How to Keep Bank Branches Running Optimally, Even with Leaner Staffing

Intelligent workforce management tools can help you monitor trends in customer traffic, watch for potential demand drivers, and schedule associates accordingly.

A cheerful financial advisor meets with two banking customers
by Brian Wallace
May 21, 2021

Bank branches have been under a significant amount of pressure over the last few years. As banking customers have adopted digital and mobile banking tools in greater numbers, banks have seen a decline in routine banking transactions being conducted inside branches.

The pandemic has also contributed to a slowdown in foot traffic, with many concerned about getting sick from coming in close contact with other people. At the beginning of the pandemic, mobile banking registrations surged by 200% and mobile banking traffic rose by 85%, an incredible uptick that many believe is here to stay. Only 40% of branch customers expect to return to branches after the pandemic has subsided.

All of these factors make it hard to know for certain if and when customer traffic will increase. Though it may be easy to recognize peak period demand from day to day, the overall demand fluctuation makes it difficult to understand how much labor is needed at branches.

Struggling with Overstaffing or Understaffing? This Will Help.

Banks are approaching these demand changes in a number of ways. Some are running on leaner staffing models to cut costs, while others are closing and consolidating branches at a record rate. However, these strategies come with risks and can often create other issues.

Branches have varying drivers behind their labor models, including operating hours, the volume and complexity of different transaction types, and service level expectations. Leaner staffing models complicate how banks can account for these factors, pushing branches to accomplish more with fewer resources. And closing branches may mean that customers have to travel further to get to another branch, which can frustrate them and result in lower net promoter scores (NPS).

Being able to create precise and accurate labor forecasts and schedules is an essential part of meeting your customers’ needs in this new and challenging banking environment. It helps ensure people are in the right place at the right time and completing the most important activities so you can utilize the labor you do have to the best of your ability. It also helps ensure you have enough associates at your branches to handle changes in customer traffic and transaction volume that come from local/regional branch closure and consolidation.

However, this level of labor forecasting and scheduling is not easy – and often not possible at all – without the help of technology. For example, intelligent workforce management solutions can provide the tools you need to implement labor optimization strategies across your branch networks by:

1.  Empowering intelligent scheduling practices. In manual, legacy workforce management systems, it’s incredibly difficult to get the most out of leaner staffing models. This added complexity can put branches at risk for a number of issues, including understaffing or improper staffing. It’s critical to have the right skilled or credentialed employees at the branch at all times, even during slow periods, to ensure all customers can be served. Of course, compliance with labor laws and regulations is always a priority, and one better managed with help from technology.

Intelligent workforce management solutions automate the scheduling process, using pre-configured business rules to factor in staffing requirements, labor laws, employee preferences and skillsets, and other critical variables. This significantly reduces the risk of misalignments between branch traffic and staffing, ensuring that branches are staffed properly while also boosting employee productivity and morale.

These solutions also make it easier to implement more sophisticated workforce management strategies, such as multi-site scheduling. Multi-site scheduling gives associates the opportunity to work at other branches outside their home locations, utilizing the entire employee base across the branch network to meet demand. By using an intelligent workforce management solution with multi-site scheduling rules automatically factored into the labor scheduling process, you can better optimize your labor to meet the needs of leaner staffing models.

2. Simplify the process of modifying labor schedules. Leaner staffing models may be a solution to cutting costs across your branch networks, but there’s increased risk of not having enough labor if an employee is suddenly out sick or needs to care for a family member. This can be extremely detrimental to customer service levels, as it could potentially lead to increased wait times and make it difficult for staff to complete daily tasks.

By implementing an intelligent workforce management solution that offers employee self-service actions, however, you can mitigate some of this risk by giving employees and managers one place to manage labor schedules in real time. Instead of taking hours or days to make last-minute changes to labor schedules, employees can view their schedules and submit time-off requests at their convenience, even from home, and managers have immediate visibility into these requests and can quickly approve or deny them. If an employee is out sick or other abrupt changes are needed, managers immediately receive a notification and can advertise and fill open shifts without delay. In turn, branches have the staff needed to keep customer service levels high, and employees enjoy the schedule flexibility they need for a healthy work-life balance.

3.  Enable more powerful appointment scheduling processes. When customers set up an appointment at a branch, they typically want a quick and easy experience with knowledgeable staff who will meet their personalized needs. However, without accurately accounting for these appointments in the branch’s labor schedules, it can be difficult to align appointment volume with branch staffing. This misalignment increases wait time and makes it significantly more difficult to provide an excellent customer experience.

With an intelligent appointment booking solution, you can easily connect clients with the right resources, ensuring that appointment volume is matched to labor forecasts and schedules. These solutions enable customers to book in-person, virtual, or web appointments from your website or mobile application, which are then automatically assigned to available employees with the right skillset or certifications. From there, you can easily incorporate appointment booking processes into demand forecasts, labor schedules, and employees’ existing workloads.

If you’re interested in learning more about how intelligent workforce management solutions can help you optimize labor with leaner staffing models, visit our website or contact our team. We’ll be happy to discuss the staffing challenges your branches are facing and how you can leverage some simple technology tools to better monitor and manage customer demand trends and labor availability across your branch networks.

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Brian Wallace
Brian Wallace serves as the General Manager of Banking at Reflexis, which was acquired by Zebra in 2020. He has over 20 years of experience developing and executing operational strategy and technology solutions across both retail and banking.
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