Building Privacy into the Branch Experience
With the Equifax hack dominating headlines, consumers are once again reevaluating the relationships they have with their banks. It can be difficult enough for customers to trust large financial institutions when they think everything is working fine, but in a new age of cybercrime and insecurity, it is harder than ever to convince the public that your bank is credible and trustworthy.
While banks should certainly respond to these issues with improved technical security, this is rarely a side of the company that consumers see or understand. From the outside, most banking customers can’t differentiate between one type of data encryption and another. That’s why we don’t think it’s enough to secure account information on the back end. Instead, we recommend pairing technical privacy with physical privacy in branches as a means of highlighting your commitment to security. If customers don’t feel like their information is secure when they visit a branch, they’re certainly not going to feel like it’s secure in your computer systems.
With that in mind, here are three ways that your branches can radiate privacy and security:
Introduce tiered levels of privacy
Some interactions require more privacy than others. Most financial institutions already understand this – it’s the reason why simple transactions are often processed at the teller counter, while mortgages are refinanced behind a closed office door. The level of privacy that customers require depends on what they’re doing, what information they’re accessing, and how comfortable they feel about being observed.
That’s why we recommend giving customers choices when it comes to their privacy. That may be an unspoken choice – like making a deposit at an ATM versus making it with a teller – or a more obvious one– like paying additional service fees to conduct business in a secluded VIP section.
When creating tiered spaces for different levels of privacy, we recommend focusing on how comfortable customers need to feel in their environment. No one wants to share private information when they’re feeling uncomfortable. That’s why the VIP section that we developed for SPD Bank in China uses warm colors and leather seating to create an oasis of private luxury in the bustling bank.
Use physical barriers to create privacy in small spaces
Unfortunately, some environments just aren’t big enough to offer a truly secluded experience. That’s the challenge we faced designing kiosks for Jackson Hewitt – they needed to be small enough to fit inside a big box store, private enough for customers to discuss their tax information, and open enough to avoid feeling claustrophobic. To address these concerns, our concept isolated customers on opposite ends of the kiosk, largely hidden from the public and each other by partitions just low enough to avoid feeling oppressive.
You may be concerned about how to reconcile privacy barriers with the open spaces that help financial institutions seem transparent and accessible. Big windows with lots of light are a popular way to dispel the image of shady banks full of closed-door meetings in dark rooms. That’s why we recommend a middle ground – by using different tiers of privacy to determine which transactions require physical barriers and which can be navigated with open space.
Even in a small environment, well-designed physical barriers can provide relief and a sense of privacy in public places. By keeping those barriers bright and well-lit, you can help your customers to feel comfortable enough to discuss intimate financial details with your staff.
Embrace modular design
So you’ve carefully designed a branch that makes customers feel comfortable and secure. It takes advantage of tiered privacy, makes careful use of both open space and physical barriers, and perfectly embodies your bank’s brand. Now comes the most important question: is it scalable?
No two branches will ever have completely identical needs because branches reflect their community and no communities share identical needs. Even the best-designed branches occasionally fail when they’re developed without unique community needs in mind. While a branch in the middle of a busy metropolis might attract young entrepreneurs looking for business and investing advice, a similar branch in a more suburban area might instead draw retirees who need help with estate planning.
By embracing modular design, individual branches can more easily cater to their communities and their clients.
Privacy matters deeply to your clients. And while they might not keep up-to-date on the latest technological and security innovations, they all know what it means to feel comfortable and to trust that their information is secure. Reassure them that you value that trust by creating spaces that reinforce it.