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Written by Cyndie Martini
on June 26, 2019

While the title of this article might conjure up an image of some futuristic virtual reality, combining the physical and digital banking experiences is all about meshing branches with digital. In this article, we'll be taking some highlights from Deloitte's Global Digital Banking Survey.

For the past few years, banks have been on a mission to make nearly all of our banking a digital experience. They've certainly done a good job. You can know open checking and savings accounts or even take out a loan completely online or through a banking app. Have a question? There's a mobile assistant for that.

In this big rush to go digital, branches have declined. Since 2010, 3,000 branches have shut down in the U.S. alone. It's not uncommon to walk into a branch to find only one teller and a line of people impatiently waiting. What's happened to the branch experience?

We can probably all agree that the digital experience is great and continues to improve. But aren't banks missing half of the customer experience equation if they are leaving branches behind?

Customers still like their branches. In fact, Deloitte found that branches are the most preferred channel for new product applications. Take a look at these stats for the U.S.:

• 65% - Mortgage/mortgage refinance.

• 62% - Wealth management account.

• 58% - Checking account.

• 41% - Credit card.

If you think this is all millennials, you'd be wrong. When it comes to opening a new checking account, the broad consensus across generations is that branches are preferred:

• 64% - Baby Boomers

• 54% - Gen X

• 48% - Millennials

• 56% - Gen Z

Phone calls to contact centers and in-person interactions at branches had the highest impact on customer satisfaction. This should make sense because both channels involve person-to-person interactions. Representatives in those situations are the face of the bank and how they perform can make a lasting impression on customers.

Deloitte has a few suggestions for combining digital and physical customer experiences.

• Invest in your people to ensure they have all the required knowledge and know how to interact with customers.

• Omnichannel presence - allow customers to move between physical and digital channels seamlessly.

Combining the physical and digital customer experience means being aware that customers still want to speak to and interact with people. Creating a great digital experience is now a requirement but shouldn't be at the expense of the physical experience.

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