In order to take advantage of more cross sell opportunities and to meet modern demands on retail banking, the bank branch format is changing. These days, the boundaries between tellers and advisors are becoming less distinct and the branches are focusing more on sales than on transactions. Across Europe branches are undergoing complete refurbishments, with the open plan office being a modern and popular approach. The result is a customer friendly environment with easier access to service and advice.

Abbey National’s head of network planning Brian Holland showed data on improved performance and percentage of increased sales in two of the refurbished branches.

“Qmatic can assist retail banks in a number of ways, starting with the strategic planning of a new branch layout,” said Niklas Thoresson, Qmatic UK managing director. “Our consultants look at the best possible customer flow solutions, from a cross sell perspective which includes an improved customer experience,” he said.

“We can then deliver the technical solution required to monitor and follow up most key activities in the branch office, such as transaction times and customer flows,” he said.

The result is a vital management tool enabling branch managers to increase efficiency, improve customer service and increase cross sell opportunities.

One UK bank that has launched a refurbishment programme, transforming branches into open counter offices, is Abbey National. Three newly refurbished branches are benefiting from the Qmatic solution.

At the latest SMI Branch Banking event in London, head of network planning Brian Holland delivered a speech that included sales figures proving how the newly refurbished branches were performing. In his speech, Brian Holland said that since the opening, one of the new open counter branches showed a 15% increase in the sales of basic accounts. In addition, there was a 23% increase in credit card sales and a 171% increase in the sales of mortgages.

Craig Leverton, manager network planning at Abbey National in Milton Keynes, is responsible for the layout of several new open counter branches. The branches in Luton, Milton Keynes and Harlow are the ones with Qmatic systems installed. Basingstoke and Chelmsford are also getting Qmatic systems in the near future.

“We decided to use an open counter design as opposed to the traditional bank branch design as it would improve the customer experience,” Craig Leverton said. “With an open counter layout, the customers can enjoy a constructive waiting experience and the staff are able to interact with the customers more easily,” he said. “We have taken down the barriers between staff and customers and as a result there is more cross sales and better customer retention.”

“We have definitely seen an uplift in sales as a result of the open counter approach including the Qmatic system,” he said. “In particular, there is an increase in sales of banking products such as accounts and credit cards.”

As the customers enter the three Abbey National branches, there is a Qmatic touch screen where they can choose the service they require. In addition, there is a meet and greet service available with a member of staff who assists customers and directs them to the relevant service.

The Qmatic system enables customers to sit down and wait rather than stand up in a queue,” Craig Leverton said. “They can relax in the waiting area, read a paper and be continuously updated on the queuing status and other information on plasma screens.”

Craig Leverton can see increased competition leading to a commoditisation of banking products. Customers can shop around on the Internet, and most banks have similar offers. As a result, margins are compressed and bank branches are forced to look at the customer experience as a means to retain customers and increase cross selling opportunities.