Design_
Social

An Article
by
Gareth Huston
08–04–15

01

What do customers want from their bank and how can design help deliver these evidence based solutions? 

That’s the question that faced Warren and Mahoney when they were commissioned by National Australia Bank to help develop their extensive physical footprint for multiple formats spanning Personal and Business banks throughout Australia.

It was perhaps easier to understand what customers didn’t want: queues and wasted lunch hours. To get to the heart of the matter, Warren and Mahoney instigated a process of evidence gathering, based on customer experience, that we call Design_Social. It’s a holistic way of thinking that permeates Warren and Mahoney’s methodology.

The socialising of design is nothing new: design should always respond to human behaviours and needs. But Design_Social goes one step further. The outcome is end-user focussed, while simultaneously producing results in a business sense and a direct conection to return on investment through evidence based design. It delivers return on investment and positions the client with a sustainable advantage within their industry.

In the case of NAB, Warren and Mahoney worked with stakeholders and the in-house customer-experience team to develop early testing of design thinking. This was achieved through a selection of business-as-usual store refits, getting real-time feedback from customers and staff. A prototype environment was also set up in a West Melbourne warehouse to facilitate off-grid testing and pre-design physical evaluation. By prototyping, we can test reaction and smooth the way to change. 

Design_Social mapped the customer journey and identified some key moments (touchpoints) in banking that called for something different. The process led to a robust, future-proofed design that could be infused throughout the physical network at an omni-channel level. This complex, multi-layered strategy spans the virtual world and connects into the physical entity both hard and soft. Put simply, it’s a solution that embraces technology, fit-out and people.

The first new NAB Retail store opened in Docklands, Melbourne in early 2012. It was centred on open-plan teller and customer help zones. There were multiple sales areas ranging from those where staff stood out in the open ready to greet customers to semi-private café booths and sectioned-off private meeting rooms. 

The socialising of design is nothing new: design should always respond to human behaviours and needs. But Design_Social goes one step further. 

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One of the biggest challenges for banks is to be seen as a conventional retailer since they don’t have the physical products to attract customers and instigate interest and conversation. Through the testing phase, Warren and Mahoney identified the need to streamline customer types through a ‘managed floor’ philosophy.  Faster non-cash transactions were split out of the main teller queue by positioning staff as journey ‘interrupters’ at the store entrance. These are not concierge positions (as other banks are doing) but an integral part of the transaction line. The result?  A decrease in queue time and an increase in customer/banker connectivity – a more social space.

The financial markets are becoming ever more complex. While technology can help customers to partially understand products, banker experience can personalise the offer – an important differentiator in today’s self-service world. Design_Social meant putting the workstations out on the floor with a soft boundary to customer areas. Most competitors continue to install expensive glass boxes where staff can hide out and customers can’t access them. This new way of working at NAB was embraced by the staff and contributed to the overall experience in a few surprising ways. It allowed a more secure environment with all eyes facing the entry doors; bankers on the floor were able to assist customers more quickly; it created a no-barrier, egalitarian space for customers and finally, staff found that the flexi-desk environment enabled better communication and team collaboration.

Warren and Mahoney has since applied these successful Design_Social strategies to other NAB formats including their Smart Stores, Business Centres, and Modular.

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National Australia Bank Smart Store
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National Australia Bank Modular format
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National Australia Bank Business Customer Centre
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Another example is the recent NAB Modular format, a more accessible, compact environment made up of a series of components that can be combined to deliver over 80% of transactional capability in comparison to their main store cousins – off the back of a truck. The ability to place Modular where their customers are is a breakthrough in developed bank thinking. Testing this revolutionary format was completed in a warehouse in late 2014. The environment was created in cardboard so that customer and staff testing was intuitive, iterative and fast. Moving boxes around to meet customer needs as they were performing tasks enabled the design team to quickly and efficiently gauge reaction and socialise the results.

Design_Social is an integral part of the Warren and Mahoney toolbox which, in this instance, was instrumental in the development of user-friendly, staff-enabled environments that respond to customer needs by challenging the norm. 

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