Designing the Banking Theater

With a history in architectural design and production, I have a come across clients wanting to refresh their branch design. I have heard on various occasions from clients that they need to update their facility to increase business. Is this thinking a bit short-sighted in the idea that something new, or renewed, creates attraction? In the short-term, possibly, yet in the long-term, it’s not really a strong solution.

In a conversation about design, spaces, and places of the Experience Economy, I shared my thoughts about space change for a business. What I offered was this, don’t change the design to improve the business, improve the business which will change the design. When an organization embraces the Experience Economy, a series of intentional changes happen. Changes that focus on how the business’ culture engages customers, how the brand promise is fulfilled during the experience, and what the design of the space will become where the experience is staged.

Staging an experience is a universal and holistic enhancement in every aspect of business. The experience you wish to stage requires the staff to fulfill unique roles as performers. These performers also need a stage in which to engage customers. The traditional “service” model design of a branch lobby may not be adequate to accomplish and support the proper setting for the experience.

One must view the branch as the branded theater and the lobby as the experience stage. Everything must be about engaging the customer with intention and purpose. Having the right setting is key to this idea. The space—depending on the desired experience—must be designed around the engagement rather than shoe-horning the experience into a space. This is not to say it can’t be done in an existing space, only that the current conditions may not support the new roles of the staff nor the desired interaction effectively.

Before you begin the redesigning of any space, determine its purpose and what elements are needed to support the experience you plan to stage. And I do stress unique because each staged experience is unique to the brand and the place. It is part of the harmonizing impressions needed for an experience. Applying a space design that either reflects a traditional service delivery or is a merely a copy of another’s design will eventually fail the intention of the experience or digress the model back down to a service economy model.

Staging an experience for a customer is an intentional act. An act that requires the stage and theater to be appropriately designed for that unique customer experience. It must also support the staff to perform and provide the proper conditions for the experience. Think of the branch as your brand theater and the lobby is the experience stage. The space that houses the experience should be as unique as the experience itself.

Here’s my suggestion. Before any pen goes to paper, determine and storyboard the experience you wish your customers to engage in. Define the environmental elements that support the engagement. Then begin designing the space needed to house the elements and movement within the space which reinforce the desired experience. Eliminate anything that is non-essential or is a negative cue to the overall experience.

Elevating the business from a service model to that of an experience for the customer will change the design of the space—a space that is the business theater.

About Kevin Dulle, CEEE
Certified Experience Economy Expert (CEEE) and Director, Experience Innovations
Strategy Team - NewGround

Kevin M. Dulle, Certified Experience Economy Expert (CEEE), is Director of the Experience Innovations Strategy Team at NewGround, an experiential design build firm. He has spent over 25 years serving the financial industry with strategic planning, visual thinking, and experiential business development. With visual translations and graphic thinking techniques, Kevin guides clients in discovering unique strategic solutions, develop long-term planning options and organize complex concepts into cohesive strategies.