow a cashier to move cash from behind the counter outside to a self-service device without ever touching the cash and without the need for an armored car visit .

ITMs are about expansion, not shrinkage

“There is still a lot of innovation to be done. Within the next 24 months, customers will essentially be able to manage the entire ATM or ITM transaction from their mobile device,” says Mackinnon. “Instead of inserting their debit card into the machine, they can simply tap their card or mobile device to initiate the transaction. The machine will then accept deposited cash or dispense cash that has been debited from their account.”

The institutions that have successfully deployed ITMs have installed them to expand their geographic footprint without opening a branch or extending branch hours, says Rolland Johannsen, senior consulting associate at Capital Performance Group LLC, headquartered in Washington, D.C. They have extensive employee and customer communications and incentive programs to encourage and reward adoption.

“Banks that have not been as successful in deploying ITMs are the ones that have treated them as glorified ATMs and adopted a ‘build it and they will come’ strategy,” says Johannsen.

“Industry-based self-service technology should not only be used to replace people and reduce costs, but should also be designed to actually improve the customer experience.”

In terms of omnichannel capabilities, some technology platforms are doing better than others, but at this point it’s more “aspirational than reality,” he says.

Create different channels

However, certain types of channels are better at certain types of things than other channels, so banks need to provide a superior experience on the things the channels are designed to do. For example, digital channels are designed to provide access to information to help customers complete certain types of business, or to provide fraud alerts or other types of information.

“What digital channels don’t do so well and what industries do well is problem solving,” says Johannsen. “Banks need to ensure that each channel is designed for the functions they are truly best at, to maximize the effectiveness of each channel – rather than trying to make each channel do the same thing in the same way.”

Institutions should also use technology to empower employees to solve problems for customers, he says. For example, two elderly women were recently defrauded of their savings. Both had gone to a branch to make large transfers that did not match their accounts at all. They were rejected at one branch and then went to another branch of the same bank and their transfers were approved.

“There was nothing in the bank’s technology that allowed employees in these branches to consistently determine whether to approve those types of transactions,” Johannsen said. “That’s the kind of thing you want technology to do: provide valuable information about someone’s transaction history, allowing branch staff to do the most important parts of their jobs.”

Three types should be on every institution’s considerations: self-service machines like ATMs and ITMs, ATMs like TCRs and digital signage, says Gina Bleedorn, president and CEO of Adrenaline, a brand experience company headquartered in Atlanta.

“This is not high-tech, but right technology,” says Bleedorn. “It serves the right purpose: automating predictable, transactional tasks and supporting the deepening of relationships.”

What about the wrong technology? Tech bars with tablets were “once a fad,” designed to showcase mobile banking or explore opt-in products and services, she says. But they were never used because they did not meet the immediate needs of the customer.

“Vertical touchscreens with interactive exploration or games are also not being used for the same reason, and consumers don’t want the space to see what they are doing,” says Bleedorn. “If someone wants to learn more about your services or play a game, they can do it on their own time on their own device.”

Alternatively, digital signage works because it is the most eye-catching form of communication that can be second-screened without competing with a consumer device or interfering with the service they are enrolled in.

Many institutions are also making implementation missteps, such as not placing TCRs in open floor plans so that staffing levels can be reduced.

Don’t abandon smart human connections

ITMs are in the early stages of adoption, so most consumers don’t know what they are or how to use them, making staff migration support necessary. Institutions should deploy them outdoors, either via drive-through or drive-up, or via independent 24-hour vestibules in a location where there is no branch.

“The least desirable use case is in the branch lobby, primarily presented as an alternative to human counters,” says Bleedorn. “No customer coming in will choose a machine over a person unless the lines are incredibly long. An ITM can initially be placed indoors to teach customers before moving outdoors.”

There is a big question about whether ATMs or ITMs should be integrated into the core. Core integration is more expensive and often requires financial institutions to make updates, but the efficiency gains make it worth it for many banks, she says. Of the institutions that have not integrated their machines, they essentially have a double-entry processing protocol, where they manually record ITM transactions on their core system, and this is not in real time.

“Ultimately, branch technology should serve to streamline transactions so branches can do what they do best: support consultation, advice and relationship building,” says Bleedorn. “People don’t want to go to branches, they have to go to branches. If they do, technology must enable frictionless service so that human connection can add real value.”

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a contributing writer for BAI.