Customers want self-serve options — including appointment scheduling

We all know the feeling of trying to schedule a meeting. The back-and-forth via emails to determine availability, the no-shows, the rescheduling. Busy bankers likely felt this pain, and then it was magnified when Covid-19 hit and lobbies closed. Suddenly everything happened via appointment, from account opening to loan inquiries. Walk-ins — temporarily — not welcome. 

Even amid the return of foot traffic to bank lobbies, customers now understand the convenience of scheduling an appointment. Why walk into a bank and hope that someone can answer questions about a car loan when a specific date and time to meet can be determined in advance?

Appointment scheduling apps can range from very simple to bank-wide solutions. Community banks may have patched something together to get through pandemic times but need to consider a more permanent solution to handle the permanent changes in how we interact, including an expectation to self-schedule appointments. 

Challenges with customer appointments

Staff availability is often an issue in small branches. Walk-in appointments risk not having the right representative available. And while impromptu meetings often feel at the heart of customer service, they can be a distraction from a personal banker or loan officer’s other work. 

By encouraging appointment scheduling, banks can ensure that the branch location is appropriately staffed. Customers can select from the appointment type (such as open an account, ask about a car loan, credit card question). Banks can identify blackout times when no appointments should be scheduled to accommodate breaks or the time that staff need to focus on other tasks.

High-volume lobbies often face the opposite problem. Customers may walk into the branch, experience a long wait time to speak to a bank representative, and leave. A study found that lobby abandonment is around 95 percent for customers that experience wait times longer than 10 minutes. Those are missed opportunities for sales, and the customer will likely head down the street to the next bank location. 

More than likely, the prospective customer checked out the bank’s website in advance. If appointment scheduling were offered on the website, the customer could have booked an appointment rather than walked in, ensuring that someone was available.

Selecting the right scheduling app

Should banks opt for a straightforward appointment scheduling app or one with many features designed specifically for banks? The broad answer: It depends. 

There are plenty of non-industry-specific apps (such as Calendly) that create a link to a person’s calendar that shows availability. The calendar owner (such as a loan officer) provides the link via email. Borrower clicks on the link and picks an open spot on the calendar. Both the lender and borrower receive confirmation and calendar invites. Simple enough.

While these apps certainly solve the pain of scheduling, they don’t solve larger problems that community banks can face. For example, a website visitor could not use this type of link to schedule a generic appointment to open an account at a specific branch — at least, that’s not the intended use of such apps.

Other products (try Googling “bank appointment scheduling”) are designed to help financial institutions with their unique challenges. And since no-shows cost staff time, reminders from these apps can decrease the likelihood of missed appointments.

Appointment scheduling apps can also offer insights into metrics, such as most common appointments scheduled, times of day most commonly requested, or reasons for cancellation.

Enhancing the customer experience

It is clear that customer engagement changed during the pandemic, and some of this will remain. In addition to in-branch appointment scheduling, banks can use a scheduling app for video appointments, continuing the conveniences that some customers enjoyed during the months when Covid-19 forced lobbies to close.

Whether the visit is in a brick-and-mortar location or virtual, consumer preferences for self-service options are clear. Community banks are far superior to their large competitors when it comes to customer service. By including appointment scheduling in their plans for digital growth, they can combine a streamlined scheduling experience with a personalized appointment experience.