It’s a brave new world for financial services in the wake of COVID-19

By Team Session AI on July 6, 2020

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted the way banks conduct business and how consumers access or manage their finances. With an increasing number of consumers facing employment and economic uncertainty, banks play a critical role in assuaging their anxiety and offering guidance to panicked customers about their finances. With businesses not operating normally, the financial services sector is reacting swiftly to meet the challenges — from cash flow dynamics to digital services being tested by customers who are not used to online banking services, too ill-equipped customer service representatives, agents and brokers offering reassurance and guidance to panicked customers. 

How banks are responding

We have reached the stage during the pandemic where consumers’ expectations from banks are more than getting an email with information on how a bank is protecting its employees and customers. To win their trust and catch their attention at this point, banks need to:

  • Demonstrate their values through added benefits
  • Show that you understand what your customers are going through by making changes that demonstrate respect and understanding
  • Unblock that which causes your customers stress
  • Improve customer experience by expanding your partner ecosystem

Below are some examples of the many banks that are demonstrating that they are truly in this together with their customers.

Short-term strategies for banks

As they race to find short term solutions, the long-range forecast suggests the new normal will require an acceleration of digital services. Critical to achieving strong digital communications for financial institutions will be security, transparency and superior online experiences for customers. However, there are several digital initiatives banks need to leverage to ensure they meet the needs of the digital world we now live in.

Content: For decades content in online banking has taken a back seat to transactional and service tools and features. The pandemic has put a spotlight on mediocrity and (or worse) on banks’ content development and delivery mechanisms which are critical to wider adoption of online services. This will change at leading banks.

Site navigation: Everyone knows that navigation matters so customers find what they need easily and quickly and don’t have to call into the contact center for help. In a post-coronavirus world, site navigation will garner more resources and evolve for the better.

Contactless payments: We can safely predict that contactless payments and mobile wallet integrations will rise dramatically over the next 6-12 months.

Digital signatures: Some banks offer this for retail customers, but it’s time to expand to business and corporate leasing.

Digital product innovation: Banks have done little to change their products over the past few years. And while digital services have increased, there has not been an equivalent rise in digital products. This will change as banks explore and offer “born-digital’ products that are increasingly autonomous and native to digital ecosystems.

As these changes are being adopted by banks, there is much they can do in the short-term to improve the online experience for customers. Here are four essential elements banks can leverage to ensure an optimal digital experience to share information, products and gain the trust of consumers now solely dependent on online services.

  • You have to be as transparent as possible while providing a fast, engaging, 1:1 in-the-moment experience. You want to understand your customers’ online behavior and show information that is helpful for them to navigate your products and services. You should also educate visitors and new clients with relevant and helpful information right when they need it. If you are introducing a new product or service, tell them and be able to offer an appealing, alternative product instantly if the one you’re offering is not accepted. 
  • Make sure you are offering consumers the convenience of banking on their terms. Who are they, how they want to engage, and when are they located must be factored in instantly. Let’s say a consumer starts an online application inside the bank’s branch but didn’t complete it. If that consumer accesses the bank’s mobile application or website, the bank should remind the customer of the incomplete application and let them pick up where they left off to encourage them to complete it in that session.
  • It’s important that you follow consumers across all channels and provide the most updated information so you can stay engaged and relevant. Multiple devices are still in use even though we’re staying home. People may start banking on one device and then move to their laptop to finish their transaction. It’s our job to follow them from device to device to ensure a seamless online experience.
  • Lastly, you have to scale. Internet traffic is growing and spiking in ways that are different than just a month ago. Banks, like large enterprise brands selling online, have to provide the same online experience at peak times as they do during slow traffic. The consumer doesn’t know when or care when internet traffic spikes; they only care if the brand is providing a timely and relevant experience.

Effective digital strategies for banks for COVID-19 and beyond

We are seeing investment in digital strategies by retail banking with an overall focus of extending digital sales to more complex products, enhancing digital self-service platforms and to promote online payments. However, they are increasingly using digital to educate consumers about how to leverage services online. This is being done with in-app messaging, SMS and email, as well as segment-specific videos to educate consumers. Importantly, retail banks are developing personalized offers at timely events based on historical information, seasonal events and previous behavior. They are also updating bank hours, safety and social distancing practices to engage customers and following consumers from device-to-device to stay connected with them.

As our world continues to redefine itself from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, financial services that adapt to a new digital reality will meet customer expectations, gain brand loyalty and derive business benefits.

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