When the client and improved staff experiences come together, you get much better business outcomes.” -Nicholas Barnes

It’s true that when your employees are happy, your customers are happy. And when everyone is happy, and everything is working seamlessly, you can really grow your business and the lifetime value that you offer. With digital interfaces and appointment culture becoming more prevalent, it’s now more important than ever to ensure your staff and customers are engaged and having quality experiences.

The importance of the employee and customer experience and how it relates to appointment culture is the topic of conversation that James Robert Lay and  Nicholas Barnes, Practice Director of Financial Services at JRNI had on the a Banking on Digital Growth Podcast. JRNI is an experiential relationship management platform for scheduling and managing personalized experiences.

The Importance of Employee Experience

In the financial sector, there is a lot of focus (rightly so) on the consumer, the customer, or the member, but what about the employees? It makes sense for banks to be customer-focused—adjusting their practices and operations to meet their customers’ needs—but what many companies don’t realize is that the experience the customer has is ultimately determined by the employee experience.

In today’s digital world, it is even more crucial for banks to find ways to ensure their customers feel seen and heard. James Robert calls this “humanizing the digital experience.

If a financial brand has a content and engaged customer, that is only one part of the equation. And this situation has particularly been highlighted recently by the pandemic. What many companies came to realize was that it was just as important to ensure their employees’ happiness as it was to ensure their customers’ happiness.

When you are providing a service, the employee is an integral part of the process. How they feel and how they act will ultimately determine how the whole experience plays out. So if your employees aren’t having their needs met, then it makes sense that they would struggle in turn to meet the needs of your customers.

How Appointment Culture Is Having an Impact on Financial Brands

One thing that has particularly grown and developed as a result of the pandemic that highlights even further this need for quality employee and customer experiences is appointment culture. This is something that was already gaining in popularity, but the pandemic accelerated its trajectory.

We are seeing an entirely new way of doing business that has had an impact on both the customer and the employee. Employees have truly embraced appointment culture and are not likely to turn back. It has improved their experience because it helps them better organize their day—it governs their day. With appointments now being a primary way of doing business, they feel more prepared, which allows them to then provide a better experience and service for the customer.

This is ultimately the point and what banks and credit unions should understand. When your employees have what they need and are more content, when they feel more prepared to do their job, it will uplift the customer experience. And this coming together of improved customer and employee experiences creates much better business outcomes. This is how financial brands can grow their business and the lifetime value that they offer.

And what it really comes down to is engagement. Appointment culture requires more engagement. It’s all about how engaged your customers are and how intuitive the experience is for them, which depends on how engaged the staff members are and how much they want to focus on the customer’s needs.

It’s about proactive outreach and your staff members going that extra mile to reach out to customers to show them that you’re there for them, as opposed to waiting for the customer to come to you. And those companies that generate the most appointments, that generate the most interactions with customers, are the ones that have a more positive company culture with a holistic view on engaging with customers. They are bringing that human element to the digital experience that provides high value by making these advisory spaces as experiential as possible.

And by bridging this gap between the customer and the employee experience, brands are going to increase their conversions. The more outreach your employees do and the more engaged they are in these interactions, the higher propensity there is for conversions.

Where Appointment Scheduling Falls Short and How to Improve

Though appointment culture has many benefits and is likely here to stay, there are some things to be mindful of to avoid running into issues and complications.

One issue in particular that many companies seem to struggle with is that appointments don’t necessarily have a natural home. They can fall into a number of different buckets, if you will.

Are they a digital initiatives project? A retail initiative? An IT problem? Financial institutions can have various different departments, and they can sometimes struggle to find a place for appointments and who manages them.

Additionally, appointment scheduling can fall short when brands don’t give them the attention they deserve. Many think appointments are easy and straightforward. You just click a button and book a meeting with someone, and that’s it. But appointments aren’t meetings; they are engagement. They are an opportunity to provide exceptional experiences, but when you don’t see them this way, you aren’t going to reap the rewards and may struggle to find the value in them.

