We recently read about a woman in Venezuela who gave birth while waiting in line to buy food and staple items. Despite being 9 months pregnant, the woman reportedly arrived at dawn to wait in line overnight so she could buy necessary products at more affordable prices. We don't know where her husband was, but the good news is that other people in line assisted with the birth and the woman and baby are doing fine. While it's admirable that her fellow line-waiters helped her, the story is nonetheless a sad social commentary.
In the banking industry, waiting in line carries its own troubles, albeit nothing as dramatic as what happened to that woman. As branch lines have moved outside to ATMs and then to online and phone channels, banks are trying to respond by finding ways to eliminate lines and reduce customer frustration. This makes sense because there's no shortage of scientific research on the angst brought on by being forced to wait in any line.
In this area, a new virtual queuing application from the State Bank of India recently caught our eye. It lets customers book an instant queue ticket for certain services at selected branches. Here's how it works. The customer begins by selecting the type of service needed from a menu in an app. This brings up a list of branches located within about 9 miles of the customer that provide the desired service.
The customer then chooses a branch location based on information provided within the app, including expected wait times, the number of customers waiting and the distance to the branch from the point of booking. Once the customer arrives at the branch, he or she simply activates his or her Q-ticket and is serviced immediately, thus avoiding lines.
The technology allowing for mobile or online scheduling has been available for a number of years, but banks have been slow to adopt. According to a Celent survey, only 33% of the largest US banks offer digital appointment booking and adoption among other banks and credit unions is rare.
The opportunity may be there, however, especially with so many banks rolling out mobile banking apps or upgrading existing ones. While it takes coordination on the bank's part to ensure smooth sailing, some customers seem to appreciate the ability to book appointments from their phones and reduce wait times.
Banks that do a good job here may have the potential for increased customer engagement and sales growth. You also can improve the effectiveness of your frontline staff and boost customer satisfaction.
One cautionary note: If you are going to offer customers the ability to make appointments on their phone or online, make sure it's a seamless process for them. Several banks that tout the availability of online appointment booking don't prominently display its availability on their website. That makes it more difficult for customers to use the service. If customers have to spend time trolling around your mobile app or website to figure out how to make an appointment, they may as well be waiting in line and frustrations will increase.
There are many things happening in the industry, but when it comes to mobile and online appointment booking, perhaps more banks should explore this technology.