Needham Bank announced Tuesday an update to its website that lets consumers book appointments with in-branch bankers. It's part of a bid to make the Massachusetts community bank more accessible.

"We're a 1.2 billion unapologetic quintessential community bank," says Eric Morse, first vice president of marketing and retail sales at Needham Bank. "We are trying to be very competitive and technology plays an enormous role in that."

So far, the community bank has made 12 in-branch bankers available for bookings through the software.

"We are in the early stages of it," says Morse. "It's so logical. I don't know why any bank or anyone else in the services industry wouldn't want to have it."

The feature, powered by TimeTrade, improves the banking experience of years past when a customer or prospect had to reach a banker on the phone just to make an in-person appointment. "It's an easy way to gain access without having to make a million phone calls," he says.

The update comes on the heels of other banks like Regions Bank and BMO Harris that have made scheduling tools available through their online banking sites. Bank of America and Wells Fargo also offer a similar capability. Needham's update offers the latest example of how banks are bridging online and offline channels together as branches transform into sales and service hubs and consumers increasingly use digital channels to research products.

What sets Needham apart is its scheduling tool lets web visitors choose which banker they want to meet with after clicking the ‘Schedule a Call' button on its product pages. The software already integrates with employees' Outlook calendars and can then show visitors the bankers' availabilities.

"We want to make the bank and bankers as accessible as we can," says Morse. "TimeTrade is an extension of the strategy."

In order to be effective, of course, a banker must be diligent about scheduling his appointments in Outlook. Then, the branch greeter is expected to direct individuals with appointments to their bankers.

Being reachable is supposed to be one of the perks of using a local bank. "The concept of being accessible is a strong element of how people perceive community bankers to be," he says.

Which is also why the bank promotes its bankers' contact information — including cell phone numbers and links to LinkedIn profiles — online. It also opens up its branches at 7:00 a.m. to accommodate customers' work schedules. "[TimeTrade] is an extension of something we've been doing for a while," he says.

These adjustments are part of Needham's approach to transforming the branch as floor traffic drops nationwide.

"The whole nature of the bank branch is changing," Morse says.

BMO Bank in Canada, which has had a booking feature available for several years, recently told Bank Technology News that the tool gets strong usage and was introduced to improve the chance of converting prospects into customers. Looking ahead, the Canadian bank identifies an opportunity to include what a person should bring into a branch for his appointment in the reminder appointment emails.