A Case Study Profiling the unique design and construction techniques used to help launch Best Advantage Credit Union in Brillion, WI. Best Advantage CU was built by Miron Construction Co., Inc. in Neenah, WI.
Today, approximately 64% of consumers are ‘outmembers’. How can a credit
union remain high tech yet be high touch? how could Best advantage Credit
Union (BaCU) provide a level of service that remains memorable and preserves
the core of member respect within each transaction, and still remain efficient?
We are convinced that most businesses mimic the competition. Why do all
banks have branches, credit cards, atMs, car loans, checking accounts, etc.?
Who makes the rules? Who says there is only one way? Why do we continue
to create experiences like all the others, only to become forgettable? BaCU
decided it was time to mix it up.
Apathy on the Rise
Uncertainty in financial institutions is forcing banks, credit unions and lenders
to reexamine traditional practices and provide greater concern and responsive-
ness to member preferences. Conventional service is no longer enough. In
fact, the notion of traditional member support has not only caused insecurity,
but apathy, boredom, anger and a sense of disrespect in the minds of the
In a recent study, over 22,000 people were asked to rate their experiences
through a closed-gap analysis of 21 questions. the questions were designed
to understand if the experiences these consumers recently encountered were
memorable. the results were stunning.
Of the individuals surveyed, 70% felt their experience was forgettable; in other words,
mediocre, boring, average, vanilla, like the rest, nothing special. Twenty percent of the
encounters were horrible: “I will never go there again!”, while only 10% of the experi-
ences captivated the member, compelling them to use the brand again.
how does a credit union move from the 70% forgettable to the 10% amazing?
Best advantage Credit Union chose to step out of traditional thinking and build
a new facility. They had a purpose: to make significant changes throughout
all elements of their culture and enrich their members’ and team members’
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Four components served as ‘guard
rails’ for the project and the Best
advantage Credit Union project The Vision
this case study presents the numerous lessons, barriers, innovations and tools
1 Design a facility to minimize
stress, support family involve-
ment, and remove physical barriers
used to create the credit union of the future. this team venture illustrates how
integrating “high-tech” and “high-touch” service is possible in a credit union en-
vironment. You will discover the strategies put in place, the barriers faced, the
between BACU team members tools used to move past roadblocks, the keys to success and the outcomes
and members. The needs of the team members created. Leaders from this pioneering organization share how
member always come first. they tackled various implementation and operational issues with experience
ecology and uncovered the physical elements of a new facility. they reveal the
2 Accentuate the personal
relationship between team
members and members connect-
informational essentials and more importantly, the often-overlooked behavioral
integration of each team member.
ing to member needs and personal
preferences. Collaboration is the
cornerstone of BACU. Breaking Tradition
If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.
3 Eliminate the misuse of mem-
bers’ time. Increase quick,
flexible, responsive, personal ser-
those words began the adventure for Best advantage Credit Union. Under the
direction of President tammy Williams, a team was assembled unlike any other.
the challenge… to build the credit union of the future - physically, information-
vice that communicates care and ally, and behaviorally.
respect. Be as efficient as possible
and make it easier for members to the team wanted to create a credit union that cannot be visited and replicated.
do business with our team. a credit union that has not been commoditized like others in the past, one that
does not exist. envision a credit union focused on the needs of members, a
4 Move beyond the traditional
model of a credit union to en-
courage and enhance social profit
facility that conveys sincere emotion, with surroundings that keep members
coming back and team members never wanting to leave.
in the communities served. Show there were three questions Best advantage Credit Union, Miron Construction
care and respect, give back and and Gries Architectural needed to answer first.
1. Is the current BACU member experience the best it can be?
2. Is BACU the primary financial service provider in the communities it
3. Are the current practices at BACU innovative and better than the rest?
In this emerging evolution of financial services, change within the credit union
industry was essential. BaCU realized their community was ready. traditional
practices in the member experience would have to be reexamined. Building a
facility that doesn’t exist was Miron Construction’s charge. Making lives better
for the communities BaCU serves was our passion.
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Once the team detailed innovations, they were brought to life through Building Infor-
mation Modeling (BIM). This state of-the-art architectural design process visualizes a
complete representation of the building with which all users can interact. Rather than
attempting to make sense of a 2-D blueprint, members and BACU team members
were able to envision the new facility, foresee innovations and predict outcomes.
