The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has led many financial institutions to close branches, cut back on branch hours, and cut back on their customer servicing capabilities in general. While protecting employees and customers alike is a very valid reason for cutting back on services, it will have its ramifications.
Let’s start with the fundamental fact that there is an unprecedented amount of fear and uncertainty among consumers right now. Many customers across the nation are being told to stay at home, have lost their jobs, and are now being told that the way they have interacted with their financial institutions is no longer available.
Our research has shown that consumer trust in their primary financial institutions is very high. This trust, which for many has been cultivated over several years, is in jeopardy if consumers feel abandoned at this critical point in time. It is very naïve to think that someone with limited technical ability is going to easily make the transition to mobile banking, remote check deposit, and online bill pay.
This is where the customer service group becomes critical. Customer service representatives need to help the consumers who are willing to go digital get set up and walk them through the process. These people will likely need much more hand-holding than the average customer.
What about those that cannot or will not go digital? What are financial institutions going to do for these folks? Again, customer support teams will play a critical role in helping these individuals navigate the “system” in a way that enables them to conduct their business.
There is a bottom line impact to this for financial service companies.
We will come out of this crisis. When we do, financial services companies that helped their customers through this will win with a more loyal customer base. Those who did not will lose customers. I can’t make it any simpler. It’s also important to consider the impact on the brand. Lastly, it is just the right thing to do in these times.
Overview by Peter Reville, Director, Primary Research Services at Mercator Advisory Group