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How to ensure strong customer communication during the Covid-19 crisis

The way we bank has transformed over the past decade. The number of branches has fallen, while the growth of online banking shows no sign of slowing down. Although this has certainly been an adjustment for consumers, remote banking is proving to be somewhat of a blessing in disguise, as the current global coronavirus pandemic leaves us unable to visit many physical branches. Providing customers with completely uninterrupted access to services is just not achievable at a time like this, and systems are still as vulnerable as ever to performance issues or breaches, leaving customer confidence shaken. At a time when consumers are already faced with such uncertainty, being unable to pay bills, access their wages or even view their balance can be stressful, especially if they are not adequately informed on the severity and likely duration of the problem.

Many branches may currently be closed, but the Current Account Seven Day Switching service is presumably still in full operation. Disgruntled customers will still be able to vote with their virtual feet and change banks if their trust is eroded. Disruptions to normal service are bound to happen both during and after the Covid-19 crisis, and banks need to communicate effectively with customers about any changes, steps being taken to mitigate impact on consumers and a potential remediation timeline if they’re to preserve their business.

Communication is key

Though it can be frustrating for consumers to be left unable to access banking services at present, being kept in the dark could unsettle them further. A bank’s reputation could plummet as a result, potentially leading to a mass exodus to other providers. Communicating in the right way can be a difficult balance to strike, but it is worth the difficulty to ensure customers are well-informed and feel supported during this difficult time.

Take for example the recent daily conferences the UK government has been holding on Covid-19. Government officials have been updating their advice each day as the situation develops, trying to give clear and concise information. While there may still be some that criticise their efforts for not answering specific questions individuals sometimes need answers to, these conferences are a good example of how banks can approach their communications in this trying time. Customers will benefit from clear, timely and accurate advice that is updated by banks as the situation develops, both during and as we come out of the Covid-19 crisis. However, with this being a pretty unique situation, banks will understandably find it difficult to know where to begin with this type of activity.

A checklist to continue conversations during a catastrophe

The first and most important step to ensuring continued and strong customer communication in the current circumstances is accepting that they are inevitably going to encounter problems with banking services along the way. As such, banks need to quickly create a robust crisis strategy to keep customers in the loop. This could include anything from push notifications to alert people about any changes to their account, to ensuring that the bank is seen to be active and engaging with customers on social media. With the latter, banks could focus on training programmes that assist customer service representatives with responding to individual queries that address more personalised concerns, the information they need to relay and how frequently company accounts need to post on social media – be that with daily or, where necessary, hourly updates.

Faced with the consequences of the current global pandemic, here is a short checklist of questions for banks to consider – and know the answer to – before they can ensure customers are adequately informed and updated on the issue at hand:

  1. What does the customer need to know?
  2. How will this affect the customer and are there any additional questions they will have as a result of this communication?
  3. If appropriate, how can we ensure redress as early as possible? It’s crucial banks don’t just wait for the customer to ask.
  4. What does the customer need to do now, and later, to mitigate any impact on their accounts?
  5. On which channel does the customer want to be communicated with? Does a message need to be sent immediately and if so, what is the best way to do so?
  6. How can I keep the customer updated frequently during this crisis?

Banks should build and maintain their crisis communications strategy with these questions in mind. This will ensure customers are kept up-to-date, fully informed and confident that during a difficult time, their bank account doesn’t have to be added to their list of pressing concerns.

Keeping customers informed

Banks are currently facing an unprecedented global crisis thanks to the coronavirus, but that shouldn’t mean customer relations take a hit as a result. Banks can maintain their reputation, and be a source of confidence during this period of uncertainty, by adequately informing customers about the scale, severity and specifics of potential interruptions.

 

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Andrew Stevens

Andrew Stevens

Global banking and financial services specialist

Quadient

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