BIM (Building Information Modeling) is a workflow that allows all the stakehold-
ers involved in the design and construction process the ability to interact, add,
and extract information as necessary to achieve the end goal which is the built
environment. We can achieve this end goal successfully through the use of
BIM by minimizing or eliminating errors and omissions through constructability
reviews, collision detection, time laps construction sequencing, and accurate
material take off. By having each of the stakeholders integrated into the project
from project conception through construction and building ownership, each
member has a vested interest in the success of the project.
experience-based design tools were used to assist in the facilitation of the
innovation design process. numerous tools assisted in focusing the innovation
teams on the evolution of BaCU. the credit union kept the innovation pro-
cess alive through a combination of clear goals and deadlines, as well as the
experience-based design methodology.
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“We are all from this area, it’s a family
experience. We wanted to out-think the big
financials, while preserving our small,
tAMMY WilliAMs, President/CEO
Best Advantage Credit Union
“Versatile, flexible spaces will allow for the evolution of change” commented
tammy Williams, president of Best advantage Credit Union. “the thoughts and
notions that brought us this far must be preserved. We wanted to stimulate in-
novation so it is relevant for our members.”
the challenge of choreographing the activities of every member transaction
can be a daunting task, but with careful pre-planning it doesn’t have to be. The
key for any credit union is to focus not only on the operational manifestations
of the problem (the processes and ineffective systems that create frustrations
among members) but also the organizational shortcomings that inhibit col-
laboration, accountability, and the sense of a common vision among team
Over 170 unique financial innovations were created through the Miron Construction
Experience-Based Design process. While some examples are captured within the
context of this case study, a complete listing can be viewed on our website
miron-construction.com within our Experience-Based Design section.
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Many large corporate institutions routinely apply the management principles
of lean manufacturing to create consistency within business procedures. the
advantages of standardization include speedier operations, lower costs, and
improved products. However, an organization’s most valuable member activi-
ties involve dozens of steps that require sophisticated customization and ex-
pert judgment from numerous stakeholders. all of these steps involve people
and are therefore resistant to change.
the silo mentality of credit union functional areas represents a barrier that few
institutions try to overcome. Inadvertently, the high degree of independent
decision-making required to ensure decisions are sound makes the challenge
even more difficult. While specialists provide important inputs at various stages
of the process, none have a direct stake in the outcome, much less the enthu-
siasm to examine the effectiveness of the overall process.
E3 is Born
Although credit unions are part of the same segment of the financial services
industry, their individual core beliefs, how they began, what is important, how
they operate and how they grew are completely different. at the core, however,
is a desire to present an authentic, compelling, and differentiating story about
the organization, its products and people. Internal story-telling or branding
is not a logo, a program, or a tag line. It is about applying the organization’s
external brand to internal vehicles allowing for the consistent delivery of the
promise. It is the merger of informational elements (what we say about the
brand), the physical facilities (do they represent who we are?) and human
resources (what employees do, their behaviors). an internal story is the glue
that binds culture and organization so the company can make good on the
promises they are attempting to deliver. the perception of the organization is
BaCU understood this and at the intersection of all three elements of the ecol-
ogy, e3 was formulated. Created to harness the energy of every Best advan-
tage Credit Union team member, e3 is a simple philosophy.
Everyone, Everything, and Every time matters. It is the BACU purpose and promise.
the most captivating experience is created at the moment it occurs. BaCU
team members understand the importance of this promise and work hard to
live this belief. e3 standards and operating philosophies are discussed in daily
huddles, team meetings, and through internal communications to facilitate
internal coalition of all 29 team members.
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Shaping the BACU Design Process thru…
To challenge the status quo one of the first activities was an object simulation
event. It was designed to ask the question ‘what if?’ Member Service Repre-
sentatives (teller), and Financial services Representatives (lenders) were shown
a spinning toy and then asked to describe it. tactile adjectives like bright, dizzy,
round, smooth, colorful, cheap, crazy, small, simple and others described the
toy. Based on those adjectives, BaCU situations and workplace spaces were
connected back to the toy. Innovation team members then described the posi-
tive and negative aspects of their individual workspaces with those words.
exaMPLes: Dizzy – What is dizzying about BACU?
Colorful - Do we have enough color? Is it the right color?
Simple - What is simple about BACU? What is difficult?
Round - What shapes should be felt in the new facility?
