Bank Interior Design : Your walk-in customers visit retail branches to carry-out very personal, private business. Many of them have the ability to comfortably log-on to their personal computers to make these same transactions in the privacy of their home, yet they choose to make a face-to-face visit. Some of these walk-in customers are visiting because they are unsure of their internet banking abilities or may be uneasy about on-line privacy. It’s not likely that they have come to your bank for the free gourmet coffee, cookies and trendy music, though these freebies are always welcome. It is quite probable that your customers are simply stopping-by to have a very personal, private bank transaction, executed in person with an official receipt in-hand. Your bank design should facilitate your customer’s desire for privacy at all times during their visit.
There are a few different bank branch styles with varying levels of privacy currently operating today that can be generally classified as follows: trendy cafe-style; the traditional “stand in line” teller window style; and now, a newer, more customer attentive and private type of banking experience developed by architect John L. Shedd of R. W. Larson Financial Facilities called “Agency Branch Banking”. Agency Branch Banking responds to a 2006 banking survey conducted to determine bank customer habits and preferences. The Agency Branch design concept was developed to provide a more consultative and private approach to the customer experience, while opening up subtle–or not so subtle opportunities for the bank to present new products and services.
Privacy is becoming more and more important as banks are reaching out and building new branches to be convenient to their customer’s neighborhoods and workplaces. Now when your customer visits a cafe-style or traditional neighborhood branch, it is very likely that they will encounter a curious neighbor or co-worker in the parking lot; at the front entrance; elbow-to-elbow at the check desk; in the waiting line standing one foot in front of them; or standing five feet away at the next teller’s window. More unsettling to our privacy conscious customer is the fact that most of the other customers are likely to be complete strangers—not very private at all. Interestingly, many of these newer branches are surmising that customers actually may want LESS privacy during their banking visit and really want to discuss their financial situation over a gourmet coffee bar in the middle of their new cafe/bank lobby while a live musician plays in the background. Sure, it’s cool, but it may not be the best design choice for privacy.
According to a March 20, 2006 survey conducted by Mar-com Research for the Independent Community Bankers Association, when respondents were asked about personal service, they convincingly indicated (71.1%) that PERSONAL service is VERY IMPORTANT. The word “personal” can be defined as “relating to the parts of somebody’s life that are PRIVATE and intended for a particular individual rather than anyone else.”
In a time when identity theft is a very high concern, we need to consider designing some serious privacy details into our banks. We don’t want someone next to us at the check desk reading our deposit slips or seeing our paychecks. And how would your honest customer at the transaction window feel if the teller informs him out loud in front of a line of customers that his account is overdrawn….while his trusting business client is listening five feet away at the next window. What if an identity thief is able to record some very personal information from your customer by hearing his credit card or social security number verbalized during a transaction at a traditional teller window or in the loan officers open cubicle? It is our responsibility as financial facility professionals to provide a very high level of privacy for our banking customers. We must respond to these personal intrusion possibilities through thoughtful, appropriate bank branch designs and interior layouts.
By creating an Agency Branch Bank we facilitate privacy and enhance service for walk-in customers. As our customer safely enters the bank, we should consider having a greeter at a concierge-style desk for a personal welcome and directions. This personal greeter should quickly and privately ask the customer to sign-in and inquire about what services they may be looking for. This information should be inconspicuously passed along digitally to a queuing system allowing waiting bank agents (tellers with enhanced customer service and sales training) to evaluate the customer’s profile before meeting with him. This preview of the customer allows bank agents to promptly and efficiently consider offering additional services or provide financial suggestions that may match the customer profile. It also gives the agent an opportunity to use the customer’s name, providing a more personal greeting. This greeting desk will also provide a front-line deterrent to potential intruders and may offer advanced warning of a possible problem customer.
Our customer is next directed by the greeter toward the “customer services gallery”—not a standard lobby with a spiraling cattle line. The customer services gallery is warm and inviting with comfortable furnishings that allow patrons to relax for a moment while waiting for their turn. They are also greeted with subtle new bank product ads displayed on a large, synchronized multiplex video-wall. The video-wall may be highlighting a shiny new car with the bank’s attractively low monthly payment amount; a beautiful new house showing your highly competitive and “surprisingly doable” mortgage rates; or performance charts illustrating how your financial services aggressively outperformed your competitor’s. This versatile display is certainly more valuable and inviting than a statically displayed car or washing machine plunked down in the middle of the lobby surrounded by theater ropes. And because of the multi-media capabilities provided by a video-wall, the broader and constantly changing range of products you choose to display will appeal to a wider customer target base. Your customer can also have opportunities to pick-up pamphlets highlighting your different products and services displayed in ergonomically-designed pamphlet stacks that promote your brand. Artistic and colorfully designed promotional posters may be framed to accent the well-lit display gallery. The check desk is designed into divided carrels that offer privacy and a view of the video wall. You may also choose to have computer stations available for your customers to shop on-line using your bank’s credit card; or to research products, allowing them to show your agents the products that they are interested in buying, financed (of course) by your bank.
When your customer’s queue is up (taking no longer than it takes to stand in the old-fashioned teller line) the bank financial agent (remember—teller with enhanced training) who will be assisting your customers will walk out into the customer services gallery. This bank agent will make a warm, personal greeting by name and personally lead the customer into one of the many private transaction rooms. The private transaction rooms are located in place of the old-fashioned teller windows. They have closeable, transparent entrances for complete privacy and security. The customer is guided into the efficient, warmly lit and attractively appointed consultation-style room toward a comfortable chair located at the agent’s inviting business desk. Both the agent and customer sit down and quietly and comfortably carry-out the same transaction that would normally occur in an echoing open bank lobby: But in this case, nobody can hear your customer except your bank agent. This consultative, private arrangement also allows your agent more comfortable opportunities to offer additional service suggestions; discuss current or pending special promotions; or just have a quiet moment to bond with your customer. Of course, you may offer a cup of gourmet coffee too. This entire transaction is an efficient, professional, attentive, personal and PRIVATE experience.
After your customer has completed his business, the bank agent escorts him toward the front door, passing near the pamphlet stand and the catchy ads on the video-wall, warmly inviting him back for a future visit. The agent returns to the customer services gallery and greets the next customer in the same way.
Agency Branch Banking “holistically designs” the entire banking experience and optimizes your bank’s opportunity for a personal connection. It facilitates face-to-face, private conversations about your customer’s needs making the design effort well worth it for both your bank and your customers. This way of doing business respects your customer’s privacy and provides a very personal experience that will certainly leave them with a good feeling. You have designed the entire experience. They will be back.
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