How banks can communicate better in a crisis

  • Posted on June 26, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes
digital banking solutions

In the current climate, many bank customers are struggling. They have been furloughed or even lost their job. They have financial commitments – mortgages, car loans – but little cash flow. The only source of funding for such individuals is via government schemes, which are being directed through the banks. However, the process for gaining access to these funds is through either a web site, a call centre or a branch. The branch may be closed (assuming you live near one), the web site simply directs you to a call centre and the call centre, understandably, has a very long queue. At the time of writing, only 1.4% of UK Coronavirus loans are successful.

So how can banks improve their communication with customers?

  • Let’s get physical. Chatbots may appear to be a good way to scale advice, but banks should prioritize customer interactions with staff wherever possible. There will be many customers who need to sit down and talk about their situation (subject to social distancing), so only close branches when necessary. A locked door sends out the wrong messages. Turn off the call centre messages and put more staff into answering the phones. Even if they do not have the answers, they can capture the issue and create a personal connection. Of course, they may need training, but basic support can be provided quickly – and will be enough. Perfect should not be the enemy of the good.
  • Let’s get personal. Context is key. Understanding a customer’s history and background is vital to ensure relevant communications. I was recently on a call with Flybits, a specialist in behaviour-based engagement. They reckoned that 67% of customers are willing to share more data with their bank if advice is personalized. Contextual communications double cross- and up-selling rates, increase deposit levels by 5-15%, improve CSAT by 35% and increase digital engagement by 40%. One North American bank increased mortgage renewals by a factor of three over a two-year period using this approach. Banks have become good at distinguishing between the self-employed single professional writer versus the “married with kids” technology wizard who owns their own business. Many people will be overwhelmed by the current situation, so providing contextualised messages will be key to getting their attention.
  • Let’s get traditional. Now is a good time to educate customers who have previously been reluctant to interact remotely. If they have a mobile or email address, then offer basic online training. This is an opportunity to connect with some of the more vulnerable groups in the community, who may not like using technology. Identify who is avoiding online interaction and help in simple areas, such as making a transaction or checking a balance. You may also want to consider helping customers navigate to less used features that they may now need to access.
  • Let’s get virtual. Even if conversations are not in-person, they can be still be rich, rewarding and personal, given the range of collaboration tools that are available. For commercial banking customers, relationship managers can use a predominantly virtual model. They have the opportunity to offer detailed sector-specific analysis on how to survive the crisis and the subsequent recession. There may be an opportunity to offer cash flow modelling if you have transaction details. For retail customers, using Facetime and WhatsApp video will give customers reassurance and a human face. Explore how conversational platforms, such as Alexa or Siri, could be used for transactions. Barclays have been using video to set up advice sessions for Millennials for the last 18 months, for example. E-signature and digital ID processes could also be scaled up.
  • Let’s get lateral. It’s natural to focus on the crisis. But look for areas where customer engagement could be positive. For some customer groups, very low interest rates could be an opportunity to refinance even if they are not under financial pressure. Communicating around one of these themes could help improve your relationships.

This is important as Big Tech companies, such as Amazon, have been working with small and medium-sized businesses for many years, providing working capital and credit. They also have plenty of data to analyse in order to customise their communications and build stronger relationships.

The current situation offers opportunities for banks who get this right to significantly increase customer loyalty and trust. The way banks communicate now will influence the way customers perceive them once this crisis is over.

With each of our current blogs we’re sharing a good news banking story…

Lloyds Banking Group is to equip 2,000 customers over 70 with free tablet devices and set up a dedicated phone line to provide training to help them access online banking. The UK bank is working with a digital skills agency to help customers access the internet, connect virtually with family and friends, and shop and bank online.

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