Banks: How to handle surges in customer demand (again)

  • Posted on October 14, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 3 minutes

As many government furloughs close in the next month or so, there will again be demand on customer-facing staff – enquiries about business loans, mortgages and credit card bills. Last time Ireland’s banks experienced a 400% increase in calls from customers seeking financial support. At least this time, bank staff are now based at home, used to working remotely and have a laptop and headset – even if they are working from their kitchen.


But we need to remember the long queues to get through to call centres, the limited availability of branches and poor customer service (here’s one example, but there are more). Customers will still be as worried as they were before, so getting the balance right between automation and the human touch is as critical as ever. And it doesn’t always mean going for the human touch either. One Australian bank integrated its digital marketing platform with robotic process automation to apply repayment holidays and extend existing facilities for specific customer groups. Conversational AI is useful, but it’s not always easy to develop.


What have we learned so far?

  • The last six months should have led to greater process digitization, especially around the customer, in areas such as digital marketing, applications, onboarding, fulfillment, e-signature and servicing. Adopting facial and finger recognition, digital KYC or voice authentication for customer verification will drive speed while reducing costs. Building on the shift to digital and eliminating physical signatures where possible will help banks to scale up processes quickly.
  • Banks now have the opportunity to be a lot more responsive around analytics and proactively identify consumer and corporate risk. As banks were under pressure to relax credit policies in order to issue credit faster, they may now be liable for higher default rates. To protect themselves and their customers, banks should proactively target customers with higher risk criteria who have been issued credit based on a relaxed credit policy. This will help to identify loans that have a greater chance of future credit deterioration and therefore need specific management. Banks can re-examine the basis for their regulatory risk models and recalibrate based on recent pandemic data.
  • And don’t forget your people. They will have been under constant pressure over the last six months while handling schooling or parental care (or both). They’ve had to shift to working virtually and learn the art of coaching and remote management. Any small benefit you can offer will be appreciated (such as mindfulness sessions or yoga – it doesn’t have to be direct financial incentives). Make sure they have the right collaboration tools to work effectively across the business. And don’t think they won’t move jobs because the economy is experiencing tough conditions. Consider carefully a ‘buy, build, borrow’ mindset, given your workforce now comprises contractors, consultants, gig economy workers, third parties, even bots. What skills will you buy through traditional headcount hires? What will you build internally through training and development? What are you going to borrow through consultants or bots?

Be prepared for the next surge in customer demand and learn from the last six months. Ironically, the pandemic has turned out to be an opportunity to accelerate digitally and transform your bank in ways you could not have imagined six months ago. Don’t waste it. It’s time to rethink.


Find out more about Avanade’s approach to banking and how to handle new demand in these turbulent times.

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