SWARM Banking Embraces Digital Engagement at Extraco Banks and Consulting

Posted by
Patrick Spencer
LivePerson Contributor
10/23/2014 - 20:42

In 2005, Extraco Banks began to think outside of the box on how to interact and transact business with its customers. The bank studied other companies, including those outside of the financial services segment, with a goal of finding best practices that would differentiate it from competitors.

“We looked at companies across various industry segments and determined that our business is much broader than simply being order takers in a bank lobby,” recalls James Geeslin, the vice chairman and chief consumer banking officer at Extraco Banks and president and CEO at Extraco Consulting.


The unique nature of its business was a key factor that drove Extraco Banks’ search for a new customer engagement model. “About 40 percent of our income is non-interest income from non-traditional banking products such as a mortgage division, insurance, financial services, and trust services,” Geeslin notes. Extraco Banks is unique in other ways as well. “We’re probably the first bank in the nation to have a small business technology company that manages its networks,” Geeslin proudly states.

SWARM: Move to where the customer is

One of the outcomes of Extraco Banks’ assessment was the development of a patent-pending retail banking methodology called SWARM Banking®. “The idea is for employees to ‘swarm’ to where the traffic is,” notes Lindsay Green, the managing director and senior vice president for Extraco Consulting. “We want each employee to have the ability to take each customer through the entire banking experience without handing him or her off to a colleague. The only exception would be for products that require a license, and then the customer is introduced to an employee that has the required credentials.”

“We wanted it to mirror the experience in our lobbies,” Geeslin points out. “Just as we proactively greet customers when they come into our lobbies, we want to proactively engage with customers when they are on our website.”

- James Geeslin, Vice Chairman and CCBO, Extraco Banks, and Chairman and CEO, Extraco Consulting

With this in purview, hiring is a critical undertaking for Extraco Banks. “We hire people with the right personality for our SWARM banking® culture,” Green explains. “Many of the employees we hire do not have a previous banking background. We actually don’t look for banking experience but rather a personality and propensity to engage and connect with our customers.”

Customers experience SWARM banking® in the first five seconds after entering an Extraco store when they are welcomed by a relationship banker. Headsets facilitate the management of traffic flow and movement of the relationship banker with the customer throughout their entire store experience. Green explains that this is from whence the concept of SWARM came. “Relationship bankers are able to swarm to the customer traffic,” Green explains. “Technology solutions, such as recyclers and teller capture, enable higher customer satisfaction rates while cutting the transaction time in half.” This turns into a win-win scenario for both the bank and its customer.

“In-person” digital experience

To help facilitate ongoing innovation, Extraco Banks maintains a think-tank group designated as the Innovation Committee. One of the initiatives it pinpointed is an important facilitator as the bank continues to innovate and remain close to its customers was the adoption of live chat. The objective was to provide an “in-person” impression for each online visitor similar to the in-banking experience customers receive.

The initial LivePerson deployment went live in the Customer Care Center in 2008 and continued to evolve to the present. The solution includes static Click-to-Chat buttons on the bank’s website as well as proactive chat invitations based on visitor behavior. “We wanted it to mirror the experience in our lobbies,” Geeslin points out. “Just as we proactively greet customers when they come into our lobbies, we want to proactively engage with customers when they are on our website.”

As more and more of its customers began to use mobile devices, the bank also began to integrate mobile live chat using LivePerson’s LiveEngage platform in early 2013. The latter is proving quite successful: 19 percent of all live chat interactions now occur via mobile live chat.

Accruing digital engagement results

While Extraco Banks is still in the process of rolling out a customer satisfaction measurement program based on the Net Promoter Score (NPS), its preliminary survey data on customer satisfaction is very positive. “Based on live chat exit surveys, we’re getting in excess of 90 percent positive customer feedback for our live chat solution on LivePerson,” Geeslin reports. When everything is added up at the end, the foremost key performance indicator (KPI) for Extraco Banks is qualified referrals. “Ultimately, if you take care of your customers, you win,” Geeslin says.

Customer sentiment corroborates his point: adoption rates for digital engagement continue to increase. “Since early 2012, we’ve seen the number of live chat conversations grow 30 percent annually,” Geeslin notes. “We now receive more than 1,000 digital interactions each month.”

“Live chat gives our customers the ability to interact with us more frequently.”

- Lindsay Green, Managing Director and SVP, Extraco Consulting

The success of the digital engagement program is demonstrated in another way as well. When Extraco Banks formed Extraco Consulting in 2011, live digital chat engagement was integrated into its consulting methodology.

The response of Extraco Consulting clients has been very positive. “Our clients typically see high digital adoption rates after deployment,” Green reports. “And as growing numbers of customers use digital engagement, this drives website traffic.”

SWARM to the future

Extraco Banks is constantly evolving its business and the technologies it uses to help maintain its competitive differentiation. This feeds the services portfolio for Extraco Consulting at the same time. For the remainder of 2014 and early part of 2015, Geeslin and Green see big data—specifically the conversation analysis for live chat—as critically important.

Green elaborates: “The conversations we have with our customers via live chat is something that we can learn from. The data will enable us to analyze our live chat sessions and how we can more effectively engage with our customers.”

“Ultimately, if you take care of your customers, you win.”

- James Geeslin, Vice Chairman and CCBO, Extraco Banks, and Chairman and CEO, Extraco Consulting

The SWARM is gathering on the horizon, and the future is bright. It is dynamic and transformative, and full of value for Extraco Banks and Extraco Consulting.

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