Videoconferencing links Westpac SME experts to remote branches

Westpac official reports 'sky high' customer advocacy

The show floor at Cisco Live.

The show floor at Cisco Live.

Westpac is rolling out videoconferencing to its branches around Australia to remotely connect small businesses with financial experts at the bank’s headquarters.

In supported branches, when an SME comes into the branch and says it’s interested in a small business loan or another product, the customer is invited into a room and connected to an expert via videoconferencing.

“We wanted to talk to customers in a much more timely and regular fashion than we were in the existing setup we had,” said Jamie Richie, Westpac regional general manager, Connect Now Vic.

Westpac is about 12 months into the rollout of Cisco videoconferencing gear and so far has rolled the project out across Victoria. It also has individual hubs in Perth and Sydney.

The initial rollout included 25 branches, and after early success Westpac has decided to expand the project, Richie told the Cisco Live conference.

“We generally induct anywhere from six to ten branches a week through the project,” he said.

Customers are sometimes wary of the videoconferencing at first, but quickly become comfortable with it.

“You can see the anxiousness when the customer first walks in, but we always have a branch person sit there and chaperone the customer through [the experience],” said Richie. “Three or four minutes into it … you can see the customer relax.”

When the call is over, customers frequently report being wowed, he said. “The customer advocacy has gone sky high in terms of use.”

Westpac has learned it’s critical to educate staff on how videoconferencing should be used to create the best experience for customers, said Richie.

“If you put a VC in a branch, it doesn’t guarantee success,” he said. “You have to convert the people – and that’s our branch staff as much as our customers – to understand what we’re trying to do.

“The engagement of our staff flows to the customers … It’s almost contagious.”

Richie said he measures the success of the project by the number of contacts per week, the amount of business that leads to and customer advocacy. “On those three measurements alone, the acceptance and the pickup has been phenomenal.”

Westpac does not yet have plans to extend the videoconferencing capability into the home to enable either the customer or the staff expert to converse from a remote location, but he didn’t preclude that possibility, he said.

“The sky’s the limit … as long as we can get everything right on a regulatory basis,” he said. “Never say never.”

Adam Bender attended Cisco Live as a guest of Cisco.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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