• United States

Multiplying branch offices – into some really small sites

Mar 14, 20063 mins

* Video kiosks can offer certain types of businesses a way to expand their presence

Branch offices are an extension of headquarters, but moving forward, we expect to see a type of remote location emerging as an extension of, well, the branch office.

We’ve seen this happen to some extent with telecommuters, who in many companies are affiliated with a particular branch office, rather than directly with headquarters. But now, organizations are doing more with the ATM (that’s automated teller machine, not asynchronous transfer mode) model, using collaborative technologies.

For any type of business that requires a high frequency of personalized customer interaction, kiosks loaded with collaborative voice/data/video/imaging tools can fill this need. And in doing so, it’s less expensive to reach customers than opening fully staffed branch offices, in terms of real estate, personnel and IT infrastructure.

One recent example of this is Vantis Credit Union, a Canadian company serving 22,000 members through eight branch offices. Expanding to serve more members – and to increase business – requires an expanded presence. But rather than opening more branch offices, the company is rolling out Nortel’s MCS5100 real-time communications dashboards on video kiosks wherever it needs a “physical” presence.

If members need to visit a customer-services representative, they can go to the video kiosk (perhaps one located near the cafeteria in corporate HQ), talk to a person who is physically located in a nearby branch office, handling both walk-in traffic at that branch, calls to the branch, and video kiosk inquiries. From that screen, the rep can display images, say, of a loan application, push a loan application to the printer of the kiosk, answer questions – all while giving the member a more personal experience than a data-only kiosk.

The possibilities of these types of kiosks are broad. Retailers can push videos of products, demonstrating how to repair or install them, or display ideas of how to best wear an apparel item. Insurance agents can do interactive demonstrations of plan options; real-estate brokers can walk buyers through distant homes, hotels can share a pool of concierges, who use the video kiosk to display restaurants or theater recommendations, for example.

Ultimately, these offerings will be on individual consumers’ PCs – and some are already.

But until then, video kiosks can offer certain types of companies a way to expand their presence without opening a brick-and-mortar office and instead renting space from an appropriate partner.

From an IT perspective, the kiosk would require a telecom link and perhaps some optimization software, along with the real-time communications dashboard. It would be further leveraging the infrastructure already in place at the branch offices, telecommuters’ home, or even headquarters or contact centers. IT staffs aren’t as strained, customers are served in a new, innovative, and more personal way, and costs are reduced. Sounds like a winning technology application to me.