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VOL. 128 | NO. 130 | Thursday, July 04, 2013

First Tennessee Bank Unveiling Concierge Service

By Andy Meek

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The physical aspects of modern banking haven’t changed much in recent decades.

First Tennessee Bank has changed up the experience inside a few of its banking centers by launching a concierge service for customers.

(Daily News file photo/Andy Meek)

The center of the action inside a brick-and-mortar bank presence is “teller row,” where queues form so that deposits can be made, withdrawals taken and similar requests can get processed.

It’s led the in-person banking experience to be utilitarian. Which is why, as it works broadly to solidify and expand its market position, First Tennessee Bank has been re-imagining what greets customers who walk through the bank’s front door.

The bank has launched a proof-of-concept project at three locations around the state – including one in the Memphis area – that attempts to shift the focal point inside the facilities to a kind of concierge service.

“We wanted to provide an even better customer experience in a more efficient, effective way,” said Kevin Karrels, retail segment leader for First Tennessee. “So we started thinking through, well, how do you do that? And we had a couple of thoughts.”

Many banks, Karrels explained, have paid employees who act as greeters near the front of the facility and may be only moderately helpful beyond that.

“We wanted to take that to a new level,” Karrels said. “If you think about a traditional financial center, when you walk in you will likely be greeted by somebody maybe sitting at a desk, and then you’ve got to walk to the back of the facility, you might walk 30 yards, to where the tellers are. Our first premise was, OK, what if we could meet everybody at the door? Not only do we want to greet you as you come in, but we want to meet you at the door. So the person that greets you in our concierge center is the person that stays with you throughout the entire interaction that day.”

First Tennessee Bank has been re-imagining what greets customers who walk through the bank’s front door.

At the three centers were the project is now live – at the Macon Road branch in Cordova and at branches in Knoxville and Murfreesboro – customers are greeted immediately upon walking in. The person who greets them walks them to a workstation to help with their needs.

When that’s done, the idea is for that same person to walk the customer back to the door.

Using the Macon Road location as an example, Karrels said employees don’t necessarily have assigned desks. A so-called concierge desk has a few teller stations at it, and teller transactions can be performed at any of the desks.

Inside the branch, there are imaginary “zones” where different activities take place – zones one through four. Zone one is where the customers are greeted.

The project was launched at the Macon Road location about 90 days ago. It has been live in the other two for about 45 days.

“The general idea was that First Tennessee historically has been very focused on customer experience and customer service and trying to provide as good as an experience in banking within our marketplace,” Karrels said. “And so we have that kind of as a pillar of ours, if you will. It’s really important to us.

“We wanted to find a more efficient, effective way to meet our customers’ needs when they do decide to come into a financial center, with the primary focus of providing not just the same level of customer experience but an elevated customer experience.”

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