After building a life-size prototype of its new branch concept — out of cardboard — Australia’s largest banking co-op has rolled out its vision of the future, including roaming concierges and an herb wall.
CUA, the largest customer-owned financial cooperative in Australia, has rolled out its vision for the branch of the future. The concept doesn’t look anything like a typical branch, and that’s the point.
“CUA Carindale doesn’t look or feel like a bank, and this is what we set out to achieve,” stated Darrin Northey, a General Manager with CUA.
And indeed, that’s exactly what they did. Among the many innovative features in CUA’s future branch concept:
- Roaming Concierges – A team of five roam the branch, offering help and assistance
- The Photo Wall – customers can post snapshots of themselves, what’s important to them, their local community and events. Photos can be taken and printed on-the-spot in the branch or sent online. The wall holds 1,200 photos total.
- The Herb Wall – for customers to enjoy a fresh and fragrant vibe from real herbs they can take home
- YouChat app – a relationship-building tool for staff iPads, including a Personal Needs Profile with appropriate prompts
- Touch Board – a 46” Heumi table for customers to play, learn, explore and transact. User options include: surfing the web, playing games like Space Invaders or Pong, financial calculators, YouTube videos, eBrochures, interest rate information and a branch/ATM locator.
- The Billboard – a plasma wall (3 x 246” LCD screens) displaying a local narrative, rotating news articles and product features
- iPad Window Bar – for customers to play, learn, explore and transact
- The Kids Zone – iPads with games to entertain and engage young guests
- The Cove, The Curve and The Corner – one semi-private meeting spaces and two fully-enclosed areas where customers can discuss personal details in a relaxed setting
- The Bench – a space for casual transactions, including a cash recycling machine and modern monitors on arms that articulate to any angle
- The Booth – a self-service zone
- The Chalk Board – a space for local messages, including a digital display
- The Cafe – lounge area with self-service, including an automatic self-service espresso machine
- The Penguin – a coin machine that’s free up to $100 in change
“Our focus has been on the seamless integration of a relaxed, organic, warm and inviting environment, with the buzz and convenience of leading digital technology for our customers to explore opportunities and transact,” Northey explained further. “The result is fresh, contemporary and interactive.”
CUA says customers are encouraged to relax, learn, play, and explore within the space.
“We see our branch spaces as becoming far more than transaction and process based, or sci-fi service centers that alienate people,” Northey said. “We want people to stop-in at our branch, to feel inspired and at home with us.”
Life-Size Prototype Built From Cardboard
Along with CUA’s new branch design would come a new service model — many big changes, all at once. So to test various aspects of the branch experience, CUA built a life-size prototype in a factory warehouse near Brisbane. To keep costs down, they built it out of cardboard.
“I mean we literally had a factory of big boxes we sat in and shuffled around to get the best result,” recalls Northey with a smile.
Shuffling the boxes around enabled CUA to get a real understanding of how the operational model, service design and technology would all fit together.
CUA says the life-size cardboard mock-up not only ensured the new concept would look fantastic, but would also deliver a superior, functional customer experience.
This conceptual replica made it much easier for CUA to debug ahead of the location’s scheduled completion date. Branch staff immersed themselves in the concept for two straight weeks, experimenting and interacting within the full-scale cardboard model. Staff were able to figure out what was working and what wasn’t while familiarizing themselves with the layout, functionality and overall service design. Training covered a complete range of technical skills, team operating patterns, behavioral and experiential training. By the time the brick-and-mortar space opened, branch staff were fully prepared.
“Our team of home and customer service specialists has had extensive training in our model box-branch,” Northey explained. “From the initial design phase to useability testing and customer service training, the model box-branch has been critical to the successful implementation and configuration of the concept branch.
What Does The Future Hold
When asked whether there are any plans to roll the prototype concept out to other locations, CUA’s Northey is cautious.
“Through the next 12 months we will review the new location and how it engages the community, and we may look to establish the same principles and design elements across the broader branch network,” he said.
Northey said CUA is in the early stages of transforming all of its distribution channels, including investments in branches, the call center, online and mobile platforms.
To complement the new design, CUA’s branch staff also received new uniforms designed by Brisbane-based fashion designer Daniel Lightfoot of Daniel Lightfoot Studios.