The First Branch of the Future opening in Sofia

The First Branch of the Future opening in Sofia

Bulgaria is a pilot country for a UniCredit project demonstrating innovative solutions aiming at yet higher customer satisfaction

The first Branch of the Future is opening in Sofia. It is located in Sofia Business Park and combines a large number of innovative solutions, aiming to transform a visit to the banking branch into a pleasant experience for the customers of the largest bank in the country – UniCredit Bulbank.

The Branch of the Future Project ranks among the highest-priority projects for UniCredit in the region of Central and Eastern Europe and the pilot country for the first branch of that kind is Bulgaria.

“As it is written down in our mission statement, we take responsibility to create value for our customers and the Branch of the Future project is a tremendous step in this direction. The main goal of the project is to make customers feel special at every step in their journey in the branch – from entering to departure. We have observed the trends in the changing behavior of our customers and decided to create a branch which is in line with these changes”, explained Mauro Maschio, Head of CEE Retail Banking, UniCredit, who is in Bulgaria especially for the opening.

In his words, this is how the project started on group level – in response to the changes in customer behaviour.

“We know that our customers are using new technologies more and more actively, that they are well informed and ever more demanding. We have also noticed that now they prefer exploring the various options in the banking sector instead of, like in the past, trusting the bank which their employer has chosen for them.

We also know that customers do not like it if they are kept waiting for more than 3 minutes. Usually, they would speed up their pace when passing by the non-transparent facades of banking offices. For sure, they will be seeking products that are easy to understand and can be managed independently – via modern means of communication, Internet and mobile devices.

It is a fact that in spite of the growing use of the Internet, still more than half of our customers prefer coming to our branches”, Mauro Maschio says. In his words, namely the forecast that the branch will keep its leading role as a point of contact with customers has provoked UniCredit to launch this project.

Bulgaria – a pilot country

According to Mauro Maschio, who is in charge of the UniCredit business activity in Central and Eastern Europe, the reasons to choose Bulgaria are many. “Firstly, the implementation of this project, which is of great significance for the whole group, in a CEE country once again highlights the strategic importance of this region to us”, Maschio commented.

A positive factor in choosing Bulgaria was also the leading position of UniCredit Bulbank in the Bulgarian banking sector. “We sought a market where the branch – in the context of all banking channels – has and will have a leading role in the coming years. Besides, we wanted to launch the project in a country where UniCredit holds a leading position”, Mauro Maschio pointed out. Again, he stressed that the Branch of the Future Project is not just about a facelift of the branches but is an entirely new service model.

“As a bank, UniCredit Bulbank has always supported valuable innovative projects – such that really add value to the better servicing of our customers”, said Levon Hampartzoumian, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Management Board of UniCredit Bulbank. He explained that in the Sofia Business Park branch, being a pilot branch for the project, many new ideas are presented. “The ideas that gain the highest customer approval will be implemented also in other branches of ours”, Hampartzoumian said.

The Customer Journey

In creating the overall concept of the Branch of the Future, UniCredit cooperated with the company i-am associates, which are specialized in creating customer experience and have been employed by many of the world’s most famous brands.

“In creating the concept for the branch of the future with i-am associates, we were guided by everything that we know and observe about customer behavior. We had set before ourselves the target to transform the visit to the banking branch from a necessity into a pleasant experience, much similar to other retail establishments where customers prefer spending their free time.”, explained Tsvetanka Mincheva, Deputy Head of Retail Banking at UniCredit Bulbank and manager of this project for Bulgaria. She shared briefly what are the steps in the customer journey in the renovated branch and the innovations that make it stand out from the standard banking branches.

“We have paid great attention to each of the steps in the customers’ interaction with us: attract, threshold, orientation, waiting, interaction with the bank and departure. For each step there is a corresponding zone in our branch, created in such a way so as to make the experience as pleasant as possible. To achieve that, we have combined the effect of more than 20 various projects and initiatives in all areas of the bank, impacting the customers on a rational as well on emotional level.”, explains Tsvetanka Mintcheva.

The innovations in steps:

An exterior which attracts attention – the purpose of the zone is to provoke the customer, to invite him or her to go inside the branch which is different from any other banking branch, through its:

- Large transparent glass walls which show the interior of the branch and what is happening there, thus making it accessible and inviting;

- Exterior communication screens instead of the usual advertising posters which cover the windows;

- Communication using real customers of the bank instead of product commercials;

- Attractive night-time illumination and a distinctive logo, making the branch attractive by night as well;

- A combination of trendy materials and timber, giving a sense of both innovation and coziness.

Entering the branch – the moment of truth for the customer, when he or she crosses the threshold of the bank. At this moment the customer has to feel special - greeted, orientated on what to do next, to be assisted.

- Introduction of the customer manager role;

- A self-service area, which has a full range of functionalities – a BNA, an online banking kiosk, an interactive wall. The area is available to customers 24 hours a day;

- A queue management system for those customers who continue their visit of the branch.

Orientation – facilitates the customer and creates a desire in him or her to continue the visit of the branch.

- An environment which suggests quick and easy orientation;

- Creating a fast service zone at “the heart of the branch”:

o Open cash desks which enable a more direct communication between bank officers and customers;

o A zone with high tables for meetings between customers and bank officers, as well as between customers themselves.

Waiting – shows hospitality and presents the real-life banking concept of UniCredit

- Using the queue management system in order to offer customers calm waiting and exact navigation without keeping them standing;

- Customers can wait both on the special sofas and at the high tables in the quick zone;

- Screens showing the turn of each customer and interesting information – people can read RSS feeds with the topical news of the day, the weather forecast, etc.;

- Opportunity for use of free Wi-Fi;

- A tea and coffee vending machine and a pleasant environment with branch-specific scents and background music.

Interaction with the bank – the primary aim is to bond with the customer and to build trust

- Dedicated areas and zones for meetings with customers and separate meeting rooms when confidentiality is needed;

- Possibility for remote video consultations with experts from the head office – this is yet another way in which the customer can be saved time;

- Change of the branch manager position – from the bottom end to the center of the space.

Departure - the customer is accompanied to the exit of the branch and is invited to return

- Possibility for immediate feedback through voting with tokens.

More information for clients:

UniCredit Bulbank, Call Centre

Phone: 0700 1 84 84

More information for media:

UniCredit Bulbank, Identity & Communications Department

Viktoria Blajeva, Phone: + 359 2 9264 993, wjlj/ebwjepwbAvojdsfejuhspvq/ch

Ekaterina Ancheva, Phone: + 359 2 9264 963, flbufsjob/bodifwbAvojdsfejuhspvq/ch

Magdalena Ivanova, Phone: + 359 2 9232 528, nbhebmfob/jwbopwbAvojdsfejuhspvq/ch