“From the beginning of the
BACU project, this facility was as a real life representation of the evolution BaCU was going through, a white-
designed in a completely unique water rafting event was created to assist team members in working through the
way - from the inside out. progression. Like the survivor reality television program, participants banded
together with colored bandanas and team names. The event helped find focus.
Early project integration with When the waters get really rough, what should happen? how do we get life
all stakeholders was absolutely jackets from a fellow team member to pull us out of trouble? team members
were asked to describe challenges and changes they experienced throughout
critical for success. Every the event. they were then asked how they could use this transformation to sus-
project should be designed and tain and positively impact BaCU for the future. Change is never easy, however,
constructed with this process.” the whitewater rafting activity assisted the team during the transition.
Don’t Drop the ball exercise
steve gries, President What happens when the ball is dropped between the employee and a mem-
gries Architectural group, inc. ber? BaCU wanted to illustrate this with their team members. to create the
feeling of ‘being dropped’, all member transactions were mapped and role-
played. Right versus wrong ‘hand-offs’ were illustrated so all stakeholders
involved could feel the difference. how would you feel if you were sitting for 5
minutes? If you were left wondering what would happen to you next? If a team
member left the office ‘processing’ information and abandoned you for 10 min-
utes? If you were left on hold for 90 seconds? What does it feel like if the ball
gets dropped? every time we leave the member, we drop the ball, the key is to
never drop the ball.
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Relationships are built on trust, truth and feelings, not transactions. these
interactions lead to member loyalty. Member commitment leads to repeat busi-
ness, and repeat business pays the bills. Like any great machine, the integral
pieces must always be fine-tuned and well-oiled to attain and maintain peak
performance. Understanding outcomes will illustrate the vision to team mem-
bers and assist in holding them accountable for the attachment levels within
an organization. this demonstration avoids a breakdown of the established
Best advantage Credit Union began with the end in mind. the team outlined
the expected outcomes of each impression area creating the ‘ideal experi-
ence’ state. As an example, the outcomes for a parking area included: happy,
“I’m here”, comfortable, safe, welcome, relaxed, clean, secure, and easy to
navigate. Without understanding the ideal outcome desired for the impression
area, innovation team members find it difficult to understand the vision for the
impression area. After the impression area has been identified, attach points
outlined and ideal outcomes understood, the innovation process begins to
Mind maps then help to visualize this process for the innovation teams, team members
and senior leaders. Through this visual representation, every process is understood be-
fore design actually occurs. Altogether over 160 visual images were brought to life and
illustrated to evaluate efficiencies and effectiveness (see illustration).
reverse outcome moDeling
Business processes must be designed around the experience to sustain
themselves. The new metric for success in today’s global economy is attach-
ment. attachment leads to deeper, more meaningful connections between
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BaCU innovation teams toured
various facilities both inside and
outside of the financial industry to
understand best practices. a few
of these facilities included:
authors of change activity
Photos are taken of workspaces to redefine what they are and what they
should be. By involving team members in understanding their current space,
ownership of the new processes can take place. this guided effort dissects,
evaluates and embraces the complexity of physical workspace as it relates to
the design of a new facility. discrepancies as well as strong, tangible practices
are revealed within the organization.
Benchmark companies and organizations accurately bring their vision to life.
touring these facilities reveals the elements, dimensions and fundamental char-
acteristics that surpass the status quo and cause member attachment. BaCU
innovation teams toured various facilities both inside and outside of the financial
industry to understand best practices and answer the question…What is “It”?
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an environment has the ability to strengthen or impair member and team
member attachment to an organization. this occurs by reducing or encour-
aging existing conditions and feelings. since 1910, one environment that has
existed within the financial service industry has been the ‘teller line’.
Typically, when designing a facility, very little thought or experience design energy is
focused on issues related to the integration of the teller line as it relates to the experi-
ence. The “ line” has been designed into 98% of the financial facilities in America
and has served the industry for over 100 years.
however, it is clear that many barriers exist within this setting when creat-
ing ideal outcomes for the member. By understanding the flow and barriers
within the current system, 5 experience barriers were uncovered. the Miron
Barrier Observation tool is used to uncover possibilities. Five questions are
asked and modeled to begin the process of breaking down the ideal mem-
What are the physical barriers to the ideal outcomes?
What are the communication barriers to the ideal outcomes?
What are the sight barriers to the ideal outcomes?
What are the spatial considerations for the ideal outcomes?
What is the movement sequence that is created?
after reviewing the existing barriers, BaCU knew it was time for a change.
