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By Pete Daugherty | April 16, 2024

Banking’s New Frontier: Are Your Branch Employees Ready for the Digital Age?

A new survey indicates that while they’re eager for more digital tools, they still aren’t getting what they need. So, the question is: Are you ready to bring your bank into the digital age?

I know I’ve said this many times before, but the digital revolution has reshaped your customers’ expectations of banking, pushing traditional financial service models to a pivotal crossroads. As convenience and efficiency become the new currency of the banking industry, our Fifth Annual International Branch Bank Employee Survey sheds light on a critical undercurrent: the pressing need for digital tools that empower your employees to respond to this tidal market shift. The feedback received from survey participants underscores a clear consensus among branch employees and managers—they're seeking technology that helps them work better together, cut out inefficient processes, and elevate the customer experience when people call or walk in.

The Time Crunch: A Glimpse into a Branch Manager’s Workweek

When you dig into the survey results, a stark reality emerges for branch managers: they find themselves dedicating an average of nine hours each week to scheduling, administrative, and operational tasks. That’s nearly a quarter of their workweek! Besides the fact that this is a significant amount of time to allocate to non-client-facing activities, they say spending so much time on this type of work directly impacts their job satisfaction and operational efficiency. Remarkably, 85% of branch managers reported that streamlining these tasks would increase their job satisfaction.

The issue takes on a graver tone, though, when you get to this stat: 52% of managers are contemplating leaving their positions within the next year, signaling the potential for significant instability in branch leadership. Furthermore, 41% of managers voiced their struggles with current scheduling solutions, particularly their inability to assess how staffing levels affect branch performance, highlighting a critical gap in operational insights.

Modern Technology as the Keystone for Stabilizing Branch Operations and Improving Performance

The need for modernization within your bank branches isn't limited to managerial concerns. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of branch employees cited the lack of modern technology as a detractor from their job satisfaction, and 49% of branch employees are considering leaving their jobs within the next year. While these are certainly concerning stats, the good news is that the sentiment can positively change if you invest in tools that help alleviate the administrative load.

A compelling 79% of branch employees believe that their job satisfaction would surge if administrative burdens were minimized. So, when you have a few minutes, let’s talk about how technology can help you assist them to refocus efforts on customer service and drive higher ratings for employee job satisfaction.

Flexibility and Autonomy: The New Markers for Employer Attractiveness

In today's competitive job market, the offer of work-life balance and schedule flexibility has become a hallmark of desirable workplaces. The feedback we received during this latest survey highlights a significant disconnect in this area, with 51% of bank branch employees indicating that their scheduling tools fail to account for personal preferences and 37% saying they’re unable to adjust their schedules via a mobile device. The dissatisfaction is widespread, too, with 88% not fully satisfied with their current scheduling process.

So, what would make them happy?

A vast majority (84%) prefer to manage their schedules through mobile apps, so that is a good place to start if you want to attract and retain top talent (and don’t already offer scheduling capabilities in a mobile app). Remember, happy employees are more apt to deliver a stellar customer experience that elevates your brand’s reputation and rating.

Measurable Improvements to Your Customers’ Experiences

Though there are many ways to gauge operational efficiency, the most tangible indicator – and impact – of operational inefficiencies is the one witnessed (and dreaded) by your customers: the “long line.”

One of the most surprising findings of our latest survey is that 75% of your branch customers are enduring wait times exceeding six minutes for service! That’s not six minutes in and out the door; that’s six minutes before someone even turns their attention to the customer to see how they can help. I suspect you emphasize your team’s promptness and efficiency when marketing to customers, so I imagine this is a key performance indicator you want to immediately improve.

My recommendation is to look at technology tools that can help reduce the time both branch managers and employees allocate to non-service-related tasks, as I mentioned earlier. This will give them several additional hours each week to assist customers with both quick transactions and more in-depth consultations.

I like to relate this to going to a store where only one checkout lane is open because the other associates are busy elsewhere. If your branch is properly staffed and many administrative tasks are automated, at least in part, then you can open more “checkout lanes” to quickly clear the queue. In fact, when you take this approach, you may find that your branch employees actually have some free time back to focus on other tasks because they aren’t inundated with long lines anymore. They can easily handle the rush, and they don’t have to rush customers along when longer advisory sessions are warranted.

