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How Financial Institutions Are Learning from Other Retailers

June 15, 2017

This article originally appeared in Credit Union Today.

By Chad Davis

Technology is changing the retail consumer service experience as companies like Sprint and Apple are offering customers the option to schedule appointments rather than stand in line at a store. Now financial institutions are following suit, according to a new study from FMSI, a Kronos company.

The FMSI Appointment Study, conducted in February 2017, analyzed proprietary data on nearly 1,500 appointments scheduled at more than 160 branches located across North America, researched the patterns of consumers scheduling appointments with their financial institutions, and revealed insights on which transactions bring people to branches and when they prefer to consult on their financial needs.

The findings are aimed at helping credit unions improve branch service and performance, and show that many members still choose to conduct some of their business face to face with financial professionals. It also revealed that consumers visiting branches appreciate the option to schedule an appointment, as visits by appointment outnumber walk-ins during several prime business hours.

Pinpointing  Member Preferences

At branches included in this study, visits by appointment outnumbered walk-in traffic during the morning and late afternoon hours. The most common hours to schedule appointments were at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., and 4 p.m. In comparison, walk-in traffic was typically low in the morning and most prevalent around the lunch hour, tapering off through the afternoon.

When quantifying appointments kept vs. no-shows, the findings revealed that 84% of appointments were assigned and completed, 12% were canceled before the appointment, and only 4% were no-shows. Of those no-shows, 43% occurred during the 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. time slots, suggesting that it may be helpful to send reminders the day before appointments.

A final focus of our study was to identify the types of services requested by consumers scheduling branch visits. Most of the appointments involved lending consultations, including consumer loans, mortgages, auto loans, and home equity lines of credit. This finding underscores the continuing role of the branch network in generating revenue by bringing in new loans.

Strategies To Implement

The results of our study suggest several management strategies to improve frontline member service and branch efficiency and productivity:

Make members’ omnichannel experience as seamless as possible. For all the current enthusiasm for mobile and other remote channels, keep in mind that members tend to embrace new services without relinquishing their expectations that other options remain in place. Offering a mobile appointment app underscores that your credit union offers a full range of channel options—and makes all of them conveniently accessible.

Optimize your frontline resources to drive service and revenue. Inviting members to schedule branch appointment saves them time while providing managers with valuable data for smarter scheduling. Financial professionals trained to provide specialized services can be scheduled to meet member demand and be ready to serve members with the appropriate materials lined up in advance to streamline the interaction.

Take a data-driven approach to improving sales and service. Appointment-scheduling and lobby tracking software provide useful information about what services members want and when they are most likely to visit a branch for the kinds of interactions that result in increased sales. Detailed information about branch traffic patterns can guide decisions about scheduling, sales training, and marketing based on demand for services at each location.

Data for this study was gathered from financial institutions that use the Kronos FMSI Appointment Concierge and lobby tracker software. Additional analysis and management tips based on the FMSI Appointment Study are included in a new white paper available on our website,

Chad Davis is Senior Industry Marketing Manager, Financial Services Practice Group, Kronos, which is a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. Kronos industry-centric workforce applications are purpose-built for financial institutions of all sizes. He can be reached at

2017 Branch Appointment Study Shows High Consumers Adoption

June 8, 2017

appointment study pic

Customer service expectations for faster and more convenient service is growing. Is your financial institution keeping up?

Learn more by downloading our detailed appointment study white paper, which explores how to meet ever-increasing customer service expectations through technology. Included are key appointment study findings and what they mean to banks and credit unions that want to improve the branch experience.

Download the report now to:
• Enhance your branch appointment programs with benchmarking data that includes total appointment visits to the branch, appointment status results, and type of products and services requested
• Adapt the branch experience to align with consumer retail technology expectations
• Learn best-practice tips on how to gain the most from your appointment-setting approach

See how appointment-setting technology can help your financial institution improve the customer service experience, increase operational efficiency, and increase sales for better business outcomes. Download this valuable content now.

Shifting to Tomorrow’s Future Branch

May 11, 2017

By Chad Davis, Senior Industry Marketing Manager, Financial Services Practice Group, Kronos

Branches are in the middle of a significant transitional period. As the need to reduce operating expenses and grow profits continues, banks are looking to adapt to the shift by developing strategies for attracting new customers and deepening relationships with existing ones while attempting to provide the very best service possible.

