HSBC is applying new technology to reduce waiting times by up to 20 per cent and improve customer service in 100 of its busiest branches.

The customer enquiry system, known as Matchmaker, helps branch floor staff direct customers to the colleague best able and qualified to deal with their inquiry.

Customers entering the branch are greeted by a member of staff who asks them to use a touch screen to request a specific service. The screen then displays which adviser will see them and the approximate waiting time, which is printed on an acknowledgement slip and handed to the customer. The relevant staff member is alerted by pager while the customer is shown to the waiting lounge area.

Developed and deployed by specialist vendor Qm Group, the system also supports compliance procedures by ensuring appropriately qualified staff deal with specific customer requests.

Richard Newland, HSBC head of multichannel retail design, told CIO the queuing system made the branch more efficient and gave managers more control because they could programme it at the beginning of the day to assign various duties to specific staff members.

He said the system metrics would be used for operational purposes only, although customer details are used in real-time to control the choice of information and advertising displayed by plasma screens in waiting areas.

“We are delighted with the results of our trial, particularly the response of customers who have been impressed with the user-friendly nature of the system, the way our staff interact with them and, of course, the reduction in the time it takes for us to serve them.

The Matchmaker system is one of many new systems HSBC is building into its branch network as part of a £450 million investment programme to improve the retail banking experience for customers.

Two areas of focus are to ensure as much space as possible is devoted to customers, and to give customers more control and options for how the conduct their banking.

Newland said: “In the past, much of the space in bank branches was devoted to administration and processing work. A lot of this is now done centrally, enabling us to devote more space to customers and give more personal service. We estimate that of the 100 branches we have renovated so far, we have switched the ratio of floor space from 60:40 to 80:20 in favour of the customer.”

HSBC is also investing heavily in the latest banking technology, installing 600 next generation ‘smart’ deposit devices, as well as 1,200 ‘Express Banking’ kiosks, which allow customers to pay bills, transfer funds and obtain statements, and a further 500 new fee-free cash machines.