November 22, 2013

British bank Nationwide Building Society has seen a significant increase in both customer satisfaction and new business in its mortgage division by using internet-based video conferencing in its branches, says Richard Searle, the bank’s head of future customer experience.

Last January the bank went to pilot with the video conferencing capability, allowing customers in the branch to speak with remote mortgage experts to guide them through the loan process and application. Nationwide partnered with Cisco to offer high definition video over the internet in its rural branches for the pilot.

“In those rural areas where we don’t have as significant a footprint and our members have limited access to experts, we didn’t want those members to be disadvantaged,” Searle shares.

[See Related: uGenius Enables Video Banking From the Comfort of Home]

The bank compared the pilot branches to a test group and found that the branches with remote expert capabilities were doing better business and had higher customer satisfaction ratings, according to Searle.

The results of the trial were so positive that after just a few weeks the bank started a phased roll-out of the solution to its other branches, he says.

The bank quickly decided that the remote expert capability could solve another issue: capacity constraints in its branches. Even though the bank had plenty of experts at its urban branches, it still found that customers often had to wait to see an expert or schedule an appointment at a later time, Searle recalls. And that could cost the bank money.

“If you are unable to offer the customer at a time slot that works for them to meet with an expert, then 30% of the time that customer will go to a competitor,” Searle notes. “It’s about capturing more value and retaining business from your branch traffic.”

Since Nationwide started the phased roll-out, it has seen a 66% increase in new mortgage business, along with double digit growth in customer net satisfaction. It has also reduced its cost of sales in the mortgage division by 66%, according to the bank.

The key to the success of the solution, according to Searle, has been the in-branch experience that the bank has offered around the remote expert meetings. Customers who show up to a Nationwide branch looking to speak with a mortgage expert are greeted by branch staff and booked with an available expert via the bank’s online schedule, he says.

The staff member then takes the customer into the conference room, sets up the screen and makes sure the customer has everything needed. While the expert speaks with the customer he or she can also let the staff member know about anything further that the customer needs, whether that be a document printed out, or a cup of coffee. Any documents or information the customer needs can be scanned to and printed out at the branch, Searle explains.

The quality of the high definition video has also been a significant factor in the success of the solution, Searle says. “Having the very high definition video breaks down a barrier where the customer forgets they’re talking to someone remote… It’s a truly stunning picture. It’s not Facetime or Skype.”

The technology has also been reliable, Searle adds, without any issues regarding the technology not working during a meeting.

The bank is now looking into using the solution for other experts beyond its mortgage division, such as relationship managers and financial advisers, Searle reports.

Even with the high quality video though, Searle says that the most important success factor in using the solution has been providing the best in-branch experience possible. “For me the technology is just an enabler, you have to focus on the customer experience… It’s that in-branch experience that has been the biggest lesson we’ve learned so far.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jonathan Camhi is a graduate of the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism, where he focused on international reporting and interned at the Hindustan Times in Delhi, ...