Through the end of December, bank employees at HSBC Group's flagship branch in Manhattan are using Samsung Gear S3 smartwatches to quickly communicate with each other to help meet the needs of customers who come to the three-story bank offices to do business.
The pilot project, which began in early October, was designed to help personalize and improve customer service at the HSBC branch by connecting the employees on all floors with information about incoming customers so they could provide faster and more personal service, Jeremy Balkin, the head of innovation for HSBC's retail banking and wealth management division, told eWEEK.
"What we were looking to test here is whether we could use world-leading technology to improve ways of working" to help employees assist customers more quickly, said Balkin. "Traditional communication in a branch is being tethered to desks and phones. We wanted to give employees new communications tools in this trial."
Due to strict banking regulations and oversight, financial services companies including banks are often not as advanced as other industries in using new technologies for customer service, said Balkin. "There are regulatory reasons not to use cellphones, mostly around not capturing communications due to recordkeeping requirements."
But using the Samsung Gear S3 smartwatches is giving bank employees new efficiency gains and other capabilities without concerns involving customer data issues.
Because the flagship HSBC branch at 452 Fifth Ave. has operations on three stories, customers must make their way up and down the floors to get assistance. Using the smartwatches, HSBC employees in the branch can now work as a team to let fellow workers know instantly when customers are heading their way for help by pressing a few buttons on their devices to notify them. The smartwatches have 4G LTE connectivity so they can be used without an accompanying smartphone. The watch faces show the HSBC brand logo and include custom messages for communications.
"An employee can tap on the device to get an advisor downstairs or to a customer more quickly," said Balkin. Workers can tap preset messages to each other or make a call using their voice over a built-in walkie-talkie to communicate within the office.
"In the old days, someone might have walked with the customer through the branch to take them to someone else for help," said Balkin. "Now they can send a note on the smartwatch. There's a lot of different things we're testing with this."
Lots of good input is being collected from bank employees, and the company is assessing the data to see how the technology might be used elsewhere, he said.
The pilot project is set to continue through Dec. 31 and then will be evaluated.
"So far, the results have been great," according to Balkin. A second pilot is being done in a bank office in Dubai in a digital customer service unit.
"Banking, despite technology, is a people business," he said. "At the end of the day, from an employee standpoint, we look at what tools they can have to do their jobs in a more productive and efficient way. We don't believe that our employees should have tools that are subpar."