Photo by Arlington Research
Originally Posted On: How Appointment Web Apps are Driving Revenue Growth in Banks (coconutsoftware.com)
Customers today expect companies to meet them where they are most comfortable. They want options with how to connect, at times that are convenient to them. For banks and credit unions, this increasingly means an omnichannel experience.
Welcome to the “appointment economy.” Financial institutions are managing growing lists of products and services to remain competitive. As a result, the need for appointment scheduling becomes clear.
84% of banking customers still say that they want access to a live person to discuss their banking needs. But how can your branches juggle lobby traffic, staff availability, the right expertise, the call center and distance banking? The solution can be found in appointment web apps, allowing customers to self-schedule.
Problems in Customer Appointments
For a long time, the customer branch experience has been walking into the lobby and saying, “I’d like to open a checking account” or “I would like to talk to someone about a loan.” There are many reasons that this causes issues and becomes challenging to manage.
Walk-in traffic can be very unpredictable. While your financial institutions may try to staff for lobby peak times, this is not always possible.
Heavy traffic causes long wait times and delays in service to the customer. Customers may become increasingly frustrated with the longer they wait.
Lobby abandonment happens when customers have been waiting so long that they leave. 95% of customers will leave if their wait time hits the ten-minute mark. These are opportunities that walk out the door and possibly move their business to the bank or credit union down the street.
With walk-ins, branches risk not having the right staff available. The customer may have a complicated mortgage question only suited for a loan officer who is not on that day.
Existing customers may come into the branch looking to talk with their loan officer. This “impromptu meeting” catches the officer unprepared. The officer may have been better able to help the customer if armed in advance with the customer’s account information.
And while branches deal with walk-ins every day, more walk-ins mean more interruptions. Staff may need to unexpectedly shift from other tasks. This can lead to decreased efficiency.
Lack of Access
Call centers often have the responsibility of scheduling appointments for customers in staff schedules. From loan closings to new accounts, this scheduling is often done blindly with the hope that the availability these agents see is up-to-date. Call centers may not have any knowledge of the peak times at a particular branch or staff availability.
Across departments, there is also a lack of access and coordination. Retail and commercial lending, for example, may not be able to easily cross-schedule for a customer. Customers do not exist in silos and often need bank staff to come together for a particular request, for example a mortgage specialist, loan officer, and financial advisor.
Finally, customers in remote locations or with accessibility issues may have trouble physically getting to a branch location. Lack of easy access may prevent these conversations from taking place, decreasing engagement and client retention.
The Role of the Branches
According to the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Retail Banking Advice Study, the retail bank is still a valuable first line of financial advice. Customers rely on their bankers for everything finance and life milestone related, from savings tips for college funds to retirement strategies, to taking a loan to purchase a RV. Customer connection leads to increased customer satisfaction and opportunities for cross-selling, the way to increase the all important share of wallet.
Every time the customer interacts with bank staff, there is a possibility that the customer can learn something. From new products or additional services, these interactions are a window for more business. To increase these touchpoints, banks and credit unions should leverage the use of appointment apps.
The Appointment Economy
Everything from clothing stores to medical offices to gyms are moving to the “appointment economy.” Customers are turning to an increasingly digital experience. As a result, companies look at how they can integrate appointment scheduling.
Benefits to the customer of appointment web apps include:
- Avoid long wait time in the lobby
- Ensuring that a knowledgeable person is available
- Scheduling the appointment at any time
- Capitalize quickly on initial search interest
Most appointment scheduling occurs during non-business hours. Customers may be browsing the bank or credit union’s website or reading a promotional email. They click the “Schedule Now” button and can then find the next available appointment that is convenient.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, appointment apps have become even more critical. Your bank or credit union still needs to meet the demands of your customers. However, you may be operating with reduced capacity, shorter lobby hours or outright branch closures that necessitate an urgent switch to digital appointments.
How Appointment Web Apps Can Increase Revenue
While the customer benefits immensely, appointment web apps can also drive your revenue growth in several ways.
1. Decrease Operational Costs
Your organization may be looking for ways to reduce operational costs. Appointment scheduling apps can decrease overall headcount. Call centers will need fewer staff if customers are able to self-schedule an appointment. It also reduces the email tag that is necessitated when booking appointments between customers and staff, especially irritating when multiple attendees with multiple calendars are required.
2. Optimize Staff Time
You can also optimize staff time by ensuring you have more staff in branch locations during high volume times. You can schedule knowledgeable employees in the appropriate locations based on appointment requests.
Your call center or staff may also spend a lot of time attempting to schedule through disparate systems and departments. This can result in a lot of frustration for the customer. By providing an appointment app, the scheduling is instant, and staff can be re-allocated to other tasks.
Because of varying levels of walk-in traffic, staff fluctuate between too-busy and too-idle. Both of these decrease efficiency and cost money. Scheduling appointments with customers will control the flow of work throughout the day.
With more time to prepare for scheduled appointments, staff can review the customer’s history. This allows them to more easily up-sell customers.