The brands that have the most success with appointment culture and scheduling are the ones that view it as an initiative program or an outreach program. They see it as a way to personalize the customer experience by reaching out to them when there are life changes or events that play a part in their financial situation.

This proactive engagement is necessary to avoid shortcomings with appointment scheduling. Because appointments on their own, if you think about it, do seem like a basic thing. But this is why it’s so important to create quality employee and customer experiences because it helps raise the ordinary to extraordinary. It turns something that is perhaps a dreaded but necessary task into an enjoyable and valuable experience.

Another issue with appointment culture is that it primarily uses digital, video interfaces. A study from Vonage shows that consumers are using video calls to communicate with businesses 67% more today. And while this does make it more convenient in many ways and more accessible, it often cuts out that human element that people crave.

We want video and technology for convenience, but we still want quality, personal experiences. And so it’s very easy for some financial brands that are using appointments to forget that there is a real human person on the other end that wants to feel seen and heard. They want to feel like they matter.

So it’s crucial to find that balance between video appointments and in-person interactions. And when you are using video, it needs to be engaging. You need to find ways to connect with your customers to ensure they aren’t feeling forgotten or like they are just a transaction.

Using Proactive Outreach and Feedback to Improve the Customer Experience

The proactive engagement, that act of employees reaching out to check in because the client had some big life change recently or something like that, shows the customer that they matter and that you genuinely want to help them. This is how brands retain customers and build loyal followings.

It’s all about engagement and building relationships.

Some clients and customers may even feel uncomfortable having video appointments. That idea of having a camera pointed at them can feel unnatural, and so brands need to find ways to humanize the experience. You need to make it as easy and seamless as possible and provide an exceptional and personalized experience to help the customer feel more at ease.

Another excellent way to ensure your customers are happy and enjoying their interactions with your brand is to use feedback. Some of the top banks and financial institutions, such as US Bank, HSBBC, and M&T Bank, have had great success by utilizing a continuous feedback loop. Every entry point or point of contact allows for the customer to provide feedback on their experience.

This shows the customer that their opinion matters in addition to providing the company with useful information that they can use to make improvements. And over time, as your employees listen to the feedback and make adjustments, they will eventually be able to provide a more seamless experience.

Moving Forward: The Future of Banking

There is a concern that with everything going digital, the bank branch will eventually become obsolete. If this digital interface and video appointments are the future of banking, then what’s the point of having branches that people can still walk into?

While this is a valid concern based on what we are seeing, it is ultimately unnecessary. As previously mentioned, customers still crave human interactions. If anything, the pandemic showed us how important it is to maintain that human element, and community banking, for example, is still an integral part of the industry.

And even if branches start becoming more virtual and do solely operate as an online business, they will still need to provide those human interactions through the digital interface to provide quality experiences. So there won’t be fewer staff or people losing their jobs; there will just be a transition or a relocation of those staff members to virtual settings.

Anything you can carry out in a branch can be done online, but it still requires that human element. You could have the best apps in the world and use artificially intelligent systems to handle a lot of your tasks, but you would still need that human element to provide personalized experiences to your customers and your members. Because without that human touch, you lose the value incentive and the quality relationships that bring people back again and again.

So going forward, as banks automate more of their systems and integrate new digital initiatives, it’s crucial to continue finding ways to elevate the employee and customer experience to maintain those relationships and attract new customers. The key thing to remember is that your customer base is diverse.

Automation can sometimes turn things into a one-size-fits-all scenario, but brands need to continue providing that personalized touch to show their customers that they matter. There needs to be even more dedication to customer satisfaction and hyper-personalization as things go digital. While automation can help banks better tackle the more mundane and standard tasks, they still need to be adaptable and provide the customer with choices to ensure their unique needs are continually met.

When companies talk about driving and improving business outcomes, it really does begin and end with delighting the customer. The customer experience is what will ultimately determine your success, and your employee experiences, too, have a huge impact on the customer experience and growth of your company. So everything you do, whether it’s through digital interfaces and appointment culture or in-person experiences, should be about delighting the customer.