Raising process efficiency.
Competition is tough today for banks and retailers alike. The winners are those companies with lean structures and efficient processes. Intelligent, high-availability IT systems can help achieve this, and are especially effective where consumers experience firsthand the value they add. Versatile, expandable software enables banks and retailers to offer their customers new functions and services fast, granting them a competitive edge.
“Due to the scope of the project and the great time pressure, we wanted to have everything from a single source.”
Bernhard Kainz, Chief Information Officer at BAWAG
Together, the Austrian bank BAWAG P.S.K. and postal service Post AG have created a unique network of tightly integrated branches. Today, customers visiting one of their 500 jointly managed branches have access to both financial and postal services, powered by Wincor Nixdorf’s self-service technology.
The branch offensive began in 2010 when BAWAG, with more than 1.6 million private and business customers, entered into a partnership with Austria Post, the country’s postal service provider. The new concept involved combining branches and introducing three main service areas in each: the transaction counter, which offers both postal and financial services; the consulting section for services requiring greater personal support; and the self-center zone.
“We have strongly promoted the self-serving offerings, and our customers are now making good use of them,” says Bernhard Kainz, Chief Information Officer at BAWAG. “The self-service migration has been running parallel to the automation process also underway at the bank, helping us achieve our goal of becoming one of Europe’s most efficiently run banks.” The bank already is among Europe’s top ten based on return on equity and cost-income-ratio.
1.6 million private and business customers
As for technology, BAWAG opted for an end-to-end solution consisting of Wincor Nixdorf’s self-service software based on an open, network-centric architecture, advanced CINEO hardware and outsourcing services. As part of the self-service campaign, all 150 existing branches were completely modernized and 350 new branches added to the network. Also, new services were introduced such as the ability to deposit cash in new cash recycling terminals.
“Due to the scope of the project and the great time pressure, we wanted to have everything from a single source,” says Kainz. “There were times when we opened three branches a month and found ourselves spending far too much time equipping them.”
SmartCash at ATMs without a card
BAWAG continues to develop innovative services to enhance the customer experience and improve operating efficiency. “SmartCash” is a prime example. The new service allows customers to fetch cash without a card. They simply type into the ATM a 10-digit code number that is generated via BAWAG’s e-banking app and sent as a text message to their smartphones (see photos page 17). Wincor Nixdorf’s PC/E software serves as the enabling technology for the new service. The solution includes a smart-client component that runs in the ATM and a server component that authorizes the withdrawal through the code.
Using a smartphone instead of bankcard to withdraw cash was not the original aim of developing the new service, however. BAWAG’s initial plan called for using SmartCash technology to introduce assisted self-service, supporting branches staffed only with consultants who have no access to cash. In these branches, cash is occasionally required, for example, when a savings account is discontinued. With the SmartCash function, bank advisors can generate the 10-digit code on their computers and, if necessary, accompany customers to an ATM to have their savings paid out in cash.
“The idea of using the feature for other tasks came later,” recalls Kainz. Examples include allowing customers who have lost their bankcard to withdraw money and forwarding cash to someone. SmartCash is just one of many innovative products BAWAG has developed or is in the process of developing. “Retail bankers dream of customers entering a branch at 11 p.m. and leaving it five minutes later with a mortgage loan – a prospect that harbors abundant potential for the bank and its IT partner,” he says.
“Acceptance stands or falls with user-friendliness. A user’s initial experience at a self-checkout terminal has to be positive.”
Alberto Kratter, Director of Processes, Materials Management and Purchasing
Customers shopping at Switzerland’s Coop can choose among nearly 40,000 different products in more than 800 supermarkets and megastores, which offer them the greatest brand diversity in the country. And they can choose how they want to shop.
The experience begins when shoppers enter a Coop store where they can select between a handheld device and their own smartphone to scan products. It continues in the checkout lane where they can choose between traditional staffed point-of-sale terminals and new self-checkout systems. And it finally ends after their products are scanned and packed and they can pay in cash or by card or via the wireless payment solution, Near Field Communications. For scanning with smartphones, Coop has developed its own app, which customers can download and install on their devices for free.
By the end of this year, Wincor Nixdorf aims to have installed 930 terminals in about 120 supermarkets.
Coop is a self-checkout pioneer in Switzerland.
By the end of this year, the group’s IT solutions partner Wincor Nixdorf aims to have installed 930 terminals in about 120 supermarkets.
On average, the usage rate is a commendable 35 percent in supermarkets equipped with the technology – and as high as 50 percent in some stores. Alberto Kratter, Director of Processes, Materials Management and Purchasing at Coop, believes he knows why the acceptance is so high, even though the Swiss, like the Germans, have been slightly hesitant to use self-checkout terminals: “In my opinion, it’s less a question about people’s mentality or about the market; acceptance stands or falls with user-friendliness,” he says. “A user’s initial experience at a self-checkout terminal has to be positive.”
To determine the requirements for developing a user-friendly interface, Coop made an in-depth analysis of customer behavior, customer flows, typical shopping loads, checkout processes and the structural conditions in the supermarkets. “From the start, we wanted to launch a practical solution,” Kratter says. “In general, we are very cautious about making changes to systems after customers have become familiar with them.”
Coop is supporting the introduction of self-checkout terminals in its stores with an extensive information campaign. “Our basic approach is to provide customers with all familiar options at checkout,” says Kratter. “Many are discussing whether self-service is good for customers. They will decide for themselves and thus the success of an offer.”
There are very few products that customers can’t scan themselves.
Ideal for quick checkout of smaller purchases.
Customers with only a few products in their carts have come to appreciate the self-checkout terminals for reasons of speed. “We have a product scanning rate of nearly 99 percent,” notes Kratter. “That means there are very few products that customers can’t scan themselves.” Cheating at checkout, he adds, has not been an issue: “An honest customer doesn’t become dishonest because of a self-checkout terminal.”
The new self-checkout systems have been well received by customers and staff alike. Since ignorance often stirs reservations, Coop has sought from the very beginning to inform employees through its internal media channels, in personal presentations and training.
One store clerk is now able to monitor six self-service terminals. Via a mobile device, the clerk receives a message when action is necessary, for instance, when alcohol is being sold and identification is required.
That so many self-checkout systems can be added to a store alongside traditional POS terminals has to do with their spacing-saving design. »I’m convinced that it’s never an ›either or‹ but always a sensible combination of staffed POS terminals and self-checkout machines adjusted to local conditions.«