7 ways banks can support their customers remotely and digitally during a global crisis

By Veripark

COVID-19 is transforming the way billions of people live, work, shop – and manage their finances. In the midst of all the confusion and anxiety, proactive banks have the opportunity to emerge as a source of comfort, hope and security for their customers. Branches may be closed or operating with reduced hours, so now is the time for banks to ensure their digital doors stay wide open to care for their retail and business customers.

Digital banking is now an essential service 

In times of social distancing, customers are shifting to safer online channels. While lockdowns and strict measures will be eventually relaxed, many elements of social distancing are here to stay.

Many customers are finding these changes stressful and need your support. It is inherent to the human brain to remember what happened during stressful times more vividly and for a longer period of time.  The level of digital servicing, meaningful help and empathy you can offer during this crisis will have a lasting impact on your customer relationships. Make it – or break it.

In the projects and interactions we’ve had with customers during the last 14 days, leading banks across the globe have told us they are stepping up their digital services to help meet critical needs during this challenging time. We’ve captured the 7 main ways they are doing this:

1. Digital is the right thing to push right now

“Use the app.”

This is the perfect time to promote your online and mobile apps to retail and SME customers. But it’s important to get the tone right. It’s not a sales drive, it’s an opportunity to support your existing customers with improved remote servicing, availability and assistance.

Some customers, especially the elderly who may be new to digital banking, will be unsure about what to do and concerned about security and fraud. They’ll need your help to get onboard with simple, clear explanatory communications.  Consistent messaging, explaining the risks in a non-threatening way via email, SMS or call centre agents, brings much needed reassurance.

2. Promote the benefits of omni-channel banking

“You can do what you want, online.”

Existing retail and, especially, SME customers can benefit if you ensure the same services are available seamlessly across all channels. Whatever happens in their business or personal life, they can rely on you to help them perform the same banking operations they are used to do in a branch, on your website or mobile app instead. This is a really positive message to push right now to increase transactional usage online.

3. Raise your digital communications game

“Communicate, digitally, with purpose.”

Your customers are mostly staying at home at the moment – and they are spending enormous amounts of time online. Digital communications through all channels – email and social media as well as your own Internet banking and mobile apps – need to be direct, personal, customised and bring added value to customers in these times. You can also investigate the use of messaging apps, such as Whatsapp or Viber. If you have something valuable to say, people will listen.

Integrating messaging apps with your CRM system gives customers a useful alternative channel to report everyday issues. For example, they may want to let you know that they’ve not received their statement. This gives you the opportunity to open up the conversation and add value by checking their address and asking if they’d like to move to e-statements. Now is a good time to move on those steps, that previously were done in non-digital ways. Arrange a standing order via mobile, switch to e-statements, get GDPR consent for relevant corona-related email advice. Banks are a trusted source of information in the digital space. You now have the opportunity to use that privilege wisely.

4. Shift sales efforts to digital channels

“Buy digitally, with a human touch.”

Many banks have been successful at cross-selling and up-selling because their relationship managers have built trusted customer relationships. Those face-to-face selling opportunities are now very limited. Successful banks will be those who can quickly shift to digital sales, supported by direct customer communications and advertising via online and mobile channels. Just like supermarkets, you need to be able to sell and deliver services online.

That will mean up-scaling infrastructure and the administrative and regulatory processes for digital or remote signing. Customers want to minimise branch visits, so banks will need to prioritise the digitisation of document signing and verification. This includes the additional development needed to apply this to documents traditionally dealt with face-to-face, such as notaries, employer confirmations, liens and land registries.

Even now, especially with higher value interactions, customers value human contact. Banks can still meet this demand by ensuring that customers get support from their advisors and sales teams. They can communicate with customers remotely (using calls or conferencing platforms) and finalise all requests and sales digitally.

5. Digital servicing is needed now more than ever

“Change the contract remotely.”

The feedback we’ve had from banks is that this is their customers’ biggest priority at the moment. There is, and will continue to be, significant demands from both retail and SME customers for amends to their existing loans and other contracts. That could be payment holidays, changing payment terms or extending loan duration.

There is a real sense of urgency about this as customers need help to cope with their financial distress. And the service needs to be digital as customers can’t, or don’t want to, visit a branch. For many banks that will require significantly stepping up their digital servicing and remote administration channels to support customers.  Call centres need to be equipped to deal with their increased responsibility, having all the customers information available – and actionable remotely, ideally offloading part of the load to other digital channels for finalisation.

6. Vulnerable customers need digital assistance

“Let me help you.”

Another challenge banks are facing is that customers can be unwilling to use technology they don’t trust. That’s particularly so with elderly people who tend to be less used to digital banking. There is a need to educate and support customers so they can enjoy a safe, secure and reliable digital experience.

Many call centre agents are also now working remotely and may be under too much pressure to provide this service over the phone. Clear, precise communication via reliable channels is critical. Online guides or videos explaining ‘how to make a QR code payment’ or ‘how to setup mobile banking app’ are an excellent alternative.

7. Digital payments are the new normal

“Pay contactless, pay online.”

Cash usage has declined since the COVID-19 outbreak due to the potential spread of the infection through physical banknotes. Shoppers are also being encouraged to use contactless and mobile payment technology wherever possible. As limits for in-store spending on contactless cards have been increased in many countries, we can expect customer demand for banks to provide this service to rise.

People are now embracing contactless payments to avoid physical contact with the terminal. Online shopping with remote payments via card or instant payments is also on the rise. Supported by the right messaging and onboarding processes, banks can now help customers to switch to more safe payment ways rapidly.

This is the time to digitise customer relationships – customers want it and banks need it. It is the banks who reach out to care for and support their customers throughout difficult times will cultivate long term customer loyalty.

To use those seven challenges as opportunities, VeriPark’s VeriChannel and VeriTouch digital banking platforms can help banks creatively meet the needs of their retail and SME customers and unlock new business potential. The banks that do the right thing in the right way will be remembered – and rewarded – long after this current crisis has passed.

We hope you found these suggestions for supporting your existing customers during the global crisis useful. Our next article will outline our insights for digital customer acquisition and onboarding. Please subscribe to our blog if you would like to be kept informed.

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