Meredith DeenIn March 2014 when FMSI introduced its 2014 Retail Branch Lobby Study, a comprehensive study of 265,000 sales and service interactions by financial institutions across North America, several key findings emerged. A closer analysis of these metrics shows that despite making progress with more effective selling, many financial institutions have a long way to go before they will enjoy major productivity and customer service gains in their lobbies.

Lobby wait times are up.

Despite the focus many financial institutions place on service, the study found that customer wait times continued to inch up, by 5% since the last study conducted two years earlier. (Branch lobby wait times, overall, crept up from 4:46 minutes to 5:08 minutes.) Even more important, perhaps, was the discrepancy between top and bottom performers. The top 10 institutions had wait times that averaged 3:46 minutes (30 seconds longer than in 2011). The bottom 10 institutions averaged 6:59 minutes – nearly double that of the top performers’ average.

An increase in wait times is understandable, given that many branches have cut staff to reduce operating expenses. However, understandable doesn’t mean forgivable. Customer service is subjective, and if a branch is percolating with business, customers will generally accept a longer wait, especially if it results in a great service experience at the end. If the branch lobby is relatively empty and staff response is slow, customers are not as forgiving.

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