I’m surprised that a such a forward-thinking, design-focused publication should suggest that Abbey’s innovation in introducing coffee shops was ‘a step too far’.
The concept was more than coffee in a bank – it was a case of repositioning a business renowned for being a former building society, so that it would be viewed as innovative, customer-focused and dynamic. It let customers combine their banking needs with their lifestyle choices.
Abbey also introduced branches in DIY stores and supermarkets as part of the same initiative. Avoiding patronising language and labels – such as ‘interview room’, which became ‘talk rooms’ – it introduced reference libraries, Internet access and children’s areas with toys and videos, as well as many other new features.
The introduction of Costa Coffee into Abbey branches was part of a larger programme to rejuvenate the customer experience, and an innovative step forward in the design of banking spaces. This proved successful for Abbey and the initiative is still being discussed and used as a point of reference, long after other design work has been forgotten.
Jonathan Blakeney, I-am Associates, Leonard Street, London EC2