Banking today has undergone major changes. Be it the advent of online banking or the popularity of relationship manager or the growing demand of mobile banking, it is not surprising to see old norms giving way to new techniques, earlier sensibilities being replaced by new age beliefs but one aspect continues to remain constant. That is the accessibility and convenience of going to your branch bank. Even till date most of us prefer just dropping by the neighborhood branch for our regular needs and day to day banking affairs.
Even from the bank’s perspective, the branch bank is the best platform to establish a lasting relationship with the customers. Also, the banking staff’s rapport with the local customers is often instrumental in increasing the foot fall. I have even heard of instances when a famous global banking chain decided to ease the dress code in one of its local branch in South Asia in an effort to connect better with the local villagers and this actually resulted in a significant rise in the overall subscriber base for the bank in question.
This example clearly proves a fundamental point that starting a branch successfully often holds the key to a successful future for a bank. Almost like connecting dots on a piecemeal basis, these individual banking initiatives is what propels lasting and meaningful insights into a bank’s overall development.
Key Operational Strategy
Before we get on to learn the fundamentals of starting a bank branch, we need to get a grasp on the fundamental thought process and strategy that banks employ to make the branch a success.
At the very behest, you must understand that the essence of retail banking is all about the art of developing a profitable relationship between the customer and the bank branch. After all a branch continues to be the best place for the bank to realize its objective and execute its banking strategies despite the development of the many virtual means of establishing connect with the end user.
The three key branch strategies are surprisingly similar across the world transcending boundaries galore, cultural, continental and other location based discrepancies. The big three, as I prefer to term them, comprise of
The first and foremost in that list is obviously the area or the location of the bank branch. It is a multi-faceted decision that can many times make or break the branch’s future. The ease of use, convenience in travelling and accessibility sure plays a crucial role in influencing the footfall.
Next comes the fact that how aesthetics play into the whole scheme of things to enhance your banking experience. Imagine coming to a drab and dull ban as compared to a well-lit bright office space. I am sure you will always prefer the latter experience. Therefore, it is crucial to design your bank branch in a way that it addresses both customer expectation as well as pays attention to the needs of the employees. Another aspect is the investment done to decorate or design the branch should be at par with the potential return on investment.
Engagement is the third crucial pillar of success for any banking venture. Visualize a outlet from the hospitality sector. Have you noticed the level of engagement the hotel staff would have even with the most reclusive of the lobby guest or the politeness and patience with which an air hostess speaks even with a rude passenger. Well, that is the type of engagement that even bank branches should strive to achieve. Often the interaction that a customer has goes a long way in influencing their future banking decisions.
We have been noticing an increasing trend of customers shying away from IVR or customer care facilities on phone. One key reason for this is the inability of the person who takes those calls in connecting with the customer on a one to one basis. This problem is easily resolved by a smiling executive at the branch office of the bank. The branch and its staff provide a tangible experience to the customers, and even the memory of this could often drive significant gains and record increased footfall for the bank.
The Growth Drivers
Now that the strategy aspect is clear, we now move on to the next one and this involves the growth drivers that can help you effectively start a branch bank, the challenges involved and the ways to overcome these. You must understand that running a branch involves its own individual set of targets, which though broadly similar, are very individualistic in nature and need to be dealt with differently depending on the area and the local demands. While the one solution fits all approach needs to be shunned, here is a look at some of the basics that every branch should exercise.
Whether yours is a new branch or a well established one, to involve the team has to be one of the primary mantras for the effective functioning of any branch. One of the basic and easiest ways to engage the team are the regular team meetings. A competent branch manager would schedule these every morning before the bank opens to take stock of the day, discuss the plan of action for the day and set the deliverables for each employee. This helps the employees get an idea of what is expected from each one of them, and they can also set their own targets to achieve the list of deliverables set for them.
These meetings are very effective in enhancing customer service of a specific branch and identifying lapses and loopholes that need to be plugged. As a result of better customer service, business projections too get a fillip. Employees also get the confidence to think big and deliver bigger. Procedures and policy matters too get a patient hearing in these meetings and can sometimes be instrumental in complete revamp of the inefficient policies or now redundant procedures.
Training Session For Employees
Many a crisis that a branch faces is averted as a result of the efficiency with which an employee deals with it. Most times we see that efficiency in banking services come with experience and dogged perseverance. However, branches often face a unique type of attrition. Well-trained staff normally moves out and experience hands avoid joining new branches.
