The study of psychology has proven over and over that relationships have an emotional component that holds the connection between people and brands. Your business’ relationship with customers is built over time, nourished by the experience along many online and physical touchpoints along their journey, grounded in expectations and confirmed through interactions.
Warren Buffet observed that “it’s only when the tide goes out that you see who’s been swimming naked”. A crisis such as COVID-19 puts both the strengths and weaknesses in business relationships under serious scrutiny. The “locked down” nature of the response to the COVID-19 crisis is forcing most people to be physically separated from their friends, extended family, workplace and favourite places and therefore requiring organisations to adapt to a digital or remote way of doing business. This is altering people’s daily experiences considerably.
One question that comes to mind is whether we have ever stopped and pondered what these changes mean to our clients as bankers. How have these changes affected people’s experience with different banking brands? Customers are now encouraged to use alternative channels such as digital, email and contact centres to interact with their respective banks. Physical trips to a local branch have dramatically reduced and are discouraged.
Similarly, your favourite banker may also be working from home and some banks have adopted and introduced working in shifts. Chances are you will miss your favourite teller, customer service consultant or branch manager, thus ruining the experience that you had grown accustomed to.
Customer Experience (CX) is the customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier, employer, systems, channels or products. Realistically speaking, a great customer experience is about great customer service. With a great CX, an organisation is able to reduce customer churn, boosts revenue and reduces customer service complaints and enquiries.
Enhanced In-Branch Experience
The In-Branch experience cannot be the same as pre-COVID-19 with protocols such as maintaining a safe distance from other people through social distancing. Banks now have to reconfigure branch layouts for the safety of customers and their employees. This might have a positive or negative effect on customer experience, depending on how well or poorly this has been done. Open plan settings are, unfortunately, the least favourite for reasons such as exposure. We need to keep everyone safe. The natural reaction has obviously been discouraging clients from visiting branches and in turn adopting use of alternative channels to get assistance. Well and good, but more work still needs to be done.
On-boarding Clients on Digital Channels Vs Pushing Clients to Digital Channels
The Future of Customers and Consumers (FOCC) report states that technology is playing a key role in customer experience and the digital transformation of that experience. “Customers are more technologically connected than ever before and now have amazing technology in their hands, on their laps, and on their desktops from phones to tablets to smart home systems, smart speakers, and wearables,” the report says.
Technology is definitely where the entire world is going for most operations. However, clients need to be carefully on- boarded on these platforms and banks need to make sure that clients are able to navigate their way through. Most banks, however, are shoving these down customers’ throats, hence uptake is low and slow.
At one bank recently, a friend of mine simply wanted to do an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to another bank. He was denied this service and was told he needed to register for on-line banking or use a banking app to perform the transaction. This very bank was taking no prisoners at all. I had to assist him navigate through the screens and some of the requirements that even I found exaggerated and very customer unfriendly. The service consultant present could not be bothered either. Imagine how this friend mine would rate this bank in terms of customer experience?
Virtual Schooling of Clients
Digital inclusivity for all users who are less technology savvy or otherwise physically challenged should be a key part of a revamped customer experience. This certainly goes beyond the on-boarding aspects and also ensures that in attaining the great experience with such digital channels, an effort is made by banks to leave no one behind. More effort is still required by banks because transiting to use platforms like You-tube, Webex and Skype in continuous education about bank products and services is done through virtual means. Previously that would be done in an unplanned manner through enquiries, even complaints from clients or through meet-and-greet sessions when a few clients are hosted by a local branch. But most of these are no longer possible and at any rate had certain limitations as only a handful could be hosted at a time, hence a stronger case for virtual schooling of clients.
Shift from Selling and Marketing to delivering messages of empathy, education, trust and safety to build relationships
More than ever, human beings across the world are not in high spirits due to the ravaging virus. As bankers, my view is that perhaps we should be more on the caring side and promote messaging on empathy, education and trust. We have to modify the tone a bit in trying to get clients to buy our products and services. Banks across the world are trusted and respected institutions and adopting this kind of messaging here will go a long way.
As I mentioned in previous articles, greater banks will be built during this pandemic and not so great banks will be squeezed out of the market but clients will be key decision-makers in this regard. It is therefore extremely important to support the customer journey during COVID-19 in all forms relating to the banking experience.
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