Community Bank Challenges: Providing a Personal Touch in a Digital Environment

By now your customers already assume that any community bank or credit union can handle basic transactional functions associated with banking and have technology on par with the big banks. So, how can you further meet the expectations of your customers, succeeding where larger banks may fail? Where community banks can compete with – and ultimately excel beyond – the competition, is by balancing personal service and customer experience with the digital component.

Digital banking is important, but it’s not the crux of a successful branch.

Most adults would prefer to do their transactional banking online or by using a mobile app—our Benchmark surveys show that ranges from 55 to 75% of banked adults, depending on the town or city they live in. Transferring funds, checking balances, depositing checks, and completing similar transactions can all be handled comfortably without human interaction. These recurring tasks are not when consumers need or want their banking professionals. Most banked adults, and businesses, prefer to perform these tasks electronically (yes, even Baby Boomers), so you can deploy your personnel resources elsewhere.

Important interactions require a human touch.

Although an ATM or mobile app can handle most monetary transactions, the results of tens of thousands of interviews confirm that banked adults want to work with a person for more complex interactions. Don’t be swayed by the assumption that millennials rely solely on technology, because our latest Benchmark results which includes tens of thousands of millennials in addition to Baby Boomers and everyone else in between, clearly shoe that millennials want a personal touch for complex banking interactions.

Consumers across multiple generations seek personal, customized, human interaction for:

  • personal financial advice
  • assurance that they are protected against fraud
  • information about new products that could improve their financial well being
  • guidance on how to handle their next loan
  • better understanding of how their credit impacts being approved for a mortgage
  • advice on whether they should apply for another credit card

These are some of the important interactions for which a customer needs the support of an experienced banking professional. Focusing only on marketing your digital capabilities won’t communicate to current and potential customers the degree to which you can meet their needs as a personal financial advisor or provide hands-on customer experience.

It is important to remember the “personal interaction” encompasses both the branch as well as the phone, where customers can talk personally to someone who is trying to help them.  Too often we see community bank customers happy with the in-branch service, but unhappy with the phone assistance.  It is not uncommon for us to learn from customers in our interviews that the only reason they went into the branch for advice is because the call center they initially tried was inadequate.  This can lead a community bank to the false conclusion that their personal assistance is adequate when it is not.  This is one other reason it is crucial to track your performance across all channels.  You cannot improve what you cannot measure.

Improve your servicing image to attract customers.

Community banks must separate themselves from the digital rush and broadcast what is unique about their services, drawing a distinction between them and what big banks may provide. Emphasize the personal approach that a local community bank can offer. A successful bank competently provides both digital and personal services, but it is the balance of the two that defines the accomplishment. Find out where you stand with your customers and push beyond the obvious expectations of a functioning digital interface.

Round out your professional servicing image, emphasizing the community and how your branch can contribute to individual needs. Market your community bank by demonstrating how your bank can assist the community in reaching their financial goals – and employ the staff to back up those claims.

There is enormous opportunity for you to grow your community bank or credit union, but it starts with knowing what existing customers and prospects think of you compared to your competitors. Take action now and request our benchmark study for your region.

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