Automated teller machines may no longer be the one-trick pony of banking.
ATMs have long been primarily used for withdrawals, but as envelope-free deposits and other advanced features have become more common, the range of typical uses for ATMs has expanded. Executives now say that integrating the machines more closely with other channels — including the branch, call centers, online and mobile — may be the next step.
"From our perspective we see merged channels being the thing that's going to happen," said Bob Tramontano, the vice president of marketing for NCR Corp. ATMs will be used in conjunction "with mobile and online or call center."
ATMs are a heavily used channel; 85% of U.S. bank customers use ATMs, and one in three use ATMs at least weekly, according to Forrester Research Inc.
Ed Kountz, a senior analyst for Forrester, says Americans are researching financial products online, but buying through other channels, including potentially ATMs, in part because they want more security and hand-holding from their banks.
To take advantage, some banks are integrating ATMs into the way customers investigate, apply for, and acquire their products.
"We are asking ourselves how to bring ATMs to the next level, and integrate with other channels," said Eric Perlmutter, ATM channel management executive for Bank of America Corp., which operates 18,000 ATMs nationwide.
Tramontano said the lines between channels are blurring. For example, a customer may take note of a new loan product at a branch, research it online, contact the call center to get their credit score, receive online approval, submit their documents at an ATM or kiosk and then receive funds disbursed on to a card at the ATM.
"You would no longer have to go to a single channel to start and stop a transaction," he said.
Other approaches to integrating ATMs involve mobile devices. In April of last year MasterCard Inc. introduced an ATM-finding application, called ATM Hunter, for Apple Inc.'s iPhone. The free app allowed iPhone users to find more than 1 million ATMs across the globe (and not just those of a specific bank), and is integrated with Google maps. It also allows users to find ATMs that don't have a surcharge, that have a drive-through, are wheelchair-accessible or allow deposit-sharing.
The Dutch financial company ING Group released last year an ATM-finder application for handsets that use Google Inc.'s Android operating system handsets.
Executives at Wells Fargo & Co. hope consumers will come to see their ATMs as "concierges" as well as cash dispensers. In July the San Francisco banking company began testing its "Make An Appointment" service at a handful of ATMs in Southern California as well as online. The service enables people to schedule an appointment with a banker for the date, time and store location of their choice and then receive a confirmation e-mail.
Alicia Moore, Wells Fargo's head of ATM banking, said this tool shows how the bank is positioning its ATM network — to help save time and personalize interactions for customers, even in ways that may seem low-tech. "Cross-channel [interactions] could be sexy, but we need to make it relevant to the customer," she said.
The industry has been "toying with advertising on ATMs" for more than a decade, Moore said. Ultimately what banks have learned is that "customers do pay attention when it's relevant to them," she said. "We're looking for ways to interact with customers to reinforce that relevancy."