WARREN, Ohio – Seven Seventeen Credit Union wants to usher in a new era of teller line free branches. "The member reaction has been wonderful, they are just stunned when they first walk in," said Seven Seventeen CU Vice President of Administrative Services Cheryl D'Amore. "Then they look for the teller line which isn't there, and as we provide this face-to-face service it goes a long way to further building relationships because we are engaged in the transactions." Wanting to set itself apart from the competition, the credit union opted to emphasize more of an educational and training environment. Working with Columbus-based design/build firm TRIAD Architects they came up with a new prototype branch design built around the concept of "dialogue banking." According to D'Amore, dialogue banking removes traditional barriers between teller and member, replacing them with pods that foster a personalized, member service-oriented retail environment. "It is exciting, one of major things we've done as an organization for our members," said D'Amore. "Think about how long the teller line has been in existence with relatively no changes, and for the most part our grandparents bank the same today as they did before despite all the technology. So we saw a lot of opportunity there for improvement and jumped at the chance to offer something new and still create a more personal relaxed atmosphere that encourages questions and real conversations." In addition to the "pods", which can be operated by all employees, the lobby includes an interactive plasma screen greeter and sign-in, member waiting areas with seating and access to demo displays for ATM demo, Internet/Web access and training, and a 24-hour phone demo. Bold colorful walls and graphics help emphasize the credit union's new approach to banking. A refreshment area and perimeter, high backed booth seating also acts as an important component of the financial services retailing experience by allowing members to interact with Seven Seventeen associates. D'Amore says staffers have been trained to work in the retail environment and they enjoy their roles as engaged advisors rather than order takers. "Initially there were security and cash concerns, but once those were addressed the members and employees alike have been embracing it," said D'Amore. "The experience of this engaging environment where members do some of the work in learning more about the credit union and the services offered has just been wonderful and members are not at all intimidated by the technology." She adds that by doing away with a "lobby environment" members tend to linger more in the space to explore the different areas and there is enough to keep them entertained eliminating the perceived wait time. "This new environment helps us to really get to know our members and vice-versa," said D'Amore.

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