Banks have been cutting back on customer-facing (and back office) staff for years, as they go through digital transformation. In high street branches cashiers are being replaced with self-service kiosks, which is fine if you just need to make a deposit; but for more complex tasks, consumers still see the human employee as king.
That puts pressure on the staff who are left on banks' front lines, with more demands on their time and impatient customers. Enter Qudini.
Imogen Wethered, Qudini's CEO and co-founder, describes the platform as a queue-management system that also helps businesses gather data:
"The core premise is that customers who join a digital queue - and that can be through a staff member, a self-service device or their own mobile phone - get updates with their wait time estimate and queue position. That can be via ethernet, smartphone or TV displays. We can also do it through pagers or paper tickets.
"Staff are then able to manage customers from any device, like a smartphone, desktop or tablet; and they can also manage their teams' activities alongside the customers'. They can assign breaks and what time the breaks are due to finish - it helps them keep better control of their shop floor."
There's a wealth of data associated with the platform. While most retailers only gather basic footfall information, plus data from sales and/or transactions, they can use Qudini to see what happens between customers entering the shop and making a purchase:
"We fill that gap with how long the customer waited, what they did while they waited, who served them, how long the service took and the outcome of the transaction, as well as feedback and various different things… We've got a hundred different data points for a single customer's experience in a branch."
That data has been very useful to NatWest, which began working with Qudini a year ago. The companies recently launched a six-month pilot together.
"We now have Qudini in 20 branches and are using it in conjunction with community and video bankers," said Annamaria Jatta, innovation and strategy lead at NatWest's owner, RBS.
"We really see the value across our omni-channel strategy. As some branches are closed, we are increasing the number of video bankers and community bankers so that we can still be there for customers, across whatever channel they choose…The aim is to provide customers with a faster way to arrange an appointment, but also to enable our front-line colleagues to do a better job with customers.
"It's certainly providing us with richer context in terms of what the appointments are. We know what sort of products customers come in to see, what we should really focus on and where we should have more advisors in-branch and across the channel." Jatta added that video customer appointments have increased by 50 per cent in the branches trialling Qudini.
"The customer feedback is very strong for the branches that are using it," said Ed Heal, director of enterprise accounts at Qudini.
The platform uses AWS and is built on the Java framework. "We found AWS to be the most scalable and robust [of any cloud platform]," said Wethered. "With AWS we've got different locations, so you can scale up and scale down your load, and if we have an international client - 30 per cent of our business is international - we can easily spin up a server in their location."
Both NatWest and Qudini are positive about their relationship going forward. Jatta said it has been "one of our most successful pilots", and expects the trial to be expanded to more branches in the future. Heal noted that customer feedback has been "excellent."
We wouldn't blame bank staff for being suspicious of any new digital additions to their lives, but Qudini appears to have been embraced. Heal said, "It's not replacing individuals in a branch, but enabling them to do a better job and manage the waiting experience more effectively."
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