No matter what business sector you are in – common shared goals include retaining and delighting both existing loyal customers and employees, attracting new ones, and creating an environment or experience that sets you apart from your competition.
Research has shown that consumers find traditional bank and credit union branches and their lobbies intimidating and not conducive to a more customer-centric and retail oriented approach. Financial marketers need to be thinking about their branches as destinations, and facilities where people want to visit and are comfortable talking about their financial needs. How do we create and design for people? In other words, is there such a design concept that can change the way people think about branches and how they behave once inside the branch?
First, we need to change the space to deliver what customers want out of the experience. Think about what you want out of your experience or what kind of environment you’d prefer when dealing with the sensitive and personal issue of finance. Also envision a place where you can be educated about products and services and how to better manage your personal finances, or that of your business. While there is a need for privacy, there is also a need for the welcoming and opening feel of a learning environment combined with the exploratory feel of a retail environment. With the incorporation of digital signage and technology, branches are now inviting people to “try this” and to engage once inside the branch rather than waiting quietly in line.
Next, the experience should focus on personal service based on relationships, and that is the message your branches need to convey. Financial institutions need to capitalize on those employees that can build and maintain relationships. While thinking about the re-design of your space, think about how you can engage your employees to buy into the transformation and who will be the early adopters and leaders of the group. Identifying the people who will be instrumental in transforming the branch and changing the experience will be a very important step.
The main design objective is to eliminate intimidation and increase transparency, yet offer different options of privacy for different comfort levels.
This can include:
- Replacing teller lines with PODS to eliminate barriers.
- Making space for private meeting areas or meeting pods (like business huddles) that offer privacy for more personal conversations.
- Incorporating a café or community meeting space to engage with the community and encourage repeat visits to the branch that may not initially be financial related.
- Offer technology and digital signage to communicate the Omni-channel experience and the option to manage finances your own way even while inside the branch.
The design basis should also consider that people need to connect with people in order to feel confident about financial issues, but the delivery method can vary. Whether privately or in an open environment – let them choose their experience in order to create confidence.