Branches are no strangers to the adoption of new technology. With the emergence of online banking, mobile banking, smart ATMs, interactive video technology, and other innovations, bank customers can now perform common transactions and research financial products and services without a trip to the branch.

Unsurprisingly, branches have seen a decline in traffic with a 45 percent drop in transaction volumes since 1992, according to the 2015 FMSI Teller Line Study.[1] However, there is still value in the branch. A 2016 J.D. Power study showed that even though traffic numbers have decreased, branches are still considered a key channel for resolving customers’ problems or completing more complex transactions.[2] While many once thought the adoption of new technology would prompt the demise of branch-based banking, experts now see branch change as an open door for banks to gain a new competitive edge.

The changing landscape of branch models

Although it may be simple for banks to see the benefit in the shifting branch landscape, transitioning to the “branch of the future” is not a quick and easy fix. Modifying branches requires an ample amount of time, effort, and budget, so as banks begin to switch gears in this direction, three different branch models have come into existence:

  • The traditional branch model: This is probably what comes to mind when we think of a typical branch today. The layout is familiar and functional, yet set up in a way that tends to favor the bank, not the consumer. For example, account holders may have to work with two or three different employees to resolve an issue or learn about new products or services. Such a siloed approach also makes it difficult for employees to access all of the customer’s information — causing them to miss valuable opportunities to cross-sell or provide exceptional service.
  • The self-directed branch model: This model represents the best of both worlds between the traditional branch model and the vision for the branch of the future. Self-directed branches are designed for maximum speed and convenience for their account holders. Instead of human tellers and long lines, these branches provide fast, easy transactions using video tellers, smart ATMs, touchscreen devices, and other technology. If customers need more assistance, these branches also make it easy to schedule an appointment with the right person to answer their questions. All of this is designed to help customers to get in and get out quickly, and get on with their day.
  • The personalized, full-service model: To imagine this example, think of the Apple Store and how it has revolutionized the retail experience. Similarly, in this branch model, account holders receive hands-on, concierge-like service from friendly, knowledgeable staff. Bank employees are trained as universal associates, capable of managing transactions themselves or introducing the right customer team to resolve any additional questions. The focus is on the bank customer’s experience and satisfaction, and these employees do all they can to provide world-class service while driving higher quality interactions and more profitable transactions.

Multiple models, multiple challenges

Managing a single organization with three different branch models poses a few challenges, particularly in the way its workforce is deployed. Different branches require employees with different talents, so banks must have a broad spectrum of employees with specialized skills, financial knowledge, dedication to customer service, and other attributes. Additionally, banks must be able to schedule the right employee at the right place at the right time to meet demand and control labor costs. There’s a lot at stake: If they can achieve these goals, banks will improve their ability to serve account holders and create highly profitable, sales-centric branches.

The technology advantage

To attract and manage a high-performing workforce for all branch models, banks clearly need the best possible solution — yet many question how to go about attaining one.

Human capital management (HCM) technology may be the answer. HCM solutions can help banks improve the way they hire, manage, and retain top talent, and in doing so, provide an ideal branch experience that increases customer satisfaction and loyalty as well as bottom-line results.

For example, in the case of the personalized, full-service branch model, a manager can use specialized scheduling solutions to forecast traffic volumes and then schedule the right employees to best meet this demand. These sophisticated schedules factor in such variables as employee skills, availability, and certifications and other qualifications, balancing those employees’ labor costs against demand and budget. Additionally, specialized staffing solutions give managers detailed visibility into employee efficiency and performance. In this case, she can schedule a part-time teller for specific times and reallocate other employees to secondary duties, such as making outbound calls or balancing the vault.

The many benefits of a simple solution

With the perpetual evolution of branches, banks can rely on HCM solutions to help overcome staffing challenges inherent in the branch types of the future as well as today. In doing so, HCM delivers a rare win-win scenario — technology that enables banks to improve customers’ experience and satisfaction while helping the overall organization reduce operating expenses, increase sales, and improve profitability.


Chad Davis is Senior Industry Marketing Manager of the Financial Services Practice Group at Kronos. He can be reached at


Put Kronos for Banking to work for you:

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[1] FMSI, 2015 FMSI Teller Line Study, at 5.

