It was just a matter of time before all eyes turned to the technological advances found in our ATMs. At one time, in the not so distant past, ATMs served one purpose: withdraw cash. Initially, consumers couldn’t even deposit a check via an ATM. Those days are long since behind us though. The only thing they can’t do is provide marriage counseling – and no one would be surprised if they did, especially considering the brilliant minds behind the advances.
Bank of America is the financial entity to introduce these new machines. Its version is known as Teller Assist and they allow bank customers to video chat with tellers and even receive exact change during a transaction.
Video Chat with Your ATM
Part of what’s so intriguing about Teller Assist and the ability to chat with a “real” teller is the fact that banks have been quite assertive in their efforts of doing away with tellers. Many banks would even tack on fees just to be able to talk to a live customer service representative over the phone. Now, though, it would seem – at least for Bank of America – that it’s coming full circle and encouraging a bit of pleasant conversation.
Mark Schwanhausser, a senior financial services analyst at Javelin Strategy, says that banks opting to make these upgrades speaks volumes about how far they’ll go to keep customers happy. Many feel like the banks can continue with the more personable aspects of banking in person, but by using video chat as the communications vehicle, it allows banks to keep their own costs down as well.
For banks, the cost of doing business via traditional ATMs is around $1.25 per ATM transaction. For a customer to walk into a brick and mortar and speak with a teller equates to a cost of $4.25 for the same bank. Even with the latest technology, the financial institutions still believe they can find that happy medium.
And speaking of happy mediums, those banks that are doing upgrades say it also provides options for consumers. This won’t replace tellers, of course, but it will allow banks to move call centers to business friendly states since there won’t be an extensive need at traditional bank branches.
How it Works
So how does it work? The only bank that’s sharing those details at this time is Bank of America. It says its new Teller Assist machines require consumers to swipe their debit card, credit card, driver’s license or photo ID as a safety precaution to reduce the fraud that is growing by the day in the financial sector. Once that’s authenticated, a pop up screen, much like those pesky online pop up ads, will appear and will give the customer the option of speaking with a live person. Alternatively, they may withdraw cash in increments as low as $1 and even receive coins. They can also cash their checks. Need to break your deposits up? One check needs to be divvied between two accounts? It’s no problem nor is it a problem to pay your credit card, mortgage or auto payments. A simple video chat with your ATM makes it happen.
If you do opt to speak with a teller, you will likely be put in touch with someone in either Delaware of Florida as these are the two Bank of America call centers. For now, many of the transactions will require the assistance of a teller. This should drop off as consumers become more familiar with the new dynamics. In fact, BoA says 80% of the transactions that you normally require a teller for can now be done via the new ATMs.
If there’s any downfall to the new machines, it’s the hours they’re available for consumers. Since so many of the transactions will require a video chat with their ATM, consumers won’t be able to conduct business outside of the time tellers are actually available, usually between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. On weekends, the availability is less.
For now, most of the ATMs are scattered around Boston – twelve in all, but those numbers will continue to increase in the coming months. Other plans include placing the ATMs outside branch offices, usually in the traditional areas you might find your bank’s ATM.
Bank of America
While Bank of America is getting a head start here in the states, Citi already unveiled its versions in Asia. These efforts are extraordinarily advanced and require fingerprints. Those in that country can open new bank accounts and can even print new credit cards and debit cards with the help of the chat teller. They may also eventually be able to print new credit and debit cards. It’s believed Citi will bring in other countries later this year, but it’s not known when the U.S. might have them.
Another bank to keep your eye on in the coming months is Wells Fargo. It has big plans – literally. It’s preparing to unveil its new ATMs with 19 inch screens. This bank is already preparing to make its machines available around the clock and like BoA, it will allow $1 increments. It’s in beta now in the DC area and should be expanding to other cities in the coming months. By updating its interface, consumers will be able to personalize their screens, including the prompts. For instance, if a customer usually withdraws $100, then the first option that the customer is provided will whether or not he wants to withdraw $100.
The question for all these banks is whether customers will want to hold conversations with bank tellers as they’re standing on the street – and within earshot of any passersby. For some, it will feel a bit reckless. Imagine walking down the street and looking over to see a customer discussing the state of his checking account with a teller that can be seen by anyone and heard by anyone within a 20 foot radius. It could be a hard sell for some.
One thing’s for sure – there’s no stopping the banks as they continue their efforts of staying a step ahead of the competition.