ST. LOUIS - Now that so many bank transactions are handled through the Internet, phone or automated teller machines, tellers often do not recognize their own customers.
A company in Kirkland, Wash., Easy Systems, has developed a product that can help branch personnel solve this problem: Tellers using the software can confirm a customer's identity and do so without asking, "May I see some identification?"
EZTeller gets around that awkwardness by storing customer photographs as well as account information. It can also let tellers know when they are serving, say, a major client or a board member's daughter.
"At more and more community banks, you have an influx of personnel and turnover issues to deal with. New tellers don't know the customers, and that upsets community relations," said Frank Coleman, an account manager with Easy Systems.
More vendors and the community banks they serve are turning to high-tech products to deliver high-touch service. Many such wares were on display last week at FutureBank 2000, a two-day convention sponsored by the Community Bankers Association of Illinois and Thomson Financial Media, American Banker's parent. The event drew 167 exhibitors and almost 1,000 bankers.
Timothy J. Fritz, a senior vice president at $145 million-asset State Bank of Orion, Ill., spoke for many of the bankers on hand. "You don't want customers to leave you because they think your bank is in the 19th century," he said. "At the same time, personal service has to remain one of our business focuses."
Among the branch products featured at FutureBank were competing ones from Digital Financial Network in Manchester, Mo., and Inlighten of Lancaster, N.Y.; they both feed news broadcasts to televisions that are usually stationed behind teller counters. Banks can promote themselves or the community with short or continuous commercials.
"If you include pictures of a customer's daughter performing as a majorette or a shot of the football team winning the big game, word gets around the community," said Rex H. Dunlap, principal with the Digital Financial Network. "That draws people into the bank."
Exhibitors from the wireless world included SensCom Inc., which was recently hired by $430 million-asset University and State Employees Credit Union in San Diego to deliver bill payment and other banking services through cellular phones.
Linda L. Baughman, president and chief executive officer of the credit union, said: "We don't want to buy technology just for the sake of having technology. This sort of thing can make customers' lives better."