July 16, 2014
Credit Union Management magazine’s Web-only “Facility Solutions” column runs the third Tuesday of the month.
We’ve been talking about how to build a branch prototype for a large credit union that translates the organization’s brand into a captivating member experience. Finding your CU’s unique solution will likely rely on following steps one through 10 from “Engineering Member Experience, Part 1”, as well as the last 10 steps below.
- Create multi-channel symmetry. As you develop your new business model and prototype, consider how the new branch experience will impact all other delivery channels. Is there a way to extend the physical brand experience to the video conference and video teller backdrop? Are the colors and graphics in alignment? How do you transfer a video teller contact to a staff member in the branch? Do all the delivery channels present the same image, voice, and experience?
- Design the initial floor plan. Translate the information collected in previous steps into a schematic floor plan for a selected existing or new space using a typical branch size. Also put merchandising and messaging locations over top of the floor plan to start the conversation about how you will communicate to members and reinforce your messages and stories. This is also the time to overlay your security strategy.
- Define your target budget. The cost of the new prototype must fit within a predetermined return on investment based on current and projected branch performance. The budget then becomes the financial context in which to create the brand experience. The fit and finish of the branch should be designed to align with target member expectations of their favored retail experience, put them at ease, and generate “wow” comments—but still within the budget.
- Consider your staff. It is all about the member, but to ensure the best experience for members, we must consider staff as well. The look and feel members get should extend into the staff areas so employees feel considered and important. This is particularly true as we start to increase our performance expectations of staff and move them from process workers to knowledge workers. We have seen incredibly positive responses from staff when they see the back-office spaces in new locations are well designed and nearly match the front office fit and finish.
- Create merchandising, messaging and signage standards. Merchandising and messaging are physical means of delivering your products and services and brand stories. They are the focus of each key observation point along the member path and they reinforce staff awareness. The merchandising concepts and standards must be developed at the same time the branch prototype is created. If not, they become an afterthought and the impact is significantly reduced.
- Integrate all equipment. At this point in the process, the new brand experience is well on its way toward perfection. But it cannot operate without the right equipment in the right locations. The detailed specifications for each item of equipment, messaging, and signage are now integrated into the design, providing the right sightlines, heights, ergonomics, power, cabling, airflow, adjacencies, and lighting.
- Develop the final floor plan. The final floor plan presents the member and staff experience in a form that is understood by all members of the team. It is the final representation of the new brand experience. This plan is then used to complete construction documents and specifications for all branch elements and used for final pricing, ordering, permitting, and construction.
- Present the new branded branch prototype. You and your team have invested a good deal of time and effort into creating the new brand image and experience. This needs to be presented in a number of forms. If properly prepared, the prototype documents can be used to promote the new concept to staff, members, and the community. If the work included a walk-through video of the concept, it can be used both for training and posted on your website and social media outlets.
- Select the right location and staff for testing the concept. Taking the concept to reality is the proof. The new brand concept requires new ways of looking at employee responsibilities and management expectations. The most successful credit unions have selected their top performers to operate the first new concepts and help teach others and provide feedback for constant improvement. The right staff selection and training are essential to the success of the new concept. The prototype documents and guidelines can be used to educate staff and help them understand how to live the brand and be successful within the new environment. The right site is also key to initial testing. Which of your branches best align with your future target market characteristics? By matching target markets to the new brand experience, you will get accurate feedback about how the branch will perform today and in evolving markets in the future.
- Pursue perfection. In the past, people expected that an initial branch design would be absolutely perfect upon first installation and could be used for the next five to seven years as the prototype. Not so today. Technology, changing consumer expectations, new products and services, and competitors require that we look at each branch as a stage or lab for constantly perfecting the brand experience.
Branches are here for the foreseeable future, albeit in new advanced forms that increase productivity, growth, and ROI. Branches are the best place to create member engagement and intimacy that emotionally transfers over to remote delivery channels. And, they are expensive to develop and operate. We must get the most out of every member visit and deliver a brand experience that elevates your credit union above the competition. The right team, process, and execution will deliver a killer brand experience to members, staff, and the communities you serve. It will also create a catalyst for change that can help your organization evolve into the future.
Paul Seibert, CMC, is VP/financial design at CUES Supplier member EHS Design, Seattle.
Photo credit: Dollarphotoclub.com/denis_pc