Credit union brings 'dialogue banking' to branches
Bellwether Credit Union Vice President for Sales and Marketing Nathan D. Saller in the lobby of the Bedford branch, with Member Services Representative Carly Hunt at her pod in the background. (Dave Solomon / Union Leader)
It's called "dialogue banking," according to Nathan D. Saller, vice president for sales and marketing at Bellwether. "The service representatives are not chained to a counter," he said. "They can move freely about the lobby."
When that work is completed in late spring, "dialogue banking" will be in place at all three Bellwether locations. It was easier to build a branch from scratch with the new concept in mind, as was the case in Nashua and Bedford, than to remodel the existing branch in Manchester, said Saller, since customers will have to deal with inconveniences like temporary teller stations and alternate entrances while the work is underway.
"You come in for a routine transaction and might start a discussion that evolves into something larger," Saller said. "At which point you're not being handed off to someone else, you're not wasting time waiting, and you don't have to tell your story all over again."
Era of experimentation
The venture into dialogue banking at Bellwether is part of a wave of experimentation in the banking industry, which has historically not been known for its innovation, says Stephen Beck, founder and managing partner of cg42, a Connecticut-based business consulting firm that recently completed a survey on consumer sentiment about banking.
"Many banks and credit unions are exploring different ways to utilize their branch networks," he said, "bringing technology into the branch and attempting to create greater levels of interaction between front line staff and customers. We've seen everything from iPad deployment to cafe-style models."
"This is not a big versus small discussion," he said. "This is about who will actually put the customer in control, and give them the service experience that is often promised in advertising and communication, but so rarely delivered."
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