Covid-19 is transforming the way billions of people live, work, shop and manage their finances. In the midst of 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 due to lockdowns and strict social distancing measures, so now is the time for banks to ensure their digital doors stay wide open to care for their retail and business customers.
Many people are finding these changes stressful, so offering a high level of help, support and empathy during the crisis will have a lasting positive impact on a bank’s customer relationships. There are seven main ways in which banks can step up their digital services to help meet critical needs during this challenging time.
First, now is the time to promote online and mobile applications to retail and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). However, it’s important to get the tone right. It’s not a sales drive, it’s an opportunity for banks to support their existing customers with improved remote services and assistance. Some customers, such as the elderly, may be new to digital banking, so they’ll need help to get onboard with simple and clear explanations and communications.
Banks should also highlight the benefits of omnichannel banking for existing retail and SME customers. They should ensure the same services are available seamlessly across all channels so that customers can perform the transactions they previously did in a branch via a website or mobile app instead.
In addition, banks should raise their digital communications game. Customers are mostly staying at home and spending enormous amounts of time online. Digital communications through all channels – email, social media, instant messaging apps and internet banking and mobile apps – need to be direct, personal, customised and offer added value to customers.
Now is also the perfect time for banks to shift their sales efforts to digital channels. Many banks have been successful at cross-selling and up-selling because their relationship managers have built trusted customer relationships, but 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. However, because customers still value human contact, banks should explore how they can use calls or video conferencing platforms to finalise all requests and sales remotely.
Digital servicing is needed now more than ever before because many customers are currently unable to visit bank branches to seek help for their urgent financial needs. To do this, many banks will have to significantly step up their remote administration channels and give their call centres access to customer information so they can take on increased responsibilities. Ideally, the call centre should also be able to offload some tasks to other digital channels for finalisation.
Another challenge banks are facing is that customers can be unwilling to use technology they don’t trust. This is particularly true with elderly people who tend to be less familiar with digital banking. Banks should educate and support their vulnerable 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 information over the phone, but online guides or videos explaining how to make a QR code payment or set up a mobile banking app are an excellent alternative.
Cash payments have declined since the Covid-19 outbreak due to the potential spread of the infection through physical banknotes, so digital payments have become the new normal. Many countries have increased the limits for in-store spending on contactless cards and a lot of people are embracing this payment method because they can avoid physical contact with the terminal. By using the right messaging and easy onboarding processes, banks can help their customers to quickly switch to this safer way of paying.
VeriPark’s VeriChannel and VeriTouch digital banking platforms can help banks to quickly and creatively to all of the above and meet the needs of their retail and SME customers. Banks that do the right thing in the right way will be remembered – and rewarded – long after this current crisis has passed.
Bohumil Hyanek is the general manager of VeriPark Germany
This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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