[2] Big Banks Show Significant Gains in Customer Satisfaction as Midsize Banks Decline and Regionals Plateau, J.D. Power U.S. Retail Banking Study Finds, J.D. Power (April 23, 2016), found at

Less Than 10% of Mobile Checking Account Applications Are Completed

April 27, 2017


Recent Javelin research found that today only 8% of successful checking account applications start and finish in a smartphone or tablet.

What happens to the abandoned mobile applications?  It’s far from certain these individuals ever visit a branch after a failed attempt.

Perhaps, a branch appointment scheduling solution—which can easily be integrated within a mobile banking application—is a financial institutions best chance at transitioning these failed attempts to an in-branch meeting.

See detaile metrics around adoption behaviors for banking branch appointment software when you download the Kronos 2017 FMSI Appointment Study.

Webinar: Branch of the Future Evaluation

April 12, 2017

Maximizing the Branch for Today and Tomorrow  

Register now for this timely webinar, featuring experts from America First Credit Union and FMSI, a Kronos Company.


WEBINAR (two times available):
Thursday, April 20th | 1:00 – 1:30 p.m. ET
Tuesday, April 25th | 1:00 – 1:30 p.m. ET
We’ll discuss the current and future state of the retail branch and evaluate various technologies and how they can help improve account holder engagement for stronger performance and earnings — today and as the branch continues to evolve.

Get out ahead of your peers in branch transformation. Register for the webinar now.

Viewing Branch Service from the Member’s Perspective

March 31, 2017

This article was originally published in Credit Union Journal

By Meredith Deen, Director, Products & Services for FMSI | A Kronos Company

As much as credit unions pride themselves on providing high-quality personal service, gaining a clear view of how members perceive their branch experience is a persistent challenge. How do members rate the expertise and professionalism of the employee serving them? Is the branch lobby easy to navigate? How long is too long to wait for service? And how can credit unions best act on member feedback?

Member surveys are an option, but they take time and response rates are often low. Secret shoppers provide another means of assessing frontline service, but savvy staff may be able to discern when their work is being evaluated and respond accordingly.

Just as technology is reshaping financial service delivery, it also offers new tools to evaluate the quality of branch service and to take steps to improve it. Take, for example, the issue of wait time—the amount of time between members’ arrival in a branch and the beginning of their interaction with a credit union employee. According to FMSI’s 2016 Retail Branch Lobby Study, wait time increased, on average, from 4 minutes 46 seconds in 2011 to 7 minutes 6 seconds in 2015. However, among the top 10 performing financial institutions in the study, wait time actually dropped from 3 minutes 10 seconds to 2 minutes 36 seconds. That improvement is attributed to proactive steps those credit unions and banks took to improve service delivery, including coaching and smarter staff scheduling.

Monitoring service delivery

Managers at ELGA Credit Union’s eight branches have a clear view of service quality—from stats on how long members are waiting for service and how long each transaction takes to direct member feedback provided immediately as they leave the lobby. The Burton, Michigan, credit union (, employs software to manage full-time and part-time teller schedules and track the time spent conducting transactions, interacting with members, and “waiting for work.”

“Monthly performance reports tell us what our peak-times are, how we compare to last year in volume, and how centers are doing in terms of transaction times. That’s broken down by branch, and it’s known as TPH, or teller processing hours,” explains Kathleen Smith, Vice President of Branch Experience. “We can track and analyze frontline labor costs and cost per transaction with comparisons to the same time last year.”

That analysis permits more efficient scheduling of part-time employees at peak-times and the assignment of associates to handle outbound sales calls during down time, Smith notes. The scheduling system measures full-time employees’ net difference between optimal versus actual transaction volume, branch labor costs and productivity, and cost per transaction.

Technology tools can also streamline service delivery by connecting members more promptly with a financial service professional who can handle their specific request. Members at Digital Federal Credit Union encounter a kiosk when they enter a branch lobby where they can sign in with their name and service request. The queuing system tracks who’s next in line with for each service and tracks wait and assist times in real time to improve scheduling and assign additional staff to serve members if lines begin to form in the lobby, say Michael Caissey, regional branch manager for the Marlborough, Massachusetts, credit union (

Tellers can step in some cases and help members with simple requests like an address change, Caissey says, and member service representatives appreciate the ability to address members by name and know in advance what service they’ve requested. “The efficiencies have really come through for the branch, and the member experience is just that much better,” he notes.

