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NAB Unveils First ‘Smart Store’ Branch Design

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National Australia Bank opened its first ever “Smart Store,” with an interactive format that blends iPads, touchscreens and self-service technology with “hip-to-hip” conversations.

Welcome to NAB’s new “Smart Store,” where there are no traditional tellers. Customers instead choose from a range of self-service “intelligent machines.”

NAB says its “intelligent deposit machines” are the first of their kind to be used in Australia, and can accept up to 50 checks or banknotes at a time. Several self-service stations were designed specifically for small business customers. They can be accessed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

NAB says the new location is 25% smaller than traditional branches, and heavily focused on self-service.

“That’s in response to transactions from branches declining by 9% over the last twelve months,” said Peter Holmes, head of network planning and design at NAB in an interview. “We continue to see that shift to online and mobile.”

nab_store_staff_ipadsAll store staff have been equipped with iPads. Employees are sent notifications when customers enter the store, and when they use one of the “help iPads.” Staff iPads are also fitted with NAB applications as well as popular apps used by customers.

One of the key features in the new branch is a large Samsung touchscreen which allows staff to saddle up side-by-side with consumers for what NAB calls “hip-to-hip conversations.” Visitors to the branch can also email themselves product information for later reading.

The bank is experimenting with a “mobile demo bar,” fitted with an iPad and three of the most popular smartphones on the market today. NAB employees will use these mobile devices to walk customers through the registration process for internet banking. NAB digital retailing manager Helena Athans likened it to an Apple “Genius Bar” where customers can be educated and activate certain things.

The Smart Store will feature a NAB-designed ‘Come Help Me’ interactive app using iPads, allowing customers to book appointments with bankers and navigate their way around the store.

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Vicki Carter, Executive General Manager of NAB Retail, said the Smart Store represents the latest evolution in NAB’s strategy for its branch network.

“Retail stores will always play a critical role in banking,” she explains. “They are where customer relationships are formed. That’s why we constantly refurbish and revitalize our network — to meet the changing and diverse needs of customers.”

Why did Carter decide to call it a “Smart Store?”

“It’s a ‘Smart Store’ because our people are working in tandem with innovative and intuitive technology to ensure our customers get a truly integrated digital and face-to-face experience.”

Carter says NAB’s new Smart Store format is different from traditional- or full-service’ branch locations.

“Gone are conventional tellers – and with them the queues and waiting for transactions that can easily be done by the customer alone,” she notes. “There are no ‘cash drawers’ and some transactions will need to take place in a full service branch, such as buying foreign currency or withdrawing more than $1000 over the counter.”

Antony Cahill, Executive General Manager of Digital and Direct Banking at NAB, says Smart Store technology was engineered to “support and enhance customer interactivity on site.”

“The store will focus on channel integration,” explains Cahill. “There is a host of self-service machines where customers can quickly manage deposits and withdrawals, along with a suite of other digital banking solutions.”

“We’re increasingly seeing our customers migrate to self-service or digital channels like mobile banking,” Cahill continues. “But not at the exclusion of traditional channels. Our ‘Smart Store’ integrates all those options.”

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Gamified Staff Training for New Technologies, New Experience

NAB worked with culture consultant and change agent Jennifer Frahm to help staff acclimate to the new branch environment. Frahm drew heavily on the principles of gamification in her training session. She built a game — complete with rules — that was a cross between a scavenger hunt and a mystery shop exercise.

Each banker had to go to a set number of retail environments and carry out tasks tied to behaviors or skills they would need in the new store. iPads were the central gamepiece, helping staff build competence with their new digital devices.

“For maximum learning effect, practice needs to be contextual, mirroring the situation where the learning will be applied as closely as possible,” Frahm explains. “Game design often uses avatars or role-playing as a way of making it safe to try new things. When playing a role, you don’t take it personally if you get feedback that you need to do better.”

“The use of points, badges and leaderboards are key elements of game design that aid motivation,” Frahm continues. “In this game we had the senior business executives and leaders give badges to staff comments that showed great insight. ‘Level upgrades’ were facilitated by two tasks that were extra difficult.”

To follow up and test what staff had learned, Frahm got 40 pretend customers to go in the day before the branch was set to open and test various scenarios. Frahm then conducted interviews with the role-playing “customers” and said the results came back pretty good.

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