Q&A: The Three Most Common Mistakes Credit Unions Make in Branch Design
in League Initiatives

Sundeep Kapur, digital and consumer engagement strategist, will be presenting a one-day NJCUL Workshop on Branch Transformation, on Tuesday, February 7. The session is designed for anyone that has ever wondered how they can make their investment in a branch, its people, and all the associated technologies more productive for the credit union, and more valuable to members as well.

This is the second of a two-part interview with Sundeep, where he discusses with NJCUL President/CEO David Frankil the three most common mistakes credit unions make in redesigning branches, and what our competitors are doing.

Frankil: You’ve worked with credit unions of all sizes across the country – in the first part of this interview we talked a bit about best practices, now help us see the other side. What are the most common mistakes you see credit unions make when thinking through a branch redesign?

Kapur: What I see most often are three basic mistakes:

  1. Assuming that if we redesign the branch, members will come
  2. That we need to completely rebuild it, in a very expensive way
  3. Believing that technology will solve everything – new gadgets will bring members in, and magically create significant efficiencies and drive new revenue

These are all potential logical starting points, but we need to take a step back and think strategically and modularly. Modular means looking at every aspect of the branch, inside and outside, as part of our overall member experience and growth strategy. Outside includes signage, ATMs, parking – in general, does the branch look nice and inviting, making it easy for members to engage. On the inside, it means looking at multiple service zones.

Frankil: In the first part of this interview, we talked about service zones in the context of modeling the member journey. How does that get translated into branch design concepts?

Kapur: We need to think about what it takes to design and plan for each service zone based on what we expect (and want) to have happen there. For example:

  • Transactional – Members need checks, or want to change an address – typically less than 5 minutes in the branch
  • Service issues – like late payments, fraud on an account – the service output is not pre-defined, and the member and your employees need a quiet zone to resolve
  • Advisory – Members need help with choosing a credit card, discussing lending needs, or financial planning – not only do you need a quiet zone, but you need someplace comfortable and inviting for what is likely to be a much longer conversation

Frankil: How can a credit union make these service zones more productive for members?

Kapur: Not only do some members experience anxiety when it comes to their financial life, there is also an extensive body of science based on making customers more comfortable in making decisions. Sometimes it is as simple as giving them a decompression zone when they first walk in the door. One tactic is to put a large door mat down at the entrance, which reinforces the typical behavior of stopping and wiping your feet. It gives a member explicit permission to pause and take in their options, before being rushed into a line before they know what to do. 

Frankil: What about technology, like self-service kiosks and Internet terminals for member use?

Kapur: Sometimes we focus on technology as the end, rather than as a means to an end. Technology can make a transaction efficient – the science of the branch. But it is people that provide the art – empathy, human touch, the caring and understanding that truly builds relationships so that a member becomes part of the family. Which is the credit union brand, after all.

If you want to hear more detail on these and other branch transformation concepts, join us on Tuesday, February 7 for Sundeep’s NJCUL Branch Transformation Workshop. Registration is just $75 per person, more information and registration is available at here… Sundeep will even discuss how a simple “ethnography” can highlight simple yet powerful improvements to the branch.