Case study: Customer experience by design

How can design differentiate you in a commodity market? National Australia Bank asked DNA and Warren and Mahoney to redefine customer experience.

customer experience by designBanking has become increasingly commoditised, and on both sides of the Tasman, competition for customers is intense. Banks wanting to stay ahead of the curve are increasingly looking to reduce their formality and waiting times, and look for efficiency as they offer more and more technology-facilitated self-service. Design agency DNA, in partnership with architects Warren and Mahoney, has risen to the challenge of making that happen, while keeping things personal and familiar in order to differentiate National Australia Bank (NAB) with a “signature retail experience”.

Steve Maskell, principal at DNA, says many people’s response to banks is that they are a bit old-fashioned, boring, or “not about me” but rather about the bank.

“When customers say they want something else, they’re generally being informed by all their other retail and service experiences, not just banking. That sounds like a great opportunity – but we’ve also learnt it’s all about balance. You can make changes to the experience but you still need to work like a bank and do the things most people generally expect banks to do.”

Following a successful partnership working together on the BNZ store network, DNA again worked with Warren and Mahoney to pitch and win against several Australian agencies for the gig. DNA resisted the urge to offer predesigned solutions or best practice, instead offering a collaborative process where the design team and the bank understood and redesigned the customer journey together, every step of the way. It was a winning point in landing the deal and a core principle as the project unfolded.

Gareth Huston, principal at Warren and Mahoney, says the NAB wanted to compete with other retailers for customer time.

“This is a relatively easy prospect when you are an Apple Store, not so easy for aretailer with no physical product and a general perception from the public of long queues and a dated architectural platform.”

dna design agency nzNAB was looking to design an experience that would move them beyond commodity, and for a way to break away from other banks through service experience. They wanted to increase current and new customer engagement, drive sales and increase staff engagement.

Coming up with a solution was all about trusting in an iterative and collaborative process and each other. Maskell explains: “It’s vital that the client is an integral part of the design process, rather than us as a consultancy coming in and saying, ‘Ta-da! This is what we came up with’, and then trying to beat them into submission with that idea.”

In the end the first store in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct was the result of a year-long close collaborative effort. This included spending time understanding the existing customer research, number crunching to see how the bank’s retail outlets were really performing, mining fresh customer and staff insight and undertaking extensive prototyping including full scale walkthroughs set up in a warehouse ‘test-lab’ where user requirements and build cost constraints could be usability tested and balanced.

Previous experience transforming BNZ’s store design had shown it was vital to have the right governance framework in place and make sure the design team was a large part of that decision-making process. A key insight was that while some people’s perception of self-service banking is that it’s only a cost-cutting exercise, many customers relished its speed and efficiency. However, when customers do use self-service options they still want the option of personal support on hand if they get stuck. This thinking helped to inform the development of the serviced, self-service and assisted self- service areas within the new layout.

“We approached the project with a retail lens, we used the analogy of a restaurant as the platform to design off,” Huston says. “People attract people, activating the entry with a concierge, transparent shop fronts, more automation, less queuing, help areas to get non-transactional activities out of the queue. And more choice of meeting and conversation areas and the staff work area delivered as an open ‘kitchen’ with easy access to the retail areas are a hallmark of the solution. Music zones and scent are also key retail drivers.”

Making the transformation happen on the ground at the bank’s incredibly varied locations involved a flexible kit of parts that can be employed effectively and appropriately regardless of the requirements. The results from the first new stores are showing a significant uplift in sales and self-service cash services, as well as improved staff-customer sales engagement. This underscores the strong customer demand – and ultimately satisfaction – for a well designed, self-service customer experience.

DNA’s Last Word: “You create real difference through experience – in this solution, we have proven that empathy, intimacy and efficiency are values both the bank and customers desire.”