Immediate member feedback

Complementing its behind-the-scenes technology, ELGA CU also tracks members’ perceptions of service by deploying kiosks in its branches and administrative office that invite members to click a range of happy, neutral, or sad face icons to rate their experience. Those kiosks generate at least 4,000 responses each month, averaging in the 94 percent positive range for branch service, Smith says.

“That’s not good enough for us, but we’re continually looking at member responses for ways to improve service,” she adds.

Employees in every branch and department get together for a regular brief morning meeting, in which branch managers typically review the service ratings from the previous day. This immediate feedback makes it much easier to identify the source of service lapses than a monthly survey. Conversely, branch teams “look at days where they get 100 percent and try to apply that to days where they didn’t get that high of a rating. They’re able to look at what they’re doing well and what they can improve on,” Smith notes.

“When members leave happy, they’re going to hit that on the machine, but they’ll also let you know when they didn’t have a good experience,” she says.

ELGA managers can compare data from teller scheduling software with member ratings to identify when negative ratings might be tied to busy periods at a branch that extended wait times and assess whether scheduling changes are needed.

Especially in combination, these technology tools can help credit unions continually assess and optimize the quality of the personal service they provide. Lobby-tracking software provides an effective queuing mechanism, facilitates more personal and efficient service, and measures wait and assist times so managers can improve scheduling over the long term and even respond in real time when lines begin to form. In addition, tools to gather members’ assessment of the service they’ve received on the spot provide a more immediate means to identify and correct problems—and highlight and build on service successes.

Ultimately, member-facing and behind-the-scenes technology can provide a more complete view of the member experience, “and that’s what it’s all about,” Smith says. “How is the member feeling? What does high-quality service look like? If the wait is too long or associates are talking with each other about where they’re going for dinner that night, that’s not a good experience for members. Those are the things we want to know.”

Omni-Channel Banking in the Branch: Increase Customer Service and Loyalty; Boost Branch Profitability

March 6, 2017

By Meredith J. Deen, Director Product & Services, Kronos

With steadily declining financial institution (FI) branch volumes— documented in FMSI’s Teller Line Study—bank management is often faced with tough choices regarding its under-performing branches. Making matters worse, deciding whether to shrink a bank’s branch footprint is far more complicated than just crunching the performance numbers and closing the branches with the lowest results.

Taking such an action brings into play significant account-holder satisfaction (and possibly retention) concerns. Even with the rising popularity of digital processing and communication vehicles such as online and mobile banking, account holders still express a clear preference for keeping branches open. In fact, according to Ernst and Young’s Global Consumer Banking Survey, 52 percent of all banking customers currently prefer to make deposits at their branches. More importantly for sales volumes, 54 percent prefer using branches to ask for advice, and a whopping 65 percent prefer that sales of banking services and products are conducted in their branches.

These statistics leave banks with an interesting conundrum—how can they satisfy customer expectations for branch service and maintain or enhance profitability in the face of diminishing volumes? The answer, we believe, is not to accept that branch visits will continue to decline, but rather to leverage and respond to these customer preferences, thereby encouraging them to visit more often—and to transact more business when they do.

One such approach that is helping banks achieve this goal is omni-channel banking. An omni-channel banking strategy, when properly executed, not only can increase sales; it can also foster greater customer loyalty and satisfaction. When that strategy extends to the branch level, the results are even more impressive.

Omni-Channel versus Multi-Channel Banking

Despite the buzz surrounding omni-channel banking over the past few years, management in many banks persists in confusing it with multi-channel banking—or, in failing to take it far enough. When a bank has expanded its connection mechanisms to include call centers, mobile and online banking, and other “touch-points”—and is encouraging its account holders to use these mechanisms, it is engaging in multi-channel banking.

As its name suggests, omni-channel banking takes the relationship a step further—from many touch points to all. This means more than reaching out to and/or transacting business with customers through multiple channels. To qualify as omni-channel banking, the effort must create a consistent, seamless, high-quality customer experience across all touch points. In other words, all account-holder interactions, across all vehicles, should be unified and should complement one another. At the highest, most successful level, efforts should also be non-redundant and should harmonize with the account-holder’s expressed needs, preferences and characteristics. Here’s an example:

Customer A inquires online about a car loan in June then purchases a vehicle in July with financing from ABC State Bank that he applied for at the branch. During a subsequent call to a branch in August, Customer A inquires about the opening date of a new branch in another part of the state. He mentions that he wants his daughter, who is starting college in the fall, to be able to make payments for the car loan at a branch near the college, if possible.

