Design for better relationships


Design for better relationships

Design for conversations changes the branch in line with what
customers want

How do you make an environment immersive?

How do you make an environment intrinsically more pleasant?

How do you make an environment such that customers want to stay?


The trend for fewer branches and relatively fewer staff are accompanied by many new and many more technologies. But customers still want to meet financial experts in the flesh. The good news? Employees no longer simply promote the bank’s products and services. Rather, aided by intimate insights into each customer’s characteristics and goals, they play a savvier game. In every conversation with a customer, they focus on what he or she wants and can achieve.


Each member of staff concentrates not just on the customer’s needs, but also on their purpose and talents – what their overall financial circumstances and skills, which are very personal to them, give them the capacity to do. And there’s more good new. Branch design has helped staff take on this higher calling. Working closely with experts in Human Resources and IT, the designers of the next generation organise the design of everything – above all, interiors, but obviously, also, product branding, document handling and digital media – so that staff deliver the highest quality, most meaningful service, and do so in the most efficient manner.


By setting the right tone and by making their jobs easier, design has given the bank’s front-line workers the means swiftly to make the changes they notice customers wanting. Evolving design continuously helps branch staff adapt the branch environment, and more importantly their own conduct, to customers’ changing goals.


Future focused design has helped staff move up from the narrow tasks of handling transactions and selling products and services. From training materials, through communications from the bank’s HQ, to the way the branch organises lines of sight and different kinds of conversation, design lights the way for even junior workers to present themselves to the customer as lucid, up-the-minute informants on every aspect of their money.


Design lays out the physical context and the cues to encourage employees to act both as polymaths of banking, and as masters of listening and conversation.


Banks no longer pretend to be mainstream retailers, complete with branches as channels. Instead, banks act more personally and more informally. As a result, branch design has shifted emphasis. The overall fabric of the branch remains important – but the bigger issues are seating that sets the right posture, acoustics that allow for privacy, rooms and work areas that make for rapport, media that are readily intelligible.


Design no longer serves just salesmanship. Instead, it always stands ready to upgrade the physical context for interpersonal conversation and action, so as to assist the fresh kinds of collaboration, and the idiosyncratic solutions, customers always now seek from banks.


Customers now want to discuss their affairs with trusted mentors, boffins, wizards, agony aunts and playmates. Design gives branch staff the physical and electronic tools to play these new roles to perfection. As a consequence, customers feel in charge, because they are in charge. And they tell their family and friends about that feeling.

  • Richard Benson

    Managing Creative Director