American consumers have come to expect that the level of convenience and efficiency they receive from online banking will also extend to their physical banking experiences. This puts the pressure on banks — both large and small — to rethink their legacy processes and pursue digital transformations to retain their customers’ loyalties.
Birmingham, Alabama-based Regions Bank is one such bank that is taking a digital-first approach as it seeks to remain competitive. The bank embarked four years ago on a top-to-bottom, digital-first revamp, changing its in-branch experiences to better meet its customers’ demands.
“What we’re really trying to do is shift the in-branch experience from what used to be very transaction-focused to much deeper and more meaningful advice and guidance in the brand,” said Shawn Bradley, Regions’ executive vice president of customer insights. “[We’ve] gone to entirely one job across [our] entire network: to be able to handle customer interactions [from] soup to nuts.”
PYMNTS recently spoke with Bradley about how Regions Bank is transforming its 1,456 branch locations and the array of technologies it is leveraging to accomplish its innovative goals.
A ROSIE future
At the heart of Regions’ digital push is a sophisticated AI tool to assist bank staff in their customer interactions. The chatbot — which was in development for six years and first went live two years ago — is named ROSIE, after the robotic maid from “The Jetsons.”
“[ROSIE] leverages over 350 data points about each individual customer to identify at that moment what the next-best action is and deliver that to the branch staff within a few hundred milliseconds,” Bradley explained.
These data points include things like transactions, account balances, customer engagement and demographic information. ROSIE also uses external data, monitoring users’ web traffic while browsing Regions Bank’s homepage. It can talk to a customer about a mortgage if he or she visits the mortgage page, for example. However, there is a fine balance between accessing the right data for targeted communications and not being too intrusive.
“We try to keep it very focused on the bank’s activities and products,” Bradley said. “Most advertisers today are leveraging that kind of data to be able to target customers effectively. Generally, we find that our customers are appreciative of it, that we’re listening and leveraging the information we have to make our conversations with them as pertinent as possible.”
ROSIE can then return a variety of potential customer interactions once it has analyzed these data points. These can range from product or service recommendations to notifications that a rewards benefit is ending to a simple thank-you for being a loyal customer for several years. ROSIE can also provide customers with educational materials for buying their first homes, starting businesses or saving for college.
From ATMs to VTMs
Another key facet in Regions Bank’s digital transformation is its ATMs. It leverages video teller machines (VTMs) — which are equipped with live video feeds — that are connected to tellers at remote locations and allow users to perform a much wider array of interactions than they could at a normal ATM.
“[Customers] get a whole bunch of additional functionality, including account maintenance, ordering checks, having a much more in-depth dialogue about their finances, product openings [and more],” Bradley said. “I believe we’re the largest deployer of VTMs at this point.”
The advanced VTMs enable improved operating efficiencies for the bank in addition to customer-facing benefits. The bank has replaced human tellers at many of its drive-thrus, allowing customers to access these functionalities even if branches are closed for the day. The VTMs are also linked to ROSIE, allowing remote tellers to access the same instant recommendations provided to in-branch staff.
Challenges in a Digital-First World
There are still customers who prefer the old-school way of doing business despite this digital push, however. Some would prefer to speak with human tellers rather than an AI-based chatbot, for example, or are turned off by targeted product offerings. Digital-first banking innovations can be helpful, but Bradley explained there is always a risk of leaving some customers behind.
“One of the challenges has been the differing pace at which customers are on their [digital] transitions,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re serving our existing customers the way they’ve come to expect, [while] being compelling and state-of-the-art for potential customers looking at us as an option for a new bank.”
Another constant challenge is the ever-looming shadow of fraud, according to Bradley. Bank services naturally become more vulnerable to attacks by hackers as they become increasingly digitized, and fraudsters can now do greater damage with a stroke on a keyboard than in any branch heist.
“The fraudsters are constantly morphing, bringing new challenges to us,” Bradley said. “It’s an environment where we have to constantly adapt to overcome those challenges. That’s probably the area that keeps me up at night the most — making sure we’re doing what we can to protect our customers and the bank from fraudsters.”
The same data that powers ROSIE helps Regions Bank fight against fraud, with sophisticated AI keeping a close eye on each member’s financial history and behavior to make sure anomalies are flagged and analyzed for malfeasance. So far, it seems to have met many of the challenges associated with digital-first banking. With any luck, Regions and other banks will continue to provide the services customers have come to expect without falling prey to fraudsters or customer alienation.