Visiting a bank branch made me question my own conceptions

I had to use a bank branch the other day for the first time in over a year, to pay a cheque in.

I thought I would just be able to take a picture of it and send it to my bank, after all I have written stories about banks enabling customers to do this. But I was told it was still in pilot and couldn’t do it.

So off to my local branch, which by the way is closing down in a few months, to pay in my cheque. To my huge surprise I was not the only person there. I had to wait for someone else to be served and during this time somebody joined the line behind me. So in a five minute period on a Friday lunchtime there were three customers. That seems quite a lot.

I must admit the fact that I hardly ever use a branch has turned me into one of those people that doesn’t see the need for a branch. I do like using my mobile phone to bank and do get annoyed of there is something I can’t do on the phone, but this branch visit made me rethink my attitude to the bank branch.

But it is not just because I had hard evidence that people needed the branch but the was something else that made me think. While waiting a delivery of drinking water was made.  A friendly conversation between a bank staff member and the person delivering the water ensued.

I then realised people work here and businesses supply this branch. Take away the branch and somebody loses a job and a small business loses a customer. Are we all getting to c aught up I n the digital revolution?

Furthermore according to recent research by Accenture found that people still want to interact with people when it comes to their daily banking.

In fact 70% of consumers want the ability to raise a complaint with a human adviser, while 63% want to be able to open an account in person. Then 48% want to be shown hands-on how to use the bank’s mobile and online services.

But the survey of thousands of people in the UK also found that the number of consumers who visit branches at least once a month has dropped from 52% to 32%, since 2015.

Not an easy conundrum for banks. They seem to prefer just to cut branches and staff to save money rather than take on this challenge. But are they becoming over reliant on digital and will this diminish some of their traditional advantage.

Peter Kirk, head of Accenture’s financial services distribution and marketing practice in the UK, said “…the number of customers regularly visiting the branch is significantly reducing, but the number of customers regularly using mobile digital service remains static. This could be a concern for the banks as consumers still say they want to have the human touch. The next challenge is how banks provide convenient customer experiences that blend human and digital services to stop them becoming faceless and putting their newly earned trust at risk.”

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