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September 1, 2016 by Sam Kilmer Sam Kilmer

Life After Branches II: What’s the Conversation?

“No other art form, other than conversation, can give the satisfaction of spontaneous interaction.” —Stan Getz on jazz

Editor’s note: This post is a continuation of Life After Branches: What’s Your Value?, GonzoBanker, Aug. 25, 2016.

Bank branch interactions are dropping at a pace that eliminates half of those interactions in just five years, according to the most recent Cornerstone Performance Report study. Creating more valuable new customer conversations in that environment could be a struggle for the industry. Don’t you think?

How do banks create more high value conversations? Better digital and social? Better contact center outreach? Bank-at-work? Financial education? Community events?

Let’s Have a Conversation About Conversations

Regardless of a bank’s delivery strategy, one helpful approach is to start by discussing the desired conversation, not the channel. Just like the History Channel (nerd alert) spectacular Life After People, imagine Life After Branches. Imagine the bank needs to create valuable conversations with customers in a time after branches were abandoned to nature …. or maybe just Starbucks locations with a few more plants.

  • No matter where banks have the customer conversations, how do bankers envision the best conversations?
  • What are bankers listening for and talking about and how do they understand better?
  • How does the conversation add value to the customer and differentiate the bank?
  • How does this translate to mutual value in bank products and services?
  • Is there information needed for that conversation that’s not made available now?

One way to force this thinking is to take the distribution out of it and just think about the content of the conversation.

Then, reality check the vision of future conversations to the bank’s delivery strategy.

  • How are customers finding out about the bank in the discovery process?
  • How do bankers get to customers before or while they are thinking about their needs?
  • What content makes customers encounter the bank?
  • How do bankers start the conversation, stay knowledgeable, and effectively onboard and build the relationship?
  • How is the value extended in an ongoing way?
  • How does the conversation help with revenue, efficiency, retention and experience?

As any indirect lending manager can attest, engineering conversations for a customer-not-present world takes hard, advance design work and discipline. Now, the discipline for an area like indirect lending has to be extended to other direct processes that historically saw significant branch employee intervention.

160901dJourney Mapping

Whether closing branches or not, leading GonzoBankers are driving entire process rethinks around the customer, the conversation, and future value creation. Some are even calling this Journey Mapping. Admittedly, Journey Mapping does sound a little more fun and upbeat. By all means, don’t stop believin’ about bringing in customers with open arms and delivering great value any way you want it.

Yeah, come to think of it, calling a process “Life After Branches” might seem a little creepy … or even career ending.

No matter what bankers call the process engineering, some tough choices with plenty of lovin’, touchin’, squeezin’ are in order. What do you think?


Much appreciation to Ron Shevlin, Scott Hodgins and Jim Burson for their input to this article.

GonzoCast: Chief Customer Experience Officers: Doomed to Fail?

When it comes to finding the perfect chief fill-in-the-blank officer, maybe what we’re looking for is a young person who don’t know enough to know s/he isn’t qualified.


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