Retail banks previously played a massive role in finance and in daily life, with customers going to bank branches to handle everyday finances, budgeting, and banking services. Today, many bank branches are made all-but-obsolete through digital apps and online service portals, giving customers faster and more convenient ways to access their banking. At the same time, the bank as we know it is far from dead, despite the decreased demand for face-to-face interaction.
- Consumers still benefit from positive human experiences and assistance
- Physical bank locations can still offer a valuable and important touchpoint in the customer journey
- Banks are becoming a place to generate real and authentic experiences
- A physical bank can offer value in ways that a mobile app cannot
Retail bank design must shift to meet these needs by embracing both the physical needs of a space designed not to sell but to connect and the rapidly changing needs of consumers.
Retail Bank Design Should Support Self-Service
Why would anyone go into a bank for self-service? While the idea seems contradictory, many people simply prefer to go into a bank for services. In fact, more than 80% of Generation Z prefer to go to a physical location for products and services, so that they can resolve issues and handle processing more quickly.
Creating self-service kiosks in bank lounges and areas gives individuals the opportunity to handle basic actions and interactions themselves and then switch over to a live representative when and where necessary. For example, customers can fill out their own paperwork to set up an account and create an appointment to have a bank representative sign it when they are done. This is an easy way to accommodate a generation that prefers to do things themselves without sacrificing the value of going to a bank.
Self-service trends are also reflected in an increase in video walls and screens, tablets and computers, and more focus on technology across banks so that customers can do and learn more while in the bank. For example, many banks use digital screens to share financial education to anyone who wants to learn through a digital portal in the bank. With computers and screens already present to help individuals handle their own finances and interactions, adding this additional layer of service is relatively easy and pain-free for banks, who are often offering financial education through other channels.
Open and Building Experience
Modern banks are less about making sales and more about creating customer experiences. One recent trend in retail banks across the globe are designing branches to be open, comfortable, and building an experience, with coffee bars, lounges, stores, and open lighting or plants as part of the experience. For example, MagNet offers coffee bars in place of traditional waiting rooms. British banking organization, VirginMoney takes this a step further, creating teller-less lounge-style rooms across cities in the UK dedicated solely to providing comfort and a place to relax. With no visible banking services, the lounges function solely to create a positive customer experience.
While larger, relaxing environments are coming to many banking branches, others are going in the opposite direction. Small, booth-sized self-service areas outfitted with only a few tellers are becoming a trend, with even large-scale banks like Bank of America already beginning to adopt them.
These small locations offer numerous advantages to banks suffering from reduced physical foot traffic, including reduced costs, more accessibility to customers, more opportunities for self-service, and the ability to continue to offer personal and live service without closing a larger branch.
Smaller bank locations also enable many banks to invest in lightweight branches, spreading service across a wider area and enabling consumers to visit more easily. If someone has a bank branch near their home, they can more easily visit than if they had to go to a single large branch servicing the whole area.
Many industries have already adopted mobile tellers or service agents who can come to you and offer support, new services, and interaction directly through a tablet. For example, Apple’s customer service areas. This trend is quickly growing in banking, where mobile tellers can offer support and service without requiring customers to sit in cubicles, stand in line, or wait behind desks.
This approach functions well in both low and high-traffic areas, offering convenience, comfort, and personal connection. Why? Interacting with someone face-to-face at a table or in a lounge far exceeds the relatively impersonal interaction of a teller behind a desk, bringing a large air of relaxation and comfort as well as increased personal connection.
With digital screens, self-help kiosks, and open plans, many banks will offer 24/7 access. Self-help solutions even allow customers to sign up for services and loans in-person and provide a signature, to be finalized during business hours when employees go into the office. While 24/7 access is largely already supported by digital banking, physical spaces are rapidly changing to reflect this same convenience.
The physical connection continues to be the easiest way to drive relationships through human presence and a feeling of a real experience and human caring (versus the impersonal replies of a chat or phone call), which will help to improve customer relationships. 67% of consumers visit a physical bank at least once a year and 7% once a week or more. While this rate is much lower than that of using digital banking services (most use digital banking once a week or more), it still represents a valuable touchpoint with consumers. Creating physical space to maximize that connection and build relationships instead of creating an unpleasant experience is crucial to ensuring physical branch visits continue and are valued by consumers.
While physical banks are rapidly becoming less relevant with the advent of digital banking and services, they are far from obsolete. Instead, retail bank design is changing to meet new and different consumer needs, so that the bank branch continues to offer value. Designing spaces around connections rather than sales are one primary change and an important one that will affect not only how new banks are built, but also how existing branches are able to continue to meet the needs of customers.