Leading thought processes indicated that pods should be used to eliminate
the barriers between team members and members. But not just any pod
would do. a unique pod design based on the BaCU culture and operating
philosophy would need to be constructed. enter Rapid access Prototyping.
this is a unique Miron experience-Based design tool that replicates the
existing design into a life-size foam model. this enabled users to understand
the integration of human elements into the design and determine if ideal
outcomes were being created.
After modeling and interacting, 54 design changes were made to the original design.
Without this tool, BaCU may have designed a pod with little understanding
of expected outcomes, thus creating forgettable experience.
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Dream Rooms /Interview Rooms
these rooms are designed to elicit different emotions than those of the
traditional office environment. Miron’s Experience-Based Design methodolo-
gies break down the barriers that stand in the way of communication. new
member dream rooms help bring ideas to life and allow for a free exchange
small children want to feel grown up. therefore, smaller representations of
the large pods were designed for our smaller members. Why should child
transactions take place at a larger, intimidating pod they can’t see over? This
enables children to begin the process of financial ownership and account-
ability at a space designed specifically for them. Kids are then able to feel
comfortable when starting to understand the financial experience. Imagine
how a mother will feel watching her child learn this new and important les-
Students will now come to the BACU facility for their financial lessons instead
of BaCU team members going into the schools. dedication to youth and the
importance of early education is a core value for the credit union. space has
been set aside for student class activities. BaCU recognizes that youth, at
any age, are the future and that their needs must be recognized early.
Welcome to Our Neighborhood
Research has shown that the more connected people feel to an environ-
ment, the happier they are. happier team members create happier mem-
bers. Traditional offices create barriers to interaction. They stifle creativity,
lock people out of conversation, eliminate brainstorming opportunities and
block creative thinking. Great communication and growth happens in neigh-
borhoods. small, interactive spaces that allow for true collaboration based
on understanding the people within. A flexible environment can change over
time. Rigid walls illicit rigid thinking and confined ideas.
“You take care of you and your family first. Then you go to your neighborhood, and
then you spread it on out within the community.” ~ Al Gore
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a think tank environment offers the latest evolution of physical space aimed
at drawing out ideas and innovations that don’t currently exist. This unique
area is the basis for progress through a structured process of collaboration
that supports continuous growth within the organization. the think tank can
be used for brainstorming, organizing, prioritizing, evaluating, identifying and
documenting the innovation process. this space allows for the creation of
a clear, custom output of the content created during the innovation process
and is used for alignment of actions and future reference. this room elevates
BACU’s group intelligence and is the latest collaborative group setting based
on the credit unions culture of fun and desire for dynamic growth.
Innovation demands new positions and titles. Recognition of talent and effort
in the credit union industry is paramount for success. If people feel respected
and appreciated, it will be reflected in their performance. Below are examples
of title changes:
Behavorial Matra’s: describe what people do and who they are.
Financial architect -
Designing your loan solutions.
Vice President of First Impressions -
Creating a captivating experience.
Member service Representatives -
Member specialist making a difference
spatial Matras follow through to other items and bring ideas to life.
Possibility Room - Imagine the possibilities.
skybox - The sky is the limit (members only).
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The Credit Union of Tomorrow - Through The Eyes of Our Youth
to assist in the development of the next generation of credit unions, BaCU
has embraced leading-edge thinking, including younger members in strategy
sessions. CU tomorrow is a program that publishes research and open-
source business plans to help attract younger members, promising young
professionals, and younger board members. the initiative will help guide the
organization to meet the needs of younger members while becoming more
to begin, we asked pointed questions to a number of younger representa-
tives. examples include: What is your favorite place to hang out? Who has
the coolest place to hang out? Why is it cool? What are you looking for when
you come to a Credit Union? how does it make you feel? What do you think
when? how do different colors make you feel? how does our website and
other CU’s websites make you feel? When you think of BACU, is it a man
or woman? What kind of music do they listen to? What kind of car do they
“By altering traditional drive? Responses were captured and served as fundamental elements of our
processes and utilizing lean design process.
building systems on the project,
19% of waste was eliminated. Education Everywhere
There’s the Little ATM, lending games and even play magnetic money for
This created additional children to become familiar with financial terminology. Lessons are taught
opportunities for Best Advantage right in the lobby by the BaCU café and can be observed by anyone and ev-
eryone. Continuous financial education is a fundamental key to the success
as funds were freed up to add of BaCU.
innovations to the building not
commonly found. A rooftop Yes Ideas
patio garden for members and Say ‘yes’, not ‘no’. Say ‘yes’, not ‘maybe’. This concept is about going that
extra step to answer questions and make sure members are supremely satis-
the staff to enjoy is one example fied. It is essential to always be able to say ‘yes’ to members. Do whatever it
of what non-traditional takes to make members happy. Never say ‘no’, or ‘I can’t help you with that’.
thinking can generate. In the Rather ask, did I do everything I could for you and do you feel taken care of?
