HSBC is advancing the frontier of retail banking innovation with a new smartwatch pilot program at its flagship branch in Manhattan.

The bank is equipping a dozen bank associates and the branch manager with Samsung Gear S3 smartwatches in a leading-edge pilot program to examine how mobile technology can improve retail bank operations and customer experience.

The pilot has outfitted the staff and managers with smartwatches designed to streamline communication, provide more efficient customer service and assist the branch manager in tracking overall bank operations across all three floors of HSBC’s 5th Avenue branch in Manhattan. A second pilot is planned in a Dubai branch, and HSBC and Samsung foresee the program laying a path for rollouts at HSBC branches around the world.

This new approach to in-store bank technology is made possible by recent advances in the software and security offered by the Gear S3 smartwatch, which offers the performance, functionality and enterprise-grade security needed to operate in a banking environment. Each smartwatch worn by bank employees has been specifically configured to feature an HSBC enterprise application, and the devices are operated in a lockdown mode to restrict functionality exclusively to the enterprise app driving this transformation of retail banking operations.

According to Samsung and HSBC, this pilot serves two important use cases: customer experience from the moment the customer walks through the branch’s front doors, and branch manager communications with staff members in the branch.

Providing Responsive, Efficient Customer Service

The impact of the Gear S3 smartwatch is evident from the moment customers walk into the front door of an HSBC branch. Upon entering, they’re greeted by an employee who asks them how they would like to be helped that day. By using preset messages built into the smartwatch app, the team member at the front desk can send an instant alert to the branch associate who can best address the customer’s request. The associate can use their watch to reply immediately, indicating whether or not they can accept the task requested at that time.

The ability to quickly connect consumers with banking specialists is a critical component of leveraging mobility in retail banking. Smartphones may be the go-to device for performing simple transactions and views, but according to a banking customer survey commissioned by Samsung, Celent found 77 percent of consumers still prefer face-to-face interaction when handling more complex banking tasks. And while it is an in-person experience they seek at the branch, they also want the bank to embrace innovative technology, such as the smartwatches. HSBC is asking the branch team to discuss the smartwatches as they use them, so customers are aware that the bank is innovating on their behalf.

Since the smartwatch pilot launched in September, HSBC has observed improvements to the wait time and response time for customers walking into the smartwatch-equipped branch. These are two of the most important metrics when evaluating customer service and customer satisfaction with brick-and-mortar retail banks. HSBC plans to evaluate the pilot in terms of technical feasibility, user adoption and changes in wait time and response time.

A Tool for Better Branch Management

While bank employees provide better service at the first point of contact with customers, the branch’s network of interconnected smartwatches offers significant value to the branch manager role. With staff spread throughout three stories of retail space, and with the branch manager constantly on the move, the smartwatch provides vital communications support. Associates can ping the branch manager when they need support such as an override. The manager can also initiate communication to an individual employee or to the whole branch team.

In a large branch like HSBC’s 5th Avenue location, tracking down the branch manager can often be a time-consuming process, because the manager is often on the go. The longer it takes to enlist the help of the manager, the greater the potential impact on the customer experience. The smartwatches enable real-time communication that minimizes wait times and helps the branch manager respond quickly to the staff’s needs.

The watches use the LTE network for both data and voice communications, and employees can call each other with their watches. Data on the device is secured with Samsung Knox security.

HSBC’s smartwatch pilot illustrates the instant impact mobile technologies can offer to the customer experience in retail banks. The retail bank remains an important destination for consumers, but mobile innovation is the key to providing better customer service and retaining those customers for years to come.

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