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Covid-19 Experiences Driving New Design Trends in Branches

We have surveyed our financial clients from Texas to Georgia about their pandemic experiences and we have been designing new or renovated branches for clients throughout the Covid-19 experience. We have learned by listening and collaborating with our clients. As a result, we believe that common sense and practical design will make a difference. We would like to share some of our insight with you.

One hundred percent of our survey respondents and our current clients expect that the design of future financial facilities will be impacted by Covid-19. We have learned that there is very high interest in on-demand germ-shields, custom hand sanitizer stations, and touchless fixtures, such as automatic faucets and toilet flushers. A little less but still strong interest has been indicated in automatic entry and exit doors, with some hesitancy due to security and cost. We also see interest in HEPA air filtration systems and even carpet or flooring patterns that subtly indicate social distancing cues.

Our clients report that the number one impact of closing lobbies was extraordinary stress on their drive-thru lanes, even by institutions with ITMs, and robust digital services. The digital migration reported by our clients during the closure of lobbies was much weaker than expected. We are seeing a similar outcome reported in larger and more formal surveys. One of our clients in the Florida panhandle mailed 1000 customers checks for $1 along with instructions on how to deposit it via mobile app. (What a cool idea!) However, the success rate was a disappointing 5%. We are seeing a renewed enthusiasm for drive-thru lanes from our clients, along with interest in designated parking spaces for curb-side services. We also are seeing interest in something like a walk-up window in the vestibule, which could be a retrofit option for existing branches with no drive-thru service.

The desire to provide social distancing for customers inside the facility impacts the common areas of the branch, such as lobbies and meeting rooms. Our design team has had to rethink the amount of required space in these areas and the configuration of the furnishings. Today we are scattering waiting chairs in the lobby, instead of having a central waiting area and we are expanding conference rooms to accommodate larger tables. We expect that the average branch footprint will grow, especially the smaller branches.

The heightened awareness of germs on surfaces has mandated new disinfecting procedures, which is often stressful for the staff. Limiting the areas to be disinfected and using washable materials on furniture makes it easier to effectively clean. We are recommending that a universal office for customer visits be created near the entrance. For the last few years, we have recommended gender-neutral, single-toilet restrooms in branches. We now recommend that one be designated for customer-use.

Speaking of surfaces, self-service technology limits your employees’ exposure, but customers are less excited about touching buttons that have been touched by everyone else. This is a double-edged sword that we face every day when we pay for groceries with a credit card or fuel our vehicles. Inside your facility we advise that disinfecting stations be located within easy reach of the self-service technology and possibly even signage to remind customers to disinfect and be safe.

We have been especially interested in the experience of our clients with teller pods. We were concerned that the freedom of customers to walk around the pod would be challenging. Our clients with pods say that they are using large, stand-alone germ shields and it has been no more difficult than the teller line experience. That is good news!

Our recent experience with two clients has led us to a solution regarding locked lobby doors. One client asked us to locate a security camera at the front door to identify their customers before they put-on a mask. Another client told us that they had installed a buzzer to let their customers inside and they plan to continue this practice after the pandemic. Combine the security camera with the buzzer and an employee can easily identify customers from their desk and remotely open the door. This is certainly not a new idea for secured offices, but it is for most retail branches.

Finally, one statement made over and over by our clients is how well their customers have adapted and cooperated, with very little exception, even while waiting in impossible long lines at the drive-thru area. What a testament to your customers!

We want to end this blog by saying that we have been amazed by your ability to adapt overnight and adopt totally new procedures to serve your customers while keeping everyone safe. Our hat is off to every financial institution out there!

The Eclipse team is ready to serve and help you continue to evolve, adapt, and stay safe; and we promise to keep sharing pandemic design ideas because we learn from you every day!

Please contact us for more information.