If you can answer “yes’ to these questions, you will secure a happy and at-
past BACU could have only tached member.
dreamed of such an addition to
their facility.” Retreat Room vs. Break Room
Where do team members re-charge, take a breath and restore energy? to
alleviate challenges, stress and anxiety, a customized space was created for
their relaxation. Unique to the credit union industry, this spa-inspired, revital-
VP, Marketing ization area provides a get-away, even if only for a few brief moments.
Miron Construction Co., inc.
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this is a fun and exciting experi-
ence when new members enter in
the facility for the first time. Before
opening an account, they get to
open a BaCU fortune cookie.
some of the fortunes include:
It’s your lucky day!
Your pot of gold will overflow!
Break Down The Wall
Current workspaces are cubicles with little chance for interaction. this pro-
Your future is so bright you have to
motes a lack of communication and maintenance of the status quo. spaces
become compartmentalized and separate and so does the thought process
(i. e. this is my space, not yours. Your problem is not my problem). at BaCU
Chances to win the lottery are? the walls have come tumbling down. Collaboration, partnership, open com-
Chance for a bright future with munication and building relationships are now central to BaCU process.
For some, financial security means Technology Integration
yelling Bingo! For you it means yell- how do you connect with your community and add value without creating
ing BACU! more noise? at BaCU, plasma televisions provide information at the touch of
a button. Information is being transmitted in an alternative way. Via plasmas
Your decisions today help your in front of pods, members can view fun BaCU events, as well as receive an
money tree bloom tomorrow! overview of available products and services, but in a “not in your face” way.
Visually interesting pieces transmit information in a completely new way.
Whether it’s watching Brillion’s Friday night football game, or using the touch
screen info center in the café area to learn more about financing, this tech-
nology can be used at the members’ leisure to locate information that is
important to them.
BACU’s mission is to give back to the community in which they are located.
transmitting information in a new way further cements BaCU as a fun part of
throughout the course of a year, over 25,000 drive-thru envelopes are used
for member transactions. When members were asked, they indicated that
they could care less about the envelopes, in fact, why not save a few trees?
the elimination of 25,000 envelopes saves 300 trees per year. these rescued
trees are now being donated to the city of Brillion. Rather than envelopes,
reuseable fabric pouches are now used for the convenience of the members
and to protect the environment.
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New Ideas for an Old Industry
It is a radical notion that new ideas for an old industry can be summed up at
will, with a process not unlike a scientific method. “We had, as the designers,
the tools and systems that allowed us to come up with solutions when given
the challenge of re-thinking the credit union of the future,” commented steve
tyink, VP of Business Innovation for Miron Construction.
every member of the BaCU team was involved in the creation of the new
“We shaped the facility from the inside out. We didn’t follow the lead of other finan-
cials and attempt to replicate what they were doing. We asked ourselves, Why do we
exist? Why we do what we do? Most importantly, how would our members feel if we
didn’t exist. Once we began to find our cause, our belief, our truth, the entire process
began to unfold.”
tAMMY WilliAMs, President/CEO
Best Advantage Credit Union
With the basis of reverse outcome modeling, a methodology created by the
Miron experience-Based design team, member and staff outcomes were
understood before informational, physical or behavioral integration was pro-
duced. “It is critical to understand how people feel as they enter a space, at
every attach point. Without this true perception, ideal experiences will never be
met,” added Jill Greve. “We want our members to feel they are home, ever time
they connect with BaCU.”
With hundreds of hours spent in ideation, four months of planning before a line
was drawn by the architect and over 120 financial innovations never before
uncovered, Best advantage Credit Union is a special place. special in the
sense that the moment you enter the building, you know that the experience
is different, unique. You have a difficult time placing your finger on the ‘IT’, but
you realize how you feel… a feeling unlike any other encountered at a financial
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