Jul 07, 2021

ITMs Benefit Both Banks and Customers by Reducing Operational Expenses and Enhancing Safety

If financial institutions ever needed an event to demonstrate the wisdom of investing in Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs), they found it in COVID-19.

As with many other companies and industries, financial institutions always aim to be on the cutting edge of technology. While some forms of tech only gain traction for a brief period, ITMs have struck a chord with the greater public and proved invaluable throughout the pandemic.

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As lobbies closed throughout the country to "flatten the curve" amid rising coronavirus cases, banks and credit unions leveraged their existing drive-up windows. The surge in customer traffic volume led to a 42 percent jump in drive-through service equipment calls between April and May 2020 versus the same period in 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported. During that same stretch, cylinder sales rose approximately 300 percent.

While drive-up windows, cylinders, and pneumatic drawers were pivotally important, banks that had ITMs set up in these same areas were uniquely positioned for success — providing superior customer satisfaction and minimizing wait times.

ITMs were already on the rise prior to the pandemic and were already in place for banks of all sizes.

In addition to the wide variety of actions, they allow customers to perform beyond simple check cashing and withdrawals, ITMs have a video conferencing tool that enables users to engage with a remote teller for the more nuanced transactions that require a human touch.

Banks with ITMs in their drive-up areas were able to kill two birds with one stone. Jon Vorhees, president and founder of Bank Distribution Strategies in Bellingham, Washington, noted in The Financial Brand that ITMs are tailor-made for drive-up.

"In my experience of rolling out ITMs to hundreds of locations, I found that the greatest usage was in the drive-up lane," Vorhees said. "Customers loved them for the extended hour's access to ATM-style service plus live teller functionality."

Vorhees added that the original rationale for ITMs rollout was to give customers with busy schedules the ability to speak with a teller even if the bank itself is closed. Furthermore, the services they can offer are nearly as comprehensive as in-person service, providing 90 percent of what a traditional teller can handle.

Here are a few other reasons why ITMs are good for banks as well as customers, particularly in the present environment:

1. Reduce operational expenses without sacrificing the quality of service -- Banks are in consolidation mode. With more customers leveraging online banking, brick-and-mortar facilities are responding by closing selected branches. According to National Community Reinvestment Coalition data obtained by Forbes, in 2017, there were approximately 86,000 branches nationwide. By 2020, that number fell 5.1 percent to 81,586.

Supplanting full-service branches with ITMs lets customers retain most of the services they rely on while at the same time allowing financial institutions to reduce the size of their footprint. In doing so, they save money on a per-transaction basis, ITMs literally pay for themselves. The average cost of each transaction with a live teller is $4.50. But with ITMs, it is as little as 70 cents.

2. Enhances Safety and Comfort --  COVID-19 may go away, but the customer behaviors that the pandemic fueled — such as social distancing and curbside service — are likely here to stay. Not only do ITMs give people the option to personally take care of their banking needs, but they allow customers to feel safer and secure their health and well-being. Diane O'Hara, vice president for the customer experience company Medallia, told the Financial Brand that digital technologies like ITMs allow customers to feel more comfortable in a post-COVID world.

3. Highly reliable -- While digital and online technology has given people more convenience, few events are more frustrating than connectivity issues and network drop-offs, whether it is at home or in service locations. And when they do occur, customers are not likely to wait around to see if the issue will resolve itself.

Fortunately, ITMs are extraordinarily dependable. Managed cellular and fixed line networks to deliver better uptime and ongoing connectivity for a secure, reliable, and positive customer experience.

4. More transactions in less time -- The ideal for any business — banking or otherwise — is the ability to get more output with less effort. That is what ITMs provide in terms of customer volume. Remote tellers support up to twice the number of transactions compared to branch-based tellers. More transactions in less time equal greater productivity and customer satisfaction.

5. Branch ITM Network Isolation vs. Segmentation -- Ensuring business continuity and reducing network vulnerability for the Branch ITM by utilizing an isolated network design eliminates access to other devices on the branch network and limits PCI audit scope. So, network isolation reduces cardholder risks, and ensures that sensitive data only traverses encrypted pathways which can guarantee customers access to their accounts even during a branch network outage.

Whether you are deploying a full line of ITMs or intermingling them with your ATM fleet, ITMs are delivering on an experience that is positive for FIs and their customers. For a reliable network, choose Ventus. As a leader in Network-as-a-Service solutions, Ventus can improve your network uptime and increase your customer satisfaction.

Contact us today to learn more.