3. Insight into Customer Experience
Very basic information is collected when a customer contacts a call center. Usually, this is limited to name, new or existing customer, and service required. The call center rep then schedules a time with the available representative.
With inbound calls, the call center rep has no time to prepare for the interaction. Without knowing the customer’s background, an important upsell opportunity is missed. The interaction lacks a personal touch and doesn’t show your customer that their business is valued.
A scheduling app can collect more information about the customer. This can either be part of the appointment request or integrated with other tools, including:
- How long the customer has been with your organization
- The last time the customer had an appointment
- Any notes or key pieces of information from previous discussions
- If the customer uses other services, such as online banking
Additionally, when customers are personally greeted by their service rep or loan officer, it makes them feel valued. Feeling valued will build loyalty with your organization. Loyalty makes customers more open to additional products or services.
Features of Appointment Web Apps
Different scheduling apps have different features. However, there are some that banks and credit unions should look for in particular to solve their scheduling problems:
- The ability for customers to self-schedule either from the website, mobile app, chat, or a direct link.
- The ability to schedule by service needed, method of meeting (in person, phone or video) location, preferred language or staff member.
- Calendar integration and real-time availability
- Reporting on metrics, such as reasons for cancellation
- Appointment reminders via SMS and email
- Mobile check-in and online queuing
- Centralized application management of staff capacity and staff utilization
Tips to Get the Most from Your Appointment Web App
As you look to implement a web application, you will want to make sure that you are optimizing the benefits. You should consider both the impacts internally and for your customers.
1. Help the Customer Help Themselves
You can make your customer aware of what information or documents are needed for the appointment. Mutual preparedness allows for additional time to discuss other products or services and a more satisfying experience.
2. Drive Sales Revenue with Frontline Resources
Since scheduled appointments will decrease the risk of bottlenecks in the lobby, this frees up frontline staff. They can spend more time upselling or cross-selling walk-in customers. Branch managers can ensure that frontline staff are skilled and knowledgeable in offering products to customers.
With a reduction in lobby abandonment as a result of shorter wait times, you will see revenue growth from frontline staff as well. With qualified staff ready to meet with account holders and prospects, more sales will close.
3. Use Reminders to Decrease No-Shows
A no-show appointment is a cost in staff time. Automated reminders, ideally SMS and email notifications, of the appointments will decrease the likelihood that the appointment will be missed.
4. Increase Sales and Service with Analytics
Use the appointments to track branch-based activities and evaluated customers’ patterns of behavior. Armed with these insights, branch managers can make informed decisions about staff scheduling and marketing.
For example, let’s say that many requests for new account openings occur at a certain time of day or a certain day of the week. Additional staff may be needed so that more appointments are available.
Another insight might be that many appointments scheduled are for simple questions. An email campaign can make customers aware of self-service resources on the organization’s website to reduce the number of appointments in that category, freeing up time for more valuable, advisory based service meetings.
5. Track Appointment Sources
You should track your customer’s journey from the first point of contact to the appointment scheduling. Did the customer schedule as a result of an email campaign promoting a product or service? Or, did the customer find information through your website and schedule an appointment to discuss?
By using unique URLs, you can drive targeted prospects to schedule branch appointments as a call to action. This is an effective way to generate quality leads for high-revenue products and services, such as mortgages and wealth management. You can ensure that the right branch employees are meeting with prospects and that your marketing campaigns are delivering the promised ROI.
6. Blackout Periods
If you enforce blackout periods, you can keep account holders and prospects from scheduling appointments during high-volume times within branches. This will improve the overall branch experience.
Staff will be available to handle the walk-ins that will still occur. For example, branches often experience high traffic around midday, and near the end of the month. This would be an appropriate time to have a blackout period and not allow appointments.
Smaller branches may have rotating staff that wear many hats, such as frontline service and back-office responsibilities. Blackout periods will ensure that these staff who fill multiple roles are not double-booked. Simply blackout times for those staff to perform other critical bank functions.
7. Offer Video Appointments
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly pushed the need for video appointments. However, the reality is that the demand for video appointments will continue in a post-COVID world. Once used to the convenience of “not leaving the house” for talking with their financial institution, some customers will not want to go back.
Video appointments also offer increased access for customers located far from branches. Customers that are busy and have limited time during regular banking hours will appreciate not facing traffic or needing to leave work to visit the bank.
As stated earlier, customers are looking for advice and ways to talk to bank staff. There are very few things that would preclude aninteraction from taking place virtually. Bank staff can still ensure a positive experience for the customer with a personal touch.
Finding the Best Appointment Scheduling App
It is clear that customer engagement channels have shifted over time, moving to a digital experience. Banks and credit unions should include appointment web apps in their growth plans, as well as find the best one that has all of the features needed. When it comes to scheduling, one size does not fit all.
At Coconut, we focus solely on the needs of financial institutions in our solutions. This ensures that our clients achieve optimal results. Schedule a consultation with us today.