Why Don’t More Banks Offer Appointments?

4-5-13_Celent.pngFor years, we’ve been able to schedule an appointment with our healthcare providers, barbers, hair dressers, personal coaches, pastors and friends, but never our bankers. What’s up with that?

Banks have historically relied on a 100 percent walk-in model for in-branch sales and service. Things are finally beginning to change. They need to. With branch traffic declining at most banks by more than 5 percent annually, sales leads aren’t just walking through the doors like they used to. Banks can transform branches all they want, but those investments won’t produce a good return without foot traffic. And that traffic won’t return unless banks take proactive steps to generate it. Banking by appointment is one great way to do so.

Why this is such a good idea:

  • Customer convenience. Rather than rolling the dice with an unannounced branch visit, consumers make their appointment knowing staff with the requisite knowledge and experience will be ready and waiting (at least in theory). This favorably impacts all customer interactions, whether sales or service.
  • Improved channel capacity. Demand for sales and service staff is hard to predict accurately. This creates several problems. As more customer interactions are scheduled, channel capacity improves along with customer satisfaction. Staff stays busier and few customers are left in the lobby waiting.
  • More effective customer engagement. Done well, front-line staff knows who is coming and what that person’s individual needs and interests are prior to arrival. This provides staff the ability to be well-prepared for the appointment, rather than reacting to walk-in visits. It also invites bank staff to follow-up with customers as the appointment nears, providing additional customer touch points.

Bank of America Corp. and BMO Financial Group’s Bank of Montreal have two excellent examples of well-executed banking by appointment initiatives, in my opinion. Bank of America’s appointment booking capability extends to online, mobile and Facebook, and invites both in-person and telephone appointments. Bank of Montreal (BMO) was a 2013 Celent Model Bank winner for its online appointment booking initiative, which will be expanded to the mobile channel in 2013. Below is an excerpt from a more detailed case study published in the Model Bank winner report.

BMO Online Appointment Booking Initiative

BMO launched its new Online Appointment Booking (OAB) functionality in May, 2012, allowing personal and small business banking customers and prospects to book appointments in real time, quickly and directly into branch employees’ calendars through Online Banking and The capability is being extended to mobile devices in 2013.

Through the first six months since launch, OAB booked nearly 19,000 appointments, resulting in 8,355 product sales. Roughly half of the appointments were booked through BMO’s public website. On average, 1.8 products were sold per appointment. Based on these results, the project pay-out is less than seven months (net of estimated cannibalization, i.e., sales that would have otherwise been made). The sales mix (below) reflects significant complex products, suggesting that OAB has been effective in bringing in foot traffic among prospects not likely to purchase online.

Staff response to OAB has been favorable. Apart from exercising discipline in maintaining Outlook calendars, no additional staff effort is required as a result of OAB—other than keeping appointments. Celent regards OAB as a model example of making a significant business impact with a relatively simple and low-cost technology investment. We thought the program was so successful, we awarded BMO a Celent Impact Award last month.

Celent Impact Awards

As Celent reviewed the unprecedented number of Model Bank nominations this year, we were struck in several instances by initiatives that were impactful but were not particularly innovative or difficult. Rather, we were left with the sentiment, “Why aren’t more banks doing this?” The Bank of Montreal was one of three financial institutions recognized by Celent with an Impact Award for coming up with a truly simple, but successful innovation. 

Bob Meara