Service Design and the Banking Experience

Seamlessness is now an expectation in our service-oriented society.

Customers have little patience for services that are inconvenient, frustrating, and inefficient. We don’t want to wait in line, have to repeat ourselves, or deal with mistakes. Many major companies are selling services instead of physical products and are differentiating themselves based on customer experience.

Brands that can’t offer a smooth experience are falling behind. In the past, a slow or difficult-to-use service may have been more acceptable if there were no alternatives – however technology has raised our standards. It has enabled everything to be faster and more organized. Customization and efficient processes have become the norm. Nearly every industry has been disrupted by emerging competitors that leverage technology to offer a better customer experience.

Banking is no exception. In the recent past, mobile banking apps, fingerprint authentication, and contactless payment did not exist – but are now mainstream.

In order to match higher customer expectations and compete with emerging fintech providers, improving digital services has been a recent priority. Now user experience design focuses on making digital interactions intuitive and enjoyable.

But what about in-person interactions? Offering seamless in-branch experiences to meet higher standards is equally necessary.

Seamless In-Branch Experiences

Branches are still an important channel to offer engaging, educational experiences, helpful service, and human connections that build brand loyalty. Customers visit branches for complicated tasks, advice, and assurance from a friendly employee.

To go along with digital transformations, many financial institutions have redesigned their physical branches to be more engaging spaces that foster a sense of community. To complete the modernization process, “service design” is the last step.

Service design is a process that aims to consciously consider and deliver ideal experiences rather than just hope that they occur naturally. It uses “customer-centric” thinking to build strategies around customer needs rather than business needs. In this way, strong services and products are developed, which meet business needs in the long run. It is a detailed approach that considers the impact of brand identity, environmental design, staff training, digital technology, and service processes. These influences on the customer experience are integrated into a cohesive strategy.

An Overarching and Detailed Plan

Service design is important in order to ensure that all your channels are integrated and your vision for your branch network becomes a reality. It is not enough to create a brand identity, tell your staff about it, build a flashy branch flagship, and expect ideal customer experiences to materialize. An overarching strategy that connects these initiatives will unite efforts. Thinking about each step in the customer journey and possible friction points will also help improve the customer experience by shifting the focus to key moments that make a difference rather than abstract goals.

For example, if your goal is to offer friendly and knowledgeable service, what does this mean? What steps do you need to take to ensure that this type of service is implemented and executed consistently? In reality, it can be a daunting challenge. Many brands will decide that they want to be friendly and knowledgeable, change their visual identity to reflect this, hold an employee training session, and stop there. Integrating this identity into each moment of the customer journey and brand touchpoint is an intensive process, but more likely to be successful.

Customer Journey Mapping

Mapping out a customer journey allows service designers to develop an overview of the entire experience, break down each moment, and look for areas to improve. In a bank branch scenario, there are many moments that contribute to customer experiences. Even before they enter a branch, advertising, exterior signs, and messages to customers influence their decision to visit. Perhaps an educational seminar or promotion will attract them inside, or a highly visible logo that will catch their attention as they are walking down the street.

Once inside, how will they be greeted? How will they perceive the interior design and navigate the space? Will the needs of different types of customers be met? Will they wait in a line, common area, take a number, or interact with a tablet? Will they be offered a beverage, asked to fill out complicated forms, have access to reading materials, or immediately be led to a private meeting room? Will they be passed off to different employees or stick with one for various tasks? How will they feel in each of these steps?

These details make a real difference in customer experience and are very important to consider. Seamlessness will meet customer expectations; while a unique, positive experience will exceed them. In an industry that is often seen as uninspiring and “all the same,” service design has the potential to be a differentiator between financial institutions – attracting new customers and building stronger relationships with their current ones.