What can I learn from your branch design?

Whenever I walk through shopping centres or main streets I can’t resist looking into the customer areas (formerly known as banking chambers) of financial institutions.

They tell me a lot about the organisation’s business model and their approach to compliance.

In fact if I’m visiting a client I prefer to walk in the front door rather than the side or back executive entrance.

I’m not a “mystery shopper”, so what am I looking for?

Apart from the general atmosphere (is it fresh or tired, open or formal?) I look at the level of the staff counters. Are the staff standing behind bulletproof glass? They’re usually the cashiers under strict instructions not to give advice but can smile and make small talk if there isn’t a queue. (Those airport ribbon queues are now standard equipment in bank service centres).

If the staff are sitting down at open desks in the main area  it means they have more time to talk to you and are probably trained personal advisers.

Can customers hear your staff talking with or about other customers?

Can customers see internal sales memos on staff desks? Or other customer’s files? 

Are all conversations with customers scripted? Are special offers in a conspicuous place?

Are there self-service kiosks or a battery of ATM’s placed between the customer entry and staff?

Or must you sit and watch a TV with corporate ads while you wait for your number to be called?

Are the ads ambiguous or misleading?

Are there pre-printed brochures and comparison rates posters? Are they current?

Are the brochures mixed up untidily in a rack, different topics, different version dates?

Are there signs about Codes of Practice, complaints and dispute resolution?

Where are the brochures placed? At the entrance or the back? Or are brochures only printed on demand after speaking to a customer service officer?

Is there a manager’s office with a closed solid door? Or is it clear glass (so other customers can see who he is talking to) or does the manager sit in an open office? Does this mean the branch manager has some delegated authority or is he just a post box and are all decisions centralised?

There are a lot of issues involved in branch design (including balancing customer convenience, privacy, costs and staff and customer security) but don’t forget what your design says about your approach to compliance.

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