by New Idiom

Sip. Surf. Save.


Walking into the Café at Chestnut and Wabash is a pleasant surprise. A wide-open space with plenty of light coming through the windows is dotted with small tables in the center and easy chairs in the corner. An approachable counter with staff ready to serve reasonably priced coffee and sandwiches lies straight ahead. Free internet kiosks along one window are easily accessible, and along the other window a long counter with chairs allows easy set up for laptops. Four big screen televisions quietly broadcast CNBC news, and business magazines and newspapers are ready for perusal. People are scattered throughout the space using the free wifi, eating and drinking, working, and just relaxing.

This place seems like a nice space to just hang out and that’s exactly what ING DIRECT wants you to think. ING DIRECT is a bank that is operated entirely online, over the phone, or by mail. There are no physical banks to go to for banking services, which helps to lower costs and pass the savings on to customers. The ING DIRECT Cafés that are being opened—Chicago is the fifth and most recent café—are not places to go for banking services. They do offer some seminars about money, and the barista behind the counter can answer questions and help you open an account at one of the Internet kiosks, but that is not the main service of the café. What the café is offering is an experience: sip a delicious latte, surf the Internet for free, and learn how to save money.

The concept of experience or service design is something that comes up freqently at ID. How can designers “design” experiences? At ID’s Design Research Conference last weekend, Shelley Evenson, Associate Professor at Carnegie Mellon University, gave a presentation on the subject of “Designing for Service: New Ways to Get at the Heart of Service Experience.” Shelley explained that the concept of designing an experience is not quite accurate. Designers can’t “design” experience, but they can design resources that help to create an experience. These resources enable choreographed interactions that in turn create value, utility, satisfaction, or delight.

The ING DIRECT Café offers an interesting case study of experience design and a fresh look at what the banking experience might be. Instead of just focusing on improving the customer’s experience using online banking services, the company offers services that don’t directly relate to banking. Using the model of a café gives the customer a familiar and tangible experience. It creates a feeling of comfort with the bank that can be compared to the level of comfort people experience at a local coffee shop. They are telling us that the ING experience is not scary or hard, it’s friendly and easy. This is reiterated by the motto on the wall: “We make banking as simple as getting a cup of coffee.”

If you want to visit the Café it’s located at 21 E. Chestnut, about a mile northeast of ID. Make sure to print out the online coupon for a free coffee drink before you go.