Forget Self-Service, Improve Employees

As banks modernize their branches and provide more self-service options such as tablets and video-equipped kiosks, Jonathan Velline believes it's important to not minimize the role of the team members in the stores.

"We see in our data that teller and banker interactions increase customer engagement," says Velline, who is executive vice president at Wells Fargo and overseer of its 12,000 ATMs and 6,000 branches. He spoke at the Best Practices in Retail Financial Services Conference last week. "There's a tight correlation - if you have an engaged team in your store, they're going to create an atmosphere that leads to better customer engagement. Our investment in technology and design is focused on the team member, making sure their technology is good."

This type of thinking is shared by other successful retail industries, he believes. "Apple is not saying Apple stores are dead," he says. "They're trying to figure out, how do we create a connected environment in which the Apple stores, the iPad apps, the website, the whole ecosystem for their customers works together. That's what we want to build and it's what customers demand, to make the experience they get in each channel as excellent as possible."

There's too much emphasis in the banking industry on cost per transaction, Velline maintains. "It's important to know what your channels cost, but there's a bunch of problems with this. First of all, these are fixed costs. Channels don't replace channels, they add to your customers' use of your institution. Which is a good thing - your customers using you and visiting you is not a bad thing. Managing costs is important. But customers don't choose you because you're good at saving costs. They choose an institution because of the service it provides."

Wells Fargo customers who use four channels are 1.8 times as profitable as customers who use one. "I want you to use everything and you're going to get value from us," he says.

Wells Fargo looks at channel and enterprise loyalty metrics, rather than cost-cutting measures. "Our primary goal is increasing customer engagement within all our channels - I Iove it when customers visit tellers, ATMs, branches, mobile, and online."

In its branches, Wells Fargo has added a touch screen at every teller window that's similar to an ATM screen. The customer swipes his card and taps in some of his own transaction details. "It's faster for the customer and for us," Velline says. "We're reducing the cost per transaction by making the workflow faster."

The new teller interface does the work for a teller the way ATMs do the work for customers, Velline says. "If the tellers have an easier time, they're smiling and they like the technology, that's going to rub off on the customers," he says. "The engaged team leads to an engaged customer which leads to revenue growth."

At the same time, Wells Fargo is trying to bring personalized service and humanity to its automated teller machines, which it calls Know Me ATMs. The ATMs put customers' most common transactions at the top of the screen, and provides an ATM cash tracker that helps people see their bigger financial picture. It also offers digital receipts and the ability to donate money for charity.

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