A few years ago, LabCorp, which operates one of the largest clinical laboratory networks in the world, rolled out an online system for making appointments. This was a welcome alternative to customers used to dealing with long wait times. Their competitor, Quest Diagnostics, also has an online reservation system, which many customers find significantly reduces their wait time and frustration. There are appointments for so many of the services we frequently use - from doctors' to dentists, hairdressers, accountants, financial advisors, realtors, plumbers, appliance repair and more.
That's why we were so intrigued by a recent Celent blog discussing how some banks are turning to banking by appointment for added customer convenience, improved channel capacity and better preparedness.
Two banks that are currently doing this are Bank of America and Bank of Montreal (BEMO). At Bank of America, customers and non-customers in select locations can make an appointment online to meet with an associate to discuss most types of personal or small business banking needs. The online form allows users to choose from a list of options they'd like to discuss, such as opening up new accounts, existing accounts, loans or learning more about mobile banking. Small businesses, meanwhile, can opt to discuss applying for business credit or other services. If the desired topic is not listed, users are directed to choose the one that is most similar to their needs and to write further information in the comment section. For those worried about running late, the bank says it will hold an appointment for at least 10 minutes, depending on the queue.
BEMO has a similar booking initiative, which it launched last year. Customers simply fill out an online form and arrange the day, time and topics they'd like to discuss. They can also call the bank to arrange an appointment with a specific representative if they prefer. Appointments can be made for up to 180 days in advance. After customers make an appointment, the bank emails them the details about the representative they will be meeting with, which obviously will vary depending on the topic, the time and the day customers select.
According to Celent, the BEMO initiative has been a big hit. Through the first six months since launch, the bank reportedly has booked nearly 19,000 appointments, resulting in 8,355 product sales. Roughly 50% of appointments were booked through BEMO's public website. On average, 1.8 products were sold per appointment, according to Celent. The mix of products includes investments, loan and mortgage insurance, checking and savings accounts, mortgages and credit cards.
Given the upside potential, we suspect more banks will roll out similar initiatives in the coming months. For banks reticent to start from scratch, there are third-party providers with software that allows customers to instantly book in-branch or phone appointments through bank websites, email loyalty campaigns and via social media interactions. To be perfectly clear, we haven't tested this particular software yet, but the idea and traction is interesting enough to start down that road.
There is no magic number for what a customer is willing to wait, but popular thinking seems to be that any wait time is too long. Banking by appointment could be a good way to boost customer satisfaction, manage employee time and generate revenue.