The digital experience has become one of the most important places for growth and innovation within banking, but as continue to move more digitally, many banks are asking themselves how should in-person, physical experience be evolved.  Some banks are finding that combining digital banking innovation with the physical branch experience can help them provide outstanding customer service while making their own internal systems more efficient.

Italy’s Banco Intesa Sanpaolo – winner of the 2015 Efma Accenture Award for Physical Distribution – uses digital tools in the branch while bankers provide customers with face-to-face contact and support.

Intesa Sanpaolo found that customers considering complex financial products such as mortgages are uncomfortable “going it alone” without a banker’s help.  While the bank uses digital tools and solutions in its branches – so that information can be processed quickly and efficiently – it also offers its customers the “human touch” in the form of branch employees who can answer questions and assist with the product application process.  For big, complex products such as mortgages, this can be a crucial source of support at the customer’s moment of truth.

A new Accenture Point of View entitled Branching Out: The Case for the Human Touch in Banking notes that digital channels now allow customers to carry out many transactions traditionally handled by the retail branch workforce. Banks can use their branches as differentiating physical assets and allow branch talent to act as the human face of the brand. These employees can support customers’ use of digital interactions and offer new and differentiated customer experiences that bring together the best attributes of in-person and online banking.

To make this transition, however, banks need to fundamentally re-think their branch talent strategies.  Helping customers in areas beyond basic transactions means that employees will need better listening, assessment and social skills.  They will need to be able to engage and excite customers, not so much about complex financial instruments but about the freedom and security such instruments can deliver.  Re-envisioned this way, physical branches – and the talent they contain – can be a major selling point for banks facing new “all digital” competitors.

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