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« Dialogues with Gensler: Virtual Retail-ity | Main | Tales from the Tramshed »

Building Trust... in a Building

I recently wrote a blog post about "the space between" — the open space inside a bank between the tellers and the offices that has previously been used for brochures and forms — focused almost solely on facilitating transactions rather than forging relationships. Thanks to smartphones and mobile technology, we consumers increasingly manage transactions online and with hand-held devices, and rarely go into the bank anymore. Simultaneously due to the down economy, we trust big bankers less than ever before. So what does that physical space in the bank become? Is the local bank at risk of becoming obsolete? How can the bank and its customers re-engage?

In August 2010, Gensler conducted a survey to measure our habits, preferences and perceptions as customers of banks. These are some of the things we discovered:

  • 58% of us only visit a bank a few times a year; 9% of never go inside a bank anymore at all.
  • Meanwhile, 95% of us use online banking, and 82% of that user group banks online at least once a week.
  • When gathering information about financial services and products, we overwhelmingly prefer to do our own research online.
  • But, when we have a question or need help from a customer service representative, we shift to a strong desire to connect with a human: 37% prefer to connect by phone and 41% of us prefer to meet in person when we need help.
  • 61% of us would be more likely to visit a bank branch more often if we could get valuable advice/information without pressure to buy or sign up for something.
  • And 62% of us say that convenient branches are our #1 reason for remaining a customer of our bank - so we really do want to be close.

Therefore, as we increasingly conduct transactions outside of the bank, branches have the opportunity to evolve into learning centers connecting customers with knowledgeable experts: building relationships of trust. Brainstorming over lunch with our own retail designers and brand strategists about what this means for retail bank design, we heard keywords like smart, connected, familiar, authentic, comfortable, honest, residential, real, tangible, private and personal. And now we're developing specific design solutions that address these values.

How would you define your ideal neighborhood bank branch? What would encourage you to go back to the bank more often?

Lance Boge is a former design director for Gensler’s global retail practice, and principal in our New York office. With over 30 years of experience in branded environments, prototype and retail design, Lance directed the practice with a keen awareness of the impact that consumer insights, research and trends have on the built environment.

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Reader Comments (1)

I haven't been to a bank branch in years because I don't have to...all online and I am fine with that. I never saw the need to interact with my bank beyond transactions....they'd have to offer me free massages to go to a branch.
10.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterKEK

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