Customer Service in the Modern Bank
If you’ve ever wondered what the bank branch of the future will look like, look no further than the Barclays store at Piccadilly Circus, London. Positioned directly beneath the famous illuminated logos, the new branch looks more like a retail store than a bank, which is precisely the effect Barclays intended to achieve.
The ‘brand concept’ branch makes extensive usage of interactive technology to convey information about banking products and engage customers – and Barclays have clearly made an effort to fit in with innovative retailers like Apple, who are just round the corner on Regent Street. Mike Amato, Chief Distribution and Product Officer for Barclays: “We have taken inspiration from retailers such as Apple and Nike, and developed a space that attracts and engages individuals whilst conveying what the Barclays brand represents.”And the branch looks by no means out of place here, even though it is away from the traditional financial heart of London. From the outside, it looks more like a shop than a bank, with its welcoming glass-fronted window that lets passers-by see in. Indeed, passers-by, not just Barclays’ customers or those who want to use the self-service area, are an important part of the visitors Barclays are trying to attract. One of the most eye-catching installations in the branch is the large video wall, which represents a landscape of London overlaid with activities taking place in London and comments from blogs about the area. A line of touch screen kiosks situated directly in front of the video wall enable tourists and other visitors to interact with the wall and post their own thoughts on it, as well as access a wide range of local information on London.
The extensive self-service area is situated at the entrance to the bank, so that it is easily visible and accessible, with signs above the terminals letting customers know what function each ATM boasts. As well as traditional ATMs, the store also contains foreign currency dispensing ATMs (something foreign tourists are particularly receptive to), automated cheque and cash deposit ATMs and account managers. Wincor Nixdorf is the primary solutions provider for these kiosks. There is also a coin deposit ATM for the local businesses to deposit their takings more quickly and conveniently. The account manager gives customers access to banking services through another channel which is very similar to internet and phone banking. There are also internet banking kiosks available upstairs, so customers can access their accounts online with the assurance that the connection is completely secure.
Cheque deposit at ATMs, especially automated cheque deposit, is a function on the rise in bank branches around Europe, but here the cheque that customers scan in is immediately credited to their account, as the ATM reads the cheque and deposit slip. Handwriting recognition technology means that customer can use the same deposit slip at the ATM that they would use at a counter.
The account managers and deposit ATMs are operated via a touch screen interface in combination with a full keyboard with trackball. This mix of interfaces ensures the highest level of usability for the customer. Staff are on hand with handheld PCs to answer customer enquiries as quickly as possible and to direct them to the self-service area to save potential queues to see a member of staff.
The focus on interactivity can be seen throughout this branch, where Barclays were the first bank in Europe to pilot the Microsoft Surface. Used as a way of interactively showing information about their Premier banking propositions, this interactive tabletop surface replaces the traditional coffee table supporting a pile of leaflets. Instead, the coffee table has become the source of information. Customers can also request that the information they have browsed be sent to their mobile phone to take away with them. Rafaele Petruzzo, Head of Concept Development at Barclays, emphasised that this is a very intuitive interface: “Touch screens have become so much part of our life that people are already used to this technology and how it is operated.”
Digital signage is also used to good effect behind the counters, where news and Barclays messages are played. The bank has found that the digital signage makes a big difference to customers’ perceived queuing time. And because the digital signage is only active above a counter if the position is manned, no stations look unoccupied.
When the branch closes late in the evening, the interactivity is by no means over, as the window now comes to life. Images of passersby are picked up using facial recognition technology and cameras to create moving silhouettes of them on the screen together with thought bubbles containing random messages.
Elements of the design from this flagship store, like the self-service area and the counter digital signage, are being rolled out across the entire Barclays branch network in the UK (currently 1,733 branches).