How Much Branch Time Is Wasted?

Mar 06, 2020

For many financial institutions this is a rhetorical question, because they have no idea. All branch networks generate a lot of data and a lot of paper in the course of serving members, clients or satisfying operational procedures. The existence of data provides an opportunity for insight and to improve productivity, but does not accomplish anything by itself.

Don’t just collect data, use it

For example, knowing how many new accounts per month are being opened is meaningful information. However, it does not answer any of the following questions.

  • Which employees are opening accounts?
  • Where were the accounts opened?
  • Is one employee opening significantly more accounts than another even when accounting for branch traffic (which also must be known)?
  • Is there a pattern to when accounts are being opened in terms of the portion of the month, or days of the week, or times of the day?
  • How do branches compare with each other?

Without both quantitative data and analysis, it is difficult to turn totals or periodic reports into actionable information.

Even when data is distilled and analyzed, many institutions do not take full advantage of the information. Knowing who, what, where and when things are happening in branches provides the opportunity to optimize and improve the operation. “You cannot improve what you do not measure…” is a common point in articles about productivity.

With that information accessible an organization can effectively establish and measure against its standards and objectives. Employees benefit by being able to see their performance. Shortening the feedback loop helps make constant improvement a reality. When information and its analysis are not then made readily available to the employees being asked to meet the objectives, they are much less likely to meet those objectives on a consistent basis.

Review and optimize processes

All organizations and employees are subject to inertia to one degree or another. Human nature likes consistency. That means it takes a conscious and deliberate effort to encourage, identify and implement change.

  1. Encourage Change. Employees are in a unique role to help improve processes, because they are the ones living with the consequences of inefficient procedures. Unfortunately, many organizations do not actively encourage employees to speak up, and the default result is almost always that they do not. Employee’s institutional knowledge is too often a wasted asset.
  2. Identify Opportunities for Change. There are two simple places to look first.
    • Paper forms can be highly efficient or terribly inefficient, but either way they are not measurable as data. That means there is no way to know when or to what degree they begin to negatively impact productivity.
    • Spreadsheets are a wonderful individual tool that enhance individual productivity but are not well suited to collaborative institutional productivity. Like paper forms, it is difficult to measure or share the information in spreadsheets salted all over an organization.
  3. Implement Change. Once opportunities for change are identified, it can be difficult to implement them. Infrastructure and training are two big impediments. One way to help mitigate these issues is to first implement a system that can support, manage and distribute many different change opportunities and/or analytics in a consistent way. Employees are then learning one set of things but addressing many.

It is easy to ignore lost productivity in branches because it is not easy to even know if it is happening or to what degree. Step one is to have someone deliberately think about it, including what your organization does and does not measure. Once you begin to identify the issues, the opportunities for improvement will begin to come into focus.