In recent years, “branch of the future” projects have been a hot topic in the finance industry. Branch of the future designs typically feature high-tech queueing systems, interactive touch screens, visually stunning design elements, automated processes, and seamless self-service machines or video tellers. While these branches are inspiring and compelling, and may represent the future of banking, there is still one concern: does a technology-focused branch meet the needs of every customer? Or is it alienating some customer segments that are less digitally-savvy, have physical limitations, or simply prefer in-person face-to-face interaction?
For example, digital services could be overwhelming to an older customer who may be unfamiliar with computers and smartphones. In a 2016 survey by the U.S. Federal Reserve, it was found 18 percent of U.S. seniors (age 60-plus) used mobile financial services compared to 67 percent of Millennials. Furthermore, to a person with less visual acuity, a digitally focused experience may be difficult, and to a customer who prefers to interact with a person that is physically present, a video teller may be frustrating. These customer segments could develop a negative impression of their bank if it changes and leaves them behind.
So, how can banks avoid alienating those that prefer non-digital interaction? Designing a bank that meets a diverse set of needs is a challenging but not impossible task. Shikatani Lacroix has been faced with this challenge of combining both digital technology and human connection in banking experiences through numerous projects with financial institutions. The following three strategies to create an inclusive and innovative banking experience have emerged:
1. Diversify in-branch services and maintain in-person options
With reduced traffic in branches, the cost of staffing becomes expensive. Technological solutions such as self-service kiosks and video conferencing can solve this problem, and work well for some customers. But for others, these solutions are unacceptable since they prefer to visit a branch to speak to a staff member. Therefore, a varied service offering, mixing contemporary methods with traditional services, can meet diverse needs. In our experience designing banks, a mix of approaches have been used to cater to different customer segments, and to provide different options along the customer journey. In these projects, solutions were introduced to create a branch of the future that would meet both customer needs and the financial institution’s needs. For example, to solve staffing concerns, the inclusion of a “Universal Banker” where one staff member is well versed in many areas was explored. Self-serve technological options and staff training programs were also considered. To reduce confusion that can accompany futuristic designs, clear in-branch signage and intuitive branch flow were made a priority. And for in-person discussions, private pods were incorporated into the design.
2. Offer in-branch educational workshops
Another way to help customers who are averse to digital banking is to offer educational sessions inside the branch. We have integrated educational areas such as “Learning Lounges,” into bank design as well as telecommunication retail design projects. To make these areas engaging, consideration of seating and demonstration style is important. Teaching customers and allowing for questions and discussions can help ease their distrust and anxiety of technological methods. These areas can also be used for financial education, and can attract customers to visit the branch and create social support.
3. Improve digital accessibility
Digital accessibility is a priority for our digital experiences department. People with less visual acuity and fine motor control may have more difficulty operating computers, smartphones, tablets, and touch screens, and therefore accessibility is important to consider. And yet, a simpler experience will benefit all customers, not just those with physical limitations. Taking into account elements such as font sizes, clear navigation, and consistent design across content can go a long way in making a digital experience more accessible to customers with varying familiarity with the technology.
Therefore, it is important to keep some personal interaction within banks for those that prefer that method. It is equally important to consider offering digital education in branches, and improve digital accessibility. Perhaps even the tech-savvy are craving a more personal in-branch experience since it is the only channel in which it can occur. If these three strategies are addressed, a wider range of customers will feel comfortable in high-tech branch of the future banks, leading to higher brand satisfaction and potential revenue growth. While a shift towards mobile and digital solutions is necessary to remain relevant in today’s market and meet the needs of a growing tech-savvy customer base, it is also important to consider the consequences of these changes on different customer segments.