10 October 2012
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Bringing service design into retail banking

Retail banking is nearly unavoidable service in modern life, and the hassle of changing banks means that customers remain customers despite a service experience that is usually less than ideal. But opportunities for improvement exist.

Unlike many service sectors, retail banking is slow to evolve; held back by a reliance on highly complex (and limiting) back-end systems, and physical environment that remains essentially unchanged over decades, and very little innovation in the way products and services are packaged and delivered.

It’s no surprise then that very few banks try to break out of the usual way of doing business, and focus on putting in place significant improvements to the customer experience.

In 2005 in Berlin, Deutsche Bank opened the doors of a branch dedicated to doing just that. Named Q110, the branch has served as a flagship (and testing ground) for customer-focused concepts, some of which have been subsequently rolled out to other branches nationwide. Gone are the queues, glass-enclosed staff and racks of brochures. Coffee, sofas and interactive tools which are used by advisors have taken their place.

However there is one key factor standing in the way of replicating these successes everywhere: Back-end systems that drive processes everywhere else simply can’t be quickly changed in order to do business the Q110 way. As a result, the concept has earned some criticism for delivering innovation that can’t be widely implemented. More evidence – therefore – that true improvements in customer experience don’t rely only on cosmetic changes to a service; they need to be implemented from the bottom-up.

But on the simpler side, the face of a bank that’s seen much more often than a branch can benefit from improvements to the experience: the website. An investment in a better online presence can deliver very quick wins, and experiences are further improved by new players in the financial services market such as mint.com, which relies on the participation of retail banks themselves.

Source: “Service Design and Technology in Retail Banking” (imacor.eu)

Business processes (14), Customer experience (65), Service design (39)

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