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First Impressions: What Your Banking Branches Say About You

Chris Kappen

When it comes to banking, the branch might seem like it's going the way of the dodo bird. With the movement toward online and mobile banking and self-service finances, it can be easy to forget that your retail branches are the last vestiges of true face-to-face interaction with your customers.

But if you're not taking advantage of what you have, what does the state of your branches run the risk of saying to your customers?

"I'm unapproachable."

The modern banking customer wants to engage on equal footing with his or her teller, and the traditional, unapproachable teller counter separating customer and banker is creating an unwanted barrier. So what to do with those pesky counters? Get rid of them! Who needs the counters when you can walk amongst your customers? Get your tellers on the move with tablets in hand to speak with customers, who can take a comfortable seat in the branch instead of standing in an agonizing line. Walk them through opening a checking account, applying for a loan or depositing a check in a personable, conversational setting.

"I don't understand my customers."

Whether you consider yourself one or not, banks and credit unions have truly become retail spaces. And with big-box stores and major consumer brands entering the retail-banking marketplace, getting into the retail mindset is key to improving your customer experience and keeping your branch foot traffic high. You and your fellow staff members have to get into the retailer mindset. Emulate the brands that are doing it right – they’re all focusing on user experience. Target customers of all ages by making your in-branch experience desirable. Install a coffee bar, offer free Wi-Fi, create meeting spaces for community groups – position yourself as a place in which people want to spend time.

"I'm out of touch."

You know the stereotype – banks need to be brick buildings with plain walls and sensible, boxy furniture. When you enter a retail space that is overtly sterile and free of personality, you’re unlikely to feel welcomed and warmly embraced enough for a return visit. Change it up. Give your branches a specific set of colors and iconography that you can push across all of your physical locations, collateral materials and web presences for a consistency in experience. And uncomfortable, boxy furniture isn’t inviting – add couches and chairs in pleasing positions that will encourage walk-ins to kick back and stay a while.

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