Starring on episode 2 of our 24Connect podcast is Director of Retail & Advice at SNS Bank, Ronald Pieters. SNS is one of the biggest Dutch retail banks - with a bit of a different strategy. While most banks throughout Europe were centralizing fast and closing branches, SNS decided to take a different turn. They started opening local shops with a franchise model.
So what is the vision behind SNS’ going against the banking stream? And how does their Director of Retail view the balance between online channels - like video banking - and personal customer contact? In this blog, discover the highlights of 24Connect episode 2 in 5 bold statements 👇
About video banking with facial recognition & why SNS is opening local shops
1. Banking should involve the human touch
‘Banking with a human touch’, that's SNS Bank’s mission statement. As Ronald explains, this means that it’s not internal processes and structures which matter most to the bank, but the person sitting in front of them - the customer.
And the human touch also implies optimistic banking, taking a ‘no’ as a conversation starter to look for other options. When a customer can’t pay their mortgage anymore due to unemployment, for example, SNS’ personal advisors will sit down with them to see how to best manage the situation together.
“I see a lot of advantages to Video Banking. Still, I do believe it’s important to have a conversation in person every once in a while - to take 30 minutes to share a cup of coffee.”
2. When other banks are closing branches, go for a centralizing strategy & franchise model
That’s how important the personal relation with the customer is for SNS Bank. Instead of closing branches and centralizing, SNS is opening local ‘shops’ operating in a franchise model. Why?
Ronald: “Franchisees are entrepreneurs. They open a shop for the long term - 15, 20, maybe 25 years. They know their area and will build up a strong local network there. Plus, the local franchise model is more flexible cost-wise for us. Instead of on cost-savings, it allows us to focus on maximizing revenues.”
But opening local shops is less about the bricks, and more about being able to talk to customers face-to-face. Ronald: “We believe in the personal relationship. Our local team of franchisees and their network of customers and partners are more important than the branch itself.”
To hear what SNS’s local advisors think about handling all customer interactions themselves, tune in to the podcast here >
3. 10 years ago giving financial advice via video was a bad idea, now it's the future - and technology is to thank
The modern technology for digital customer contact that we have available now, actually makes it much easier for banks to implement local, decentralized contact - instead of a centralized strategy. That’s what Ronald strongly believes.
10 to 15 years ago, SNS Bank was centralizing & digitizing its customer contact, too. However, it was the fast development of digital technologies that made the bank change its strategy to local shops. All the technological solutions for customer contact make it very easy to route incoming emails, chat messages and phone calls back to the local shops.
“It’s not a matter of going against the stream, it’s about looking to the future. Current technology actually makes it so easy to bring customers into contact with their own personal, local advisor.”
So where does video banking fit in? Ronald first wanted the local shops to learn to use all the different existing channels for CX first. Then early 2020, it was time to start using Video Banking technology too. The roll-out of 24sessions (partly sped up by the pandemic), was also motivated by a technological development: the use of Artificial Intelligence in customer contact.
4. With AI, video banking has the ability to beat face-to-face customer contact
SNS sees video banking not as a means to replace face-to-face, but as a solution to create even better customer interactions. Combined with AI in the form of facial recognition, video banking truly beats in-person customer contact.
It brings true added value compared to talking to customers face-to-face, when during a video call AI technology is able to inform the financial advisor, for example, if a customer says ‘yes’ but hasn’t really understood. Ronald thinks AI thus turns video banking into a must-have for the bank of the future.
What does Ronald think about recording video meetings and then sharing them openly with customers? Listen to the podcast to find out >
5. Phone calls will become less important for financial advice - online & video banking will take over as leading channels
Talking about the relation between face-to-face contact and video banking to other customer contact channels: phone. Does Ronald think advisors will still be hopping on a phone call with customers 5 years from now?
Customer service conversations will most likely move entirely from phone calls to online channels like email and chat, Ronald thinks. When they’ve lost their card, for example, customers will totally get used to blocking it online. However, SNS Bank’s main product consists of financial advice. For advisory services, customers most likely won’t choose the telephone, but personal conversations and video banking will only become more important.
“Of course you can write an email or start a chat. But if you do see each other face-to-face, even if it is via a video call, conversations are so much richer.”
So in the future, Ronald believes we will on the one hand have automated transactions like self-serve move entirely to online channels - without any human being involved, available 24/7. And on the other hand, banks will offer really personal experiences for financial advice that do involve a human advisor - either by meeting in person, or via video banking.
Conclusion | From a sceptic to an active supporter of video banking
When SNS and 24sessions first met 12 years ago, Ronald was quite sceptical about video banking. He rather saw it as ‘the next best thing’ after meeting with customers personally at a physical branch.
Now, however, Ronald sees video banking as a part of the human channel, as an “extremely important” part of personal customer contact: “Video banking will serve to take your personal conversations to a higher level - with the help of its technology like AI and recordings.”
“If we look at 5 years from now, video banking will be a main part of our personal conversations with customers.”
24Connect by 24sessions