In September, because Customer A inquired about a car loan three months earlier, he receives a follow-up from a call center, asking if he would like a loan. At that time, he informs call center personnel he already secured a car loan at his branch. In October, as part of a standard marketing effort, Customer A receives a mail offer from the bank regarding a car loan financing special. Around that time, Customer A also notices that a new “Car Loan Special” banner appears on the bank’s website.

The bank has connected with the customer through multiple touchpoints, and it has closed a sale, so the multi-channel approach has been successful from the bank’s perspective. Unfortunately, the customer doesn’t feel this way. The bank has engaged in unnecessary, non-productive follow up on a product he already purchased. He loses confidence in the bank because it failed to capitalize on the data from the sale—and the information he voluntarily shared.

The Omni-Channel Difference

Had the bank adopted a true omni-channel banking approach, the information from Customer A’s in-branch loan and subsequent call about the branch locations would have been collected and used to target future communication and sales efforts. The follow-up from the call center would have asked him how he liked his new car and confirmed he had no other loan or banking needs at the time. The mailer card could have thanked him for his business and invited him to consider supplemental loan products for his car loan.

This is a dramatic comparison, but the scenario that underlies it is fairly typical. Particularly for smaller community banks, the assumption is such an approach is too sophisticated to be affordable. Yet, the value of achieving and retaining customer “stickiness”—the desire by an account holder to reward the bank with future business—can make failure to capitalize on these opportunities even more expensive.

It is a painful fact for companies at all levels that consumers are taking control of their outcomes and experiences like never before. When they are dissatisfied, they not only make decisive choices about where they spend their dollars, they also share their experiences with friends, family and fellow consumers, and can literally impact corporate outcomes as a result.

This mindset shift has impacted the banking industry, where account holders now value good experiences above all other criteria other than financial stability. Referencing the Ernst and Young Global Consumer Banking Survey again, the number two reason, overall, for trusting a banking provider was “the way I am treated.” Furthermore, in a search for a financial services provider, 29 percent of survey respondents look to the advice of friends and relatives. Omni-channel banking, when implemented effectively at all levels including the branch, is a perfect mechanism for turning account-holders into satisfied influencers who will recommend their banks.

At the Branch Level

Until now, we have been discussing omni-channel banking from a bank-wide perspective, even though some of the interactions we described in our example took place in the branch. Returning to our original supposition, how can banks leverage omni-channel banking to help boost branch volumes and sales? Branches play a unique role in an omni-channel banking strategy. First, the ability to connect on a physical, more personal level enables branch personnel to gather relevant information, more easily. It also allows them to change outcomes for customers more quickly. Second, banks can actually refashion their branches into omni-channel operating centers, giving account holders and prospects more reasons to visit—and linger in—the branches. Following are a few examples.

  • Support multiple channels in the lobby. Enabling customers to perform virtual banking at a kiosk or on mobile devices while waiting to speak with a representative will enhance customer service and position the branch as “high-tech.”
  • Implement data collection programs that enable lobby and customer service representatives to capture meaningful customer insights for integration into future sales and marketing efforts.
  • Adopt a specialty branch model with a palette of inventive, enhanced services. This could include everything from financial and/or loan advisors, to offers on targeted products and services. It could even expand to non-traditional value-add services such as cyber-security consultations (another top item account holders want, according to a 2012 Cisco survey).
  • Implement advanced appointment booking solutions. Achieving a status as “respected, trusted advisor” involves respecting customers’ time. Banks that transition from traditional “sign-in and wait” models to proactive, advance-scheduling solutions position themselves as considerate and initiate the need for a future visit to the branch. The best of these systems incorporate an automated scheduling process, text and email confirmations and reminders, universal calendars and the ability to accept appointment requests via multiple channels (mobile device, Internet, in-branch and others).

A Very Bright Future

The branch will continue to play a major role in the customer’s interaction with the bank, especially those that are properly integrated into the Omni-Channel strategy. Accenture’s North American Consumer Digital Banking Survey found that 51 percent of account holders want their banks to recommend products or services that they might need, while considering which accounts they already have.  The Cisco survey referenced earlier found that 53 percent want their branches to handle their loans. Twenty eight percent even want banks to do their taxes. With statistics like these, omni-channel banking isn’t just a theory—it’s a practical solution that makes perfect sense.