Forty-three percent of banking customers have expressed their desire to change the way they bank due to COVID-19. As with retail and hospitality, several key customer segments have doubts about visiting physical locations, and are transacting more remotely. The challenge for banks is to make services available wherever customers want to bank - be it by phone, online, or in branch - and when it comes to any transaction, the key is to make customers feel cared for, heard, and secure.
With social distancing parameters in place along with other health and safety measures, there’s significant focus on the need to retool the branch experience. Here are a few suggestions as we move into that next stage of business and interaction:
DO: Have a plan.
Think about how customers will enter and exit each location. Plan for increased space between people in line, how to attend to at-risk customers, properly spaced lobbies, and waiting areas. Consider your employees and what they need in order to stay safe including break rooms with increased space between lounging areas, removal of shared snacks, availability of hand sanitizer and masks.
DON’T: Rush in.
If you are not ready, it will show, and it will be very hard to gain back consumer confidence once compromised. Social media will not be your friend. Forrester Research reports that 52% of US online adults prefer to buy from companies that demonstrate how they are protecting customers against the threats of COVID-19, so the stakes are too high to reopen too soon.
DO: Make sure you can effectively manage footfall.
Overcrowding will create fear and loss of confidence. Make sure you have plenty of directional signage, crowd control measures, and staffing. Solutions including people counters, occupancy managers, and pre-booked appointments both allow for the throttling of traffic, and the ability to build in cleaning time.
DON’T: Overcrowd or fill your branch to capacity.
Consumers are being trained to avoid crowds, so failure at the branch to comply could result in losing their business. Most physical locations are operating with fewer staff, and accommodating 10 - 25% of the traffic once allowed. Keep in mind that you only have one opportunity to make a first impression on customers, and they’re looking to trust you have their best interests in mind.
DO: Hire the right team and staff adequately.
Being courteous and in control will be the most important ingredient to a successful reopening. Overstaff in the beginning, you will need the extra hands to ensure that all staff is properly trained and ready to enforce new protocols. Customers will be understandably on edge returning to branches, and some will feel entitled that everything has returned to normal, so staff may need to be very firm and well-versed in a new operating style.
You will need to expect the unexpected, and having more hands on deck will prove to be beneficial in the long run. And having the wrong staff, or those that don’t take the time to learn new operating procedures, or feel comfortable telling that customer who won’t keep a mask on, may not be the best fit.
DO: Offer customers the ability to bank when and how they prefer.
We’re not suggesting that you remain open for 24 hours, but the goal is to make it easy for the customer. Adding the ability to set an appointment with a wealth manager or an advisor online will enable customers to bank from home, and will enable banks to provide the personalized service customers have come to expect. Leverage online appointment confirmations to remind customers to have key documents available if they need them. Virtual solutions position the bank to serve as an advisor rather than just a financial institution.
DON’T: Make it difficult for customers to do business with you.
Social distancing introduces a number of disruptions to the way you’ve traditionally done business. So limiting options to customers - providing no ability to bank online or via phone, not having a live customer service voice or chat option - is not going to help with a smooth reopening. In addition to making sure the services are available, it is imperative to communicate all options to customers.
DO: Demonstrate your commitment to a safe environment.
Use clear signage to convey the measures in place to ensure customer and employee safety. Make hand sanitizer or wipes available throughout the branch, and in all high-touch areas. Ensure cleaning supplies are visible, around doorways and near greeters to provide customers with an added sense of security. And make sure that employees are following every measure required of customers.
DON’T: Assume someone else will do it.
Bank staff need to show that the branch is being tended to, cleaned between visitors, and before opening each day. It is important that staff jump in to help move customers safely through the branch, ensure their questions are answered and overall, take a proactive approach to service without assuming that a sign or another staff member will take care of it.
Consumers will come back to the branch, but gaining their confidence is everything. Don’t lose it by not being prepared. It will be very hard to win it back.