Less Whine In Line

How to take the pain out of branch and phone wait times.


Wait times remain an all too familiar reality in the financial services industry, given consumers’ ongoing affinity for in-person interactions, the prevalence of outdated banker hours, and the resulting series of rush hours that this operational model creates.

However, modern branch featuresand improved contact center technology can have a positive effect on how long members wait and how they feel during that timeframe.

Consumers with shorter attention spans and higher expectations just aren’t impressed by touches like TV displays and lobby music anymore. Orlando’s Disney World has gone as far as creating its own operational command center just to address its ride wait time issue, with “video cameras, computer programs, digital park maps, and other whiz-bang tools to spot gridlock before it forms and deploy countermeasures in real time,” according to the New York Times. There are also video games in ride lines, smartphone apps that navigate visitors to locations with the shortest wait, and a yet untried payment wristband that moves guests through lines and transactions faster.

Credit unions can’t spend like Disney but they can take some inspiration from the theme park’s forward thinking. Apps that show current branch wait time and interactive displays -think educational touch screens or X-box Kinect games displayed on a large floor space or wall -can actually impact member mood and experience.  

Army medical centers have begun their own experimentation with this concept, using virtual reality video gamesas a treatment to reduce pain and anxiety during medical procedures. One such game called “SnowWorld” is reported to work better than morphine for wounded patients. 

Along with sight and sound, many businesses are also using visitors’ noses to enhance their experience. Popular branch scent choices include citrus, which has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.

Although none of these options carry over to the contact center experience, there are several ways to improve wait times experienced in this channel as well. Next-generation IVR systems reduce pain points like the need to repeat account numbers or the inability to reach a real person, says Tom Wright, editor and publisher of the Credit Union tech-talk newsletter and a speaker at the 2012 Credit Union Association of New Mexico’s Call Center Conference.

These systems can also use caller ID and the time of the month to automatically provide the information an individual is likely looking for (balance inquiry, etc), speed up or slow down based on caller behavior, or use personalized greetings and automatic speech recognition to create the feeling of a human interaction.

These improvements take time, money, and a little creativity. But in a world where “wait” is a dirty word, credit unions can’t afford to let someone else treat their members better.


Nov. 16, 2012


  • Love the video game idea :) Waiting on the phone is always a big issue.
  • I think these are some really great ideas to think about for our branches. We just had a meeting the other day about lines in the branch and what we can do to make the member experience better. We are still in the brainstorming process, so I will mention some of these ideas and see how they bounce off the team. Thanks for the article!