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Moving checks out of the branch: How self-service check delivery can boost profitability and efficiency

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As the nation begins to climb into the “next normal” phase, managing a check program poses a challenge for reopening bank branches. In fact, some bankers may be pondering whether checks are still necessary or relevant to their account holders. Even in the era of electronic payment platforms, there is still plenty of evidence supporting the continued need for checks.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has proven the need for touchless, self-service options for your banking customers. With added health and safety reopening protocols, self-serve check ordering can be one less in-person interaction to worry about. By adopting a self-service order channel, you can help your bank shift check ordering out of the branch, save bankers’ time and boost your bottom line.

Checks are not going anywhere

A Federal Reserve study reported that in 2018, businesses and consumers wrote 16 billion checks—a decrease from the 20.2 billion written in 2015.  Even with less checks being written, in 2018, the average dollar value of each check increased to $1,635 versus $1,468 in 2015. Consumers are responsible for writing 60 percent of those checks, with an average household using 5.5 checks per month.  

Higher check values could be attributed to millennials. Surprisingly, a study by Qualtrics found that 42% of millennials are still writing checks. And more research shows that while the number of checks being written is down, the number of people using checks is stable. Some data has also found that three-times-more millennials use checks as a form of payment than mobile payment platforms, like Zelle, PayPal and Venmo.

A Forrester and Visa study found that 61 percent of respondents believe that new payment technologies make them more open to potential fraud. The risk of digital payment fraud could be what encourages millennials—or anyone—to keep checks as a trusted payment source.

Spend more time with customers

There is still a solid need and demand for checks, so check programs are a necessity. However, check programs may not always be a financial institutions’ top priority. Placing check orders can be time-consuming for branch staff. A Deluxe client estimates that it costs approximately $3 of employee time for each check order placed in-branch. When you combine FTE time with lost opportunity cost, the estimated figure becomes even lower. Self-service allows your branch staff more time for more meaningful, higher margin customer interactions.

The benefits of self-service

  • Normalizes touchless contact. The health and safety of your customers and staff is an important step to branch reopening post COVID-19 and this method will become the “next normal” best practice for your bank.
  • Improves branch efficiency. Branch bankers are free to focus more time on serving the financial needs of their customers and less time on check-order data entry.
  • Increases check program profitability. According to Deluxe client data, self-service order channels average $10 higher than orders placed in the branch.
  • Streamlines account holder experience. Customers will enjoy an experience that feels a lot like being on Amazon or another online retailer.

Self-service makes sense

The banking public already expresses a preference for self-service. According to a 2018 ABA study, 72 percent of Americans most often access their bank accounts using online (42%) or mobile channels (30%). This number was up four percent between 2017 and 2018.

The percentage of consumers using self-service banking methods is expected to climb commensurate with banks’ investment in self-service channels. In a recent study by ATM Marketplace, almost half (47%) of financial institutions around the world said their self-service channels will replace or supplement teller stations by 51 percent or more within the next three years.

As consumers become more comfortable with self-service delivery, consumer expectations continue to shift. For example, speed-of-service has become a critical issue. Consumers want instant gratification and this behavior has changed the concept of “normal business hours.” Now, customers have access to customer service lines, online and mobile channels at any time.

With digital methods becoming the “next normal,” moving check orders out of the branch could become one of the most profitable and efficient strategies for your bank. To learn more about self-service channels and the impact it will have on your customers, take a free assessment here.

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