Charting the Path Forward: My Top Takeaways from the Survey

Though many areas will need reworking in your branches – from how you prioritize employee tasks to how you process transactions – one of the highest impact changes you can make is introducing technology tools that streamline managerial tasks. When managers are more available to both employees and customers, issues can be resolved more quickly and possibly mitigated altogether.

That’s because this journey of transformation goes beyond mere technology adoption. It's about fostering a culture of innovation, flexibility, and customer-centricity—a commitment to ensuring that, even as banking evolves, the foundational principles of service, trust, and community engagement remain steadfast. Technology doesn’t make customers happy. It enables branch employees to deliver the level of service customers need and expect – and that’s what makes everyone happy.

The insights from this annual branch bank employee survey offer more than a snapshot of current sentiments; they provide you with a roadmap for transforming your branch banking model. If you haven’t already started to strategically realign your processes and systems with people’s digital experience expectations, you will need to soon. Here is how you can get started:

1. Talk to the folks on the ground: Our survey captures the sentiments of bank branch employees and managers at large, but you need to understand what is happening in your branches. There are a lot of ways you can go about this. Two straightforward ways to understand your branches’ needs are to do an internal survey of branch employees and talk to the folks at corporate who are communicating with the branch employees about obstacles they face on a daily basis. You can also talk to colleagues in other departments and see where they may be seeing gaps as well – maybe the HR team is trying to increase retention or the finance team thinks labor spends are not optimal.

2. Identify the way forward: Based on your findings, you can identify the right kind of solution your branches need. If branch employees find themselves bogged down with too much administrative work and not enough time to meet with customers, then technology tools that can streamline, and possibly automate, branch tasks are the way to go. If your managers are spending too much time adjusting branch schedules or your employees are looking for better ways to improve their work-life balance, then workforce management software is likely the answer.

3. Find the right tools to fit your needs: Any job can be made easier if you have the right tools. So, find out where workarounds or extensive manual efforts are today and then invest in the tools that would make those tasks as simple as possible. I just caution you to be wary of “solution providers” who claim their technology is a cure-all or who haven’t ever been in your shoes before. Technology is a tool. It isn’t a magic pill. It must be properly integrated into your systems, and the people using it need to be trained on how to use it – even if the tool is super simple to use. So, be wary of “solution providers” who don’t have the subject matter expertise to understand your specific needs as a bank. Make a shortlist of organizations that have a track record of working with big banks to help evolve their branch operations, ask them lots of questions specific to your challenges and objectives, and ensure they’re focused on what’s best for you – not just harping on what worked for others. It will become evident in the discovery/scoping phase if they’re committed to using the technology they offer as a tool (and possibly one of many tools) to solve your problems or if they’re trying to force-fit it in just to make a sale. Find the right tech partner/advisor and you’ll be taking the right steps to find the optimal solution to help you overcome the challenges your branches are facing.

As we look to the future, I believe the main message from our survey participants is both a call to action and a beacon of hope. By listening to the voices within your branches and responding with thoughtful, strategic initiatives, you can ensure that your brand continues to thrive in a highly competitive banking sector, offering unparalleled service and support to your customers by better supporting your employees. In this new frontier of banking, I challenge you to lead with vision, agility, and an unwavering commitment to excellence.

If you’re interested in learning how our Zebra banking team can work with you to facilitate the appropriate technology transformation in your branches to enhance operational efficiency, employee satisfaction, and customer loyalty, reach out here. Though it may seem overwhelming to have to overhaul technology systems or re-engineer processes, I promise it’s a project that’s very manageable and will pay off. When technology and people coalesce on the front lines of your operations, your organization will be able to forge stronger, more meaningful bonds with your customers, and that is when you’ll start to see more people start to turn to you to guide their financial journeys.

Blog, Banking, New Ways of Working, Software Tools, Article,
Peter Daugherty
Peter Daugherty

Pete Daugherty is a Solutions Consultant, for Financial Services at Reflexis, a Zebra company.  He has over 20 years of retail banking experience in branch, contact center, and corporate roles, including as the retail executive for a multi-state branch network.  Pete has spent the last four years in the software solutions space helping banks with workforce planning challenges. 

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