Uncertainty is still upon us. Financial Institutions and other retail industries are still scrambling and triaging. Retail financial operations and customer communications are eagerly anticipating the light at the end of this tunnel.

Before we can begin to speculate “what next,” we must first address “what now.”

As we’ve stated in a previous email; we, at LEVEL5, find ourselves in the unique position to be a centralized information board for many Banks and Credit Unions. We wanted to continue to share thoughts and insights as we all go through this together.

Below, we aim to share what we are hearing from many of you, passing it along for consideration.

Customer Communications

Now, more than ever, your customers want to hear from you. But you must be cognizant of what is going on and thus, what kind of communication your customers are expecting.

The Right Message Then – You are hopefully no longer sending out messaging that simply states “We are here for you.” This type of message was omnipresent about two weeks ago. It had its place. All corporations felt obligated to send that quick communication as a source of comfort. It was a reactionary piece when the world seemed to change in a moment. Operations were altered or suspended with everyone confused and scared.

The Right Message Now – The tone and intent of these corporate communications should be shifting now. It is no longer relevant or prudent to continue to say the same thing. By now, Banks and Credit Unions have instituted operational procedures, and these changes in policies should be communicated proactively. Let your customers know what to expect, what you’re doing to protect them, and most importantly, how to engage and communicate with you.

    • Do Not Sell – This is a tough pill to swallow, but the reality is, you should not be proactively selling right now. Customers are worried about their families, friends, jobs, and finances. They do not need to get a canned email from you with a stock image of a couple on the beach enjoying the benefits of your Cash Back credit card.
    • Except Maybe Refinancing – On the other hand, there may be a right time and place for a mortgage play. With rates where they are, offering advice on whether refinancing makes sense for each customer makes more sense now.

Inside the Branch

Closures – Many branches across the country have closed until further notice. Retail Banks and Credit Unions are notifying customers, changing listings on their website and others accordingly.

Limited Hours – Of the branches that are open, do you have limited hours of operation? Are you instituting “senior hours” or other methodologies to keep people of different age groups (and risk factors) separate?

Branch Procedures – Are you limiting foot traffic to lobby only? Are you implementing a “one in, one out” policy? Are you directing branch visits to the drive-through? Let your customers know what to expect at the branches that are still open. Have someone manning the front door to act as a greeter, a communications expert, and director for alternate options.

Limiting Contact and Exposure – Some companies are instituting social distancing in the branch, ensuring folks are at least 6 feet apart. Others are putting up temporary borders between customer and teller to act as a divider, but to also limit passing of any airborne contaminants.

Cashless – Some branches are going cashless for the time being. Money may be “dirty” or a carrier. Thus, cash/currency is banned in some branches.

Washing/Sanitization Stations – Make hand sanitizer present to the best of your ability. Arm your front door “gate keeper” with a bottle to offer those entering the branch.

Outside the Branch

Customer Service – Hopefully, you have increased staff and hours of operation. Call volumes are increasing and many FI’s are proactively inviting customers to call in to ask questions. People are scared. They worry for their health, for their families, and definitely for their finances. Launch online chat sessions to keep lines of communication open and available.

Remote Access/Video – If you are able to provide this, video is a great way to speak to someone without being there in person. Many are looking to Zoom and other online tools. If your organization has the right technology to offer this, invite your clients to take advantage of it.

Equipment – Technology has and will continue to enable efficiencies and more options in a COVID-19 world. Equipment technicians have always cleaned the pieces they service, but are doing so more than ever before with elevated cleaning protocols to include gloves and masks. In addition, distancing is implemented and even calling ahead to give branch staff a heads up.

Drive Through – In drive-throughs, take extra measures to ensure cleanliness of tubes, etc.

In the end, take care of the need. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. Allow your front-line bankers and customer service agents to not only answer any questions, but also prepare to offer medical advice. While this one sounds a bit far out of the field, it is necessary to make your clients feel secure. This is not about being a doctor. This is about the Leadership Team disseminating CDC recommendations to all employees, for them to not only follow, but to be aware of, and at least speak to if asked.

There is by no means a full list for everything you may be doing. This is just us trying to pass along what we’re seeing and hearing from many of you.

Next week, we’ll aim to completely take our “2020 Crystal Ball Series” (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) and throw it out the window, with a look toward what a post COVID-19 branching world may look like.

Until then, stay safe.