When I was a young newlywed, I used to go to the same old-time barbershop that my father went to. I’d love going in for a hair cut because they knew me and I’d always be sure to hear some new story of the old days, which would usually involve a relative of mine. I stopped going after a few years for a simple reason: it took too long for me to get my haircut. The head barber had a fatal flaw: he couldn’t talk and cut hair at the same time, and he sure loved to talk. I miss that time I used to spend with the old folks in that barbershop, but in this time-sensitive world I must frequent service establishments that are going to give me what I need quickly. This is especially true in the realm of financial services, and in particular for credit unions, which need to provide superior services while they build trust-based relationships. Therefore, the branch experience has to be designed with this dual goal in mind, using every design element within the branch to achieve this.

The traditional model for the branch experience fostered an arms-length business relationship. Over the last 20 years many attempts have been made to improve the experience by focusing on creating personal relationships with the members. The latest trend in branch design that has taken root over the last 10 years is the “Retail” model for financial service delivery. Its basic premise is that financial services should be sold in a retail environment, rich in marketing/graphic content that positions the institution’s services as if they were different brands of sneakers. This model discards all the elements of a traditional branch.

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