Ohio Tea Company

Blog: I’ve Been on Both Sides of the Small-Business/Bank Relationship. Here’s What I See Happening in the Industry.

April 14, 2020  |  HEATHER GIBBINS

I am likely known to some of you reading this as the DN software and services lady… and around town, I am known as Zac and Lexi’s mom. I once read a meme that said, “my kids are living their best life… and I am their ride.” Until very recently, this perfectly summed up my personal life. Now, like many of you, I will be able to add homeschooling as a skill on my LinkedIn profile.

What most people don’t know about me is my “secret life” outside of normal business hours and everyday #momlife.  In the evening, while sitting around the dinner table (or after the kids are in bed), I can often be found talking about a small family business, Ohio Tea Company, that my dad and husband own. And let me tell you, the topics of conversation have varied beyond anything I ever would have imagined when my dad started on this crazy adventure over four years ago. 

During my day job, we talk with financial institutions (FIs) about their overall consumer experience, including their small-business customers. What is somewhat unique about my experience is that I talk to one side during the day and the other in the evening. I have spent much of my career at Diebold Nixdorf (DN), but what has helped me to succeed is having roles in different parts of the organization. I am able to understand where others are coming from while also ensuring the work that my teams do help DN as a whole. The same applies with the topic of small businesses and FIs – it is always good to understand different perspectives.

Bankers and small-business owners have some interesting commonalities 
Small business has the word “small’ in it for a very BIG reason. Many of them only have one or two people that really run the business. This means if one person gets sick or needs to leave the store for any reason (including going to its FI), there may be nobody else there to take care of business or customers. Small business owners must also think and worry about literally everything imaginable, from cleaning the bathroom to taxes, from social media to negotiating with vendors, from product/services offered to making sure you have tissue paper for gift bags or making a product label… and now, additional concerns like how to serve customers with no face-to-face contact, the possibility of looting, and how to survive if closed for a prolonged period of time. It is a certainly an unprecedented time for all. This means that anything that can make their day-to-day simpler or easier is very much appreciated.

Interestingly enough, FIs are now finding themselves with some of the same concerns as small businesses – limited resources and virtual access to services and data, along with a re-prioritized need to transform how they conduct business and serve their customers.  

Whether it be personal or business discussions, a lot of what drives consumers to make a change in behavior or consider a new service is convenience. This is no different for small businesses and quite frankly would be welcomed. From my family’s perspective, being able to run to their FI during non-banking business hours (or figuring out how to, at a minimum, speed them up) would be extremely beneficial. This includes being able to pre-stage transactions and also allow an employee to make a drop in a way that instills security and confidence in the process. 

The tea shop allows employees to make mail drops, but there are different expectations when money is involved. That brings up many issues that my team and I talk about on a daily basis:
  • How can FIs make access to cash more convenient and quicker for small-business owners during on and off hours so that it doesn’t interrupt serving their customers?

  • How can FIs make depositing cash and checks with instant credit more convenient for small business owners?

  • How can FIs make access to branch services more convenient for ALL consumers – especially in the wake of unforeseen events, which are causing some branches to temporarily close?

  • From low-hanging fruit to long-term initiatives, key ways to connect with small businesses
    One of my all-time favorite service offerings is when Amazon saw the power of what physical presence can provide and allowed consumers to start making returns at Kohl’s. It is a prime example of the digital and physical coming together and supports the argument for evolving and strategically prioritizing the branch. This same thinking can be applied when considering how to better serve consumers and small businesses. The following are some of my suggestions regarding topics that come up frequently in our conversations with FIs. Every FI is different and some will be more applicable than others given customer base, geography and strategic initiatives.

    1. Spend as much time mapping business journeys as you have on consumer journey mapping. A lot of time is spent mapping the consumer experience journey. It is likely that at many FIs, some additional time needs to be spent on mapping the small business journey to understand where there are pain points, what is working well and where additional enhancements can be made.

    2. Face it: system integration is becoming mandatory. If this is something your organization has been putting off, the time is now. Without automated and integrated backend systems, i.e. the core, teller, CRM, etc. … you can’t get a holistic view of your customers – and in this day and age, that’s what consumers expect, no matter how big or small your organization is.
  • For small businesses and consumers, the more integrated your backend, the faster their transactions can be. You could also enable immediate credit and provide convenient access at the ATM to additional accounts, data and services typically provided in the branch or digitally.
  • In an integrated ecosystem, self-service becomes a strategic endpoint in the overall journey of consumers and small businesses. For many of the FIs we meet with, it’s a perspective shift… it becomes something more than a “necessary evil” (I always get chuckles in meetings on that one) and limited cash dispenser; instead, it’s a critical connection point between physical and digital channels.

  • 3. Access to multiple denominations of cash is critical. A few weeks ago, the tea shop put into place several measures to protect its employees, one of which was instituting online and pre-ordering through phone/email/text. Inevitably, they were still asked to handle cash. This is consistent with what we are seeing as far as cash deposits in self-service environments. Check deposits are down in the U.S., however, overall deposits are steady due to the increase in cash deposits. Offering small businesses and consumers access to multiple denominations in a self-service environment is critical. The ability for a small business to be able to pre-order and/or “deposit” cash at any time and with convenient pickup/drop-off could be the key to attracting new customers and retaining current ones – this could be accomplished through the use of traditional self-service devices such as ATM/ITMs or smart safes.

    4. Consider how recycling could optimize your business. Given the need for access to cash, this becomes a very relevant topic especially when serving small businesses and high-traffic locations. Higher cash capacity combined with automation can also serve specialty services such as cashing checks and lottery tickets – topics we are frequently asked about when teller-lines can be over-run with what are typically purely transaction-based functions vs. value-add opportunity.

    5. Meet your customers where they are, through the channel that’s most convenient for them. Although it may be transforming, the branch continues to be a vital physical endpoint. In addition, we are also seeing the value that the self-service channel can bring rise dramatically. In addition to core-system integration, solutions such as tablet and video can bring additional efficiencies and convenient services to consumers and small businesses alike. Video can allow FIs to close branch locations while still servicing customers, enhance the drive-up experience, allow a cost-effective way to test new markets, extend branch service hours and allow for face-to-face contact when the branch is unexpectedly closed.

    Here’s the bottom line: many of the actions we advise FIs to take to grow their small-business segment can also provide added value to their entire consumer base. The solutions can be used universally, however, the use cases for small businesses need to be mapped. I’ve been lucky to see things from both sides of the table – and I’ve found that perspective is an invaluable tool regardless of your situation, industry or the topic-at-hand. 

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