3 Steps to Improving Operational Efficiency

By Sean Wilson - Jul 3, 2019

Now, more than ever, banks and credit unions are feeling the push to become smarter and faster. As mentioned in an earlier article, competition from rising fintech companies and big banks has placed enormous pressure on the industry, and traditional operational processes are struggling to keep up with the changes. Not improving operational efficiency, can have a significant impact on the timely and personal service that banks and credit unions have long been known for, and will inevitably lead to a drop in profit. But a focus on cutting costs alone is not a formula for long-term success. Rather, organizations should focus on a balanced approach — one that allows for them to speed up operations while decreasing operating costs through targeted upgrades to the processes affected. In this way, banks and credit unions can ensure the success of their operations and profitability, while offering their customers the high level of service they’ve come to expect. Below we’ll go over three vital areas to take into consideration when addressing operational issues, and how to go about improving them.


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1. Employees: Empower Your Frontline

When it comes to providing quick and efficient service, your employees are your frontline. As such, they require the right resources to ensure a smooth operational process and provide exceptional service. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case. Thanks to disorganized knowledge base solutions and inefficient back-office processes, many employees don’t have ready access to the tools they need to most effectively do their job.

To allow your customer service team to work at their highest efficiency, they require a method for providing accurate, up-to-the-minute information quickly. However, current processes are often bogged down by legacy systems that do not communicate with each other, forcing employees to switch systems to locate even routine appointment information for customers. In order to address this, banks and credit unions should consider introducing a centralized database that integrates with those legacy systems and brings them all under one umbrella. In this way, customer services would be able to view all staff availability and specializations, updated in real-time across all locations. What’s more, by bringing all of this information into one easily navigated system, employees can more readily access information pertaining to the specifics of each appointment type, such as what documents the customer should bring to the meeting or how long the appointed advisor typically requires for their service request. In this way they can confidently answer any questions that the customer may have without being forced to consult yet another system or contact the advisor directly.

Benefits in operational efficiency extend to the advisors as well. Since all appointments are contained on the same system, important customer information can be captured by employees at the time of booking. So rather than simply seeing a booking for a mortgage consultation for example, advisors can view additional information specific to the customer’s needs, allowing them to better prepare for the appointment in advance. Ultimately, this allows them to provide the customer with service that is both more efficient and highly personalized.

2. Customers: Implement Self-Service Solutions

In recent years, consumers have become increasingly self-reliant. From self-service grocery checkouts, to digital services like Amazon, your customers are becoming accustomed to doing what they want, when they want. Whether they’re searching for a product or service, or simply changing the settings on their own account, they want to feel in control. Having the ability to serve themselves is not only convenient and efficient for them, but for the company that allows them to do so. Yet, most banks and credit unions don’t provide adequate self-service support for appointments or information, leading to more customers calling or visiting a branch for these routine tasks, and putting additional strain on employees.

By giving customers more autonomy for carrying out their banking activities, less human input is required from the bank, which leads to obvious cost reductions. At the same time, it should be noted that without sufficient planning, moving processes to self-service channels can actually cause costs to go up. By inviting customers to serve themselves online 24/7, customer activity, transactions and requests are inevitably going to increase. Without automating those routine processes, additional staff will eventually be required to handle the higher workload, and the benefits to operational efficiency will be lost.

Through implementing a self-service appointment management solution that integrates with your existing systems, you can streamline the appointment scheduling process across every customer touchpoint by taking advantage of real-time analytics to make informed decisions about staffing and workflow. With this in place, you can effectively remove the guesswork from the task of improving efficiencies in the booking process. This can increase the number of appointments driven to your branch locations, optimize employee schedules to improve their overall efficiency, and of course, reduce the level of effort that both customers and staff have to go through in order to complete their interaction.

3. Data: Map Out The Customer Journey

Knowledge is power, especially in these days of customer-driven digital transformation. And when looking to optimize the flow of operations, acquiring knowledge of the areas that need improvement is key. Traditionally, this is done by focusing on internal process maps and operational KPIs. While these contain very useful information, they only describe part of the story. An internal process flow only begins when an appointment is made or an application is received — but what led up to that? How did the customer arrive at the decision to book that appointment or submit that application? This information may be captured as part of other process maps, but without the ability to view it, it’s impossible to improve.

59% of customer experience professionals said that this type of insufficient collaboration across silos damages their company’s customer experience, which in turn is damaging to the company’s operational efficiency. However, by effectively compiling customer data across all your communication channels from start to finish, and mapping out the journey on a single system, allows for simple, automated collaboration and a clear view into all the factors that go into creating a smooth customer journey. In turn, improving operational efficiency alongside customer experience.

By giving employees and management access to information on the customer touchpoints they’re involved in, you can create a greater awareness of the role they have to play in the customer experience. Where failures occur, skills that need improvement or knowledge gaps that need to be addressed can be identified. At the same time, positive experiences can be used as building blocks for improving efficiencies and customer experience further. The customer journey map provides the necessary information to maximize value for the customers and organization, and brings a level of agility that is needed to remain competitive in today’s market. By looking at systems, technology, skills, processes, and market position, customer journey mapping provides decision makers with the data they need to make informed decisions.


Improving Operational Efficiency – What Next?

Ready to learn more about upgrading your institution’s digital presence and capabilities to increase operational efficiencies and improve the customer experience? For an in depth look on how to make it as smooth as possible for everyone involved, and how Coconut Software can help get you there, download our Ultimate Guide to Digitally Transforming the Appointment Experience.

Looking to get started on identifying and eliminating operational inefficiencies that may be plaguing your organization? Schedule a consultation with Coconut Software to learn more about how our appointment and lobby management solutions can help.