This sheer absence of experience can be dealt better with the help of well designed and effective training sessions. Employees will be taught the ways to identify between a good cheque and a bad cheque. Ways to identify counterfeit money from real money is crucial in improving both the bank’s bottom line as well as the credibility that one comes to associate with a branch. Interacting with people instantly they should be able to understand how to sell products and who to sell products.
Also, these training sessions are at times very effective in the sale of the wide range of financial products that might be on offer. With effective training, employees learn to pitch their products better and also are able to better identify the prospective client base amidst the huge milieu of clientele that might be thronging the bank.
Engage With Customers, Better Customer Service
In today’s world, whether you run a bank or sell potatoes, the customer is king. If you are not able to woo the customer better, you are no good despite the brilliance of your product. Let’s face it no one wants to do business in a place where they have to deal with a grumpy face on the other side of the counter.
Thus, a successful branch instills a set of best practices for its employees, and the primary one is greeting customers with a smile, exchanging pleasantries with them and making them feel comfortable in the branch. Stuff like getting a chair for an aged customer or helping a handicapped customer wrap up the bank work quickly perhaps cost nothing but can go a long way in helping a bank branch stand taller than its peers.
It is surprising how so many customers prefer to stay with a certain bank essentially because of the quality of the customer service and the comfort level they share with the branch staff. Always make sure that all the customer’s requirements and needs are addressed before they leave the teller desk. In smaller area, the branch manager often becomes like a crucial pillar of the society, the trusted loan officer who never disappoints you.
Cross Selling Is Crucial
It is very important that employees learn and exercise the merits of cross selling. Bank tellers and sales executive need to coordinate and cross-sell the wide variety of products on offer. Once the customer’s requirements are addressed, they should give them information about the new launches and the current offers.
Just a simple interaction with a customer should be sufficient for a branch employee gauge the kind of products that can be pitched or the type of service that might interest the customer. Recognizing a customer’s need based on their actions and words is crucial to furthering business and business prospects for a branch.
What is surprising is often these can be simple, matter of fact conversations. Supposing you have a customer who has a child going to college or about to start higher studies, ask if they need an educational loan. If a certain customer comes to you complaining about overdraft fees, it could be a good time to offer overdraft protection. There are instances when some customers might mention that they are retiring soon. Don’t miss the opportunity, check if they would like to roll over their account post retirement.
While on the face of it these are simple tactics to woo customers, collectively they can go a long way in enhancing the branch’s business generation prospects.
Create A Sales Plan
Make a dynamic plan that all employees in the bank need to contribute to. This should encompass a proper list f potential new customers and prospective candidates for cross-selling products. Close monitoring of this plan is crucial to ensure that the right set of customers are pursued for their individual needs and this will lead to more effective translation of sales meetings to actual business as opposed to mindless persual of the entire customer base, in the same way.
Benefits of Networking
The challenges of present day competition are often dictating myriad decisions in the business world. Gone are the days when the branch manger could relax within the four walls of his branch bank and wait for business to walk in. The stiff competition and the plethora of players involved has made it very important for the branch manager to venture out and mingle with people, establishing one on one relationships with them and further cementing the ties.
The chambers of commerce, rotary club, social gatherings are all potentially strong business generation points when explored properly. They can open up huge avenues for long-term gains and you can charm potential clients with your unique one on one approach. In a world that is becoming increasingly device dependant and impersonal voice directing day to day actions through machines, a warm handshake or a pleasant smile could in fact go a long way in boosting lifelong ties with simple beginnings like opening an account in your neighboring branch.
The branch manager, needless to mention plays the most crucial role in effective functioning of a bank branch. Not only do they need to go out and woo potential customers but also do some motivation in house. He or she must be respectful towards each and every employee and motivate them for a better performance.
A personalized word of encouragement or a simple thank you for doing their jobs can often motivate experience employees from shifting elsewhere and continuing with the same branch for years. Ultimately this goes a long way in furthering the particular branch’s prospects in playing a crucial role in enhancing business of the overall bank.
Thus, it would not be wrong to conclude that effective methodology for running a bank branch needs to comprise of a balanced approach. While a personal one to one relation should not be overdone to the point where the customer is striving to get breathing place, every transaction should not be left to be dealt with virtually either.
Customers need to feel the difference and uniqueness in the branch’s business delivery the moment they step in, and they should be tempted to further the business prospects with them.
Last but not the least, learn to optimize the physical space and get in the right set of people to woo the right type of customers who would be interested in transactions with your bank.