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Maintaining Contact With Customers During Tentative Times

March 28th, 2020
Maintaining Contact With Customers During Tentative Times

COVID hit everyone out of left field. A Black Swan event that few were prepared for. More than two months later, the dust hasn’t yet begun to settle, but resilient creatures that we are, Americans have adjusted to what many are calling our “new normal.” At the same time, much uncertainty remains, especially in the financial sector. That’s why it’s crucial now more than ever for banks and credit unions to maintain contact with customers and members. Stepping up to show them their concerns and needs are top priority with your financial institution will not only provide much-needed reassurance in the short-term but will also build and strengthen customer relationships far into the future.

First Things First

Before you can offer support to customers, your financial institution has to have a resilient and adaptable operating model. By now, most banks and credit unions have reduced operating hours, modified employee schedules, and/or closed lobbies and offices, while maintaining drive-thru and remote services. Protecting employee health is imperative to ensuring you’ll have the resources to help customers navigate the murky path going forward, so providing remote-working opportunities for employees guarantees your institution will have the staff necessary to operate. Plus, it also helps calm fears over employment uncertainty.

When deploying staff to work remotely remember that, for people used to working in a team environment, it’s essential to provide direction and set the tone for goals and expectations. Schedule a morning meeting each day on a platform like Zoom or GoToMeeting if you don’t have an in-house conferencing system. Alternatively, managers of smaller teams can touch bases with employees individually by phone or on Skype. However you choose to manage your team during this time, daily check-ins are recommended to support goal setting and keep morale up.

If COVID has a silver lining, it’s that it is an ideal opportunity to use employees in a creative way. Cross-train and repurpose them. Use the downtime to evaluate current systems and practices and begin implementing new processes, products, and services. When we come out on the other side of the pandemic, you’ll be able to open your doors—even if those doors are mostly virtual and in the digital realm—to present a new, improved bank or credit union.

For now, customer concerns and queries have never been higher, and it’s likely they’ll continue to rise as the COVID pandemic persists. That means an increased need for employees to man customer support lines. The solution is putting cross-trained employees to work as online and telephone CSRs. Be sure they have the tools they need to support customers remotely, from ensuring necessary VPN bandwidth and facilitating other home office arrangements to providing digital communication tools. Having solid communication with employees and a strong support system for them means you’ll have the resources to offer the same to customers.

Supporting Your Customers

“What We’re Doing About the Coronavirus” emails, ads, and recorded messages are all too familiar at this point. It’s become an oversaturated sentiment, but it’s still helpful to put out a message that shows your commitment to supporting customers and members. Feedback has shown that they are happy to talk about something other than the craziness going on so why not let them know their thoughts, concerns, and needs are top priority with your financial institution? The following simple missive can be used as an opener for recorded scripts or included in email communication:

We realize you may be thinking about other concerns right now, but we want to keep the lines of communication open with customers…

Additionally, consider supporting customers by offering payment holidays, waiving interest charges, or suspending late fees. Implement financial fitness tools that help keep customers on top of their spending habits and balances or notify them of suspected fraud. And consider providing the opportunity for human interaction during this time of isolation by setting up support lines for people who need help with internet or mobile transactions or who might just need to hear another human voice and talk through the concerns and apprehensions they’re experiencing.

Don’t forget that many of the tools you’ve already implemented will help keep customers engaged even when they’re not visiting their local branch. Utilize short message services (SMS), your institution’s homepage and social media sites, emails, and mobile apps to communicate your concern and support as well as share information and educational resources. Examples of the types of communication customers will appreciate include:

  •   announcements of branch lockdowns or current hours
  •   preventive actions you’re taking for the health and safety of customers and employees
  •   outline available digital solutions and services
  •   discuss fraud prevention measures

Research shows that using these digital tools together with good old-fashioned personal contact makes all of them more effective. Case in point, an actual banking customer commented, “You are the only bank that has reached out to me to make sure I’m ok and actually speak to me about my options, skip a pay, loans, etc. While others may have sent an email, you sent an email and called me. Thank you so much for your sensitivity to these incredible times.”

Take the initiative to identify opportunities and utilize the resources you have. The impact it has on customers now will last long after the crisis is over.

Keeping Communication Lines Open

Even during uncertain times such as these, it can be difficult to pinpoint what individual customers want and need. That’s where Avannis can help. Our customizable surveys are designed to identify what customers want. Plus, you’ll have the advantage of our expertise in monitoring results and interpreting data, so you’ll recognize what customers need even before they know they need it. And, we’ll even deliver the data to your dashboard daily so your managers can reach out to customers and respond immediately to the concerns that matter to them most on a “just in time” basis. Contact us today to learn more about how Avannis can help you keep the lines of communication open with clients during these tentative times.