When discussing your own branch network and the exciting prospect of a remodel or ground-up project, you often look at your competitors, other institutions for best-in-class branch designs and even brick and mortar sites outside of a branch altogether (Apple anyone?).

While we often talk about what we like and the elements that we may want to emulate in our own project, there is the other side of the story – the “not so goods” and the “what were they thinking” elements.

And so, with that, come on a journey with us down the dark alleyways that are the 7 Deadly Sins of a Bad Branch Strategy.


Location, Location, Location

SIN: For not using data to inform location decisions.

Yes, the saying still holds: Location, Location, Location. But it’s never as simple as just being in the heart of town, on the main thoroughfare or at the right ingress/egress points during rush hour. Knowing your town and your neighborhood helps, but the naked eye and good intuition do not have the luxury of data, particularly the kind of data that is forward thinking and aims to future-proof strategic decisions. The right combination of Consulting Services, which will run the right queries with the right combination of data, will yield results for tomorrow, not just today. Furthermore, the right Real Estate partner goes beyond identifying the vacant building or lot – the right Real Estate partner can find the ideal property that may not even be on the market. They know property valuations and have the experience to negotiate – getting you the right price per square foot.


Empty Space is Scary Space

SIN: For choosing a branch size that is too big.

Gone are the days of 5,000+ square foot branches. With many transactions now happening outside of the branch, oversized branches aren’t necessary. This is not like tennis or golf, where an oversized head increases your sweet-spot. Oversized branches, especially for the amount of transactions occurring, are not sweet. In fact, they just feel wrong. Empty space is sinful. And worse yet, filling it in with an extra Self-Service machine to gather dust or filling it with something else unnecessary altogether is a good strategy gone wrong. Downsizing new branches or reworking the footprint for a remodel is the right approach. Make the branch feel welcoming and purposeful. Not cavernous and empty.


Who Wants a Cuppa This?

SIN: For choosing a design not born from strategy.

This is not about pretty or not. And it’s not about modern or not. A great looking branch can be executed in a historical building, maintaining those historical elements, but does the design do your brand justice? Does it invite people in, foster interactions, flow properly and perhaps ultimately, does it help justify the branch’s existence? The Design is not just about aesthetics, though they are important. The Design should be born out of purpose, rooted in your corporate strategy and further justified by properly serving your customers in that community. Brand Deployment is especially important in a well-executed Design. It’s not just about logos and tag-lines, but the vision, mission and customer-oriented service embodied in the physical Design. So, go design your “Apple Branch,” but only if that design fits within your brand.


Just for the Tech of It

SIN: For introducing technology that is intimidating, unnecessary and goes unused.

It’s everywhere and rightly so. But let’s not do technology for technology’s sake. What was originally seen as a threat to the traditional brick and mortar way of doing banking (yes, we’re talking about online/mobile banking here), the right deployment of technology can actually enhance the branch experience and bring in a true omni-channel approach to transactional touch points. Digital Signage is a great way to take what used to be a static mission or vision statement, and have it brought to life in an engaging and dynamic way upon a customer entering your branch. And since we’re talking about dynamic, a well-deployed fleet of interactive touch screens can enable your customers to discover products or services, check-in, or find their way to the right section of the branch. While video conferencing is not necessarily new, it really seems to have come into its own with practical in-branch applications so customers at one branch can speak to a subject matter expert at a remote location, seamlessly, in real time, and with real, actionable next steps.


SIN: For being too heavily weighted in one customer touch point.

It may sound like a fancy word, but omni-channel is really just the idea of ALL customer touch points not only existing, but existing harmoniously and purposefully with one another. What is born online, may very well terminate in a branch and vice versa. The right branch strategy will take the omni-channel elements into account, have equal weight at the table and understand how they all work together. The epitaph of brick and mortar has yet to be written. After all, 90% of sales still occur at a traditional store across general retail.


SIN: For deploying poorly trained and disengaged employees.

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the food is “fine” but the service is great? You probably keep going back. Conversely, you’ve probably been to a restaurant where the food was really good, but the service lacked – and you probably haven’t been back. Why would your branch be any different? Before we even get to whether your staff has been properly and continually trained, were they even part of the original branch transformation strategy? Taking a step prior in this regard can really go a long way. Your great branch strategy and amazing design will all be for naught when your customers walk into a branch where the staff are disengaged, feel disassociated from the branch, feel that the “new” way of doing things is not their thing, more less, even understand why the technology is there in the first place. Train them well, but make them feel germane to the mission and you will have evangelists delivering amazing customer service.


SIN: For not developing and delivering on a cohesive strategy and executing flawlessly to delight your customers.

When you take the right approach and blend of the six elements above, mix them together with purpose and execution, you have great customer experience. But don’t be confused here. “Customer Service” is NOT “Customer Experience.” A successfully executed transaction may not necessarily have a customer walking out the door, feeling delighted and ready to tell their friends and family it’s time to make the switch. Think big picture here. There’s more than completing the transactional circle of life from hello to goodbye. Remove barriers. Be intuitive. Enable a great flow through design, in the right part of town, with the right sized branch. Have technology enable, not scare. Have your people embody your mission and values, deliver on the promise and make every single customer who walks in want to come back, regardless of the online conveniences of some transactions. That’s a great experience.

For the sins above we have committed, there is not reason to dwell in the past.

Let’s do something about it. If you’re guilty, there’s no judgement here. All we ask is that you begin purging these sins, and that may very well start by you contacting the experts at LEVEL5.