Online and traditional media outlets have been well populated with stories of the ways that banks and other financial institutions have responded to the pandemic, and how, despite the disruptions to our normal way of doing business, have provided unparalleled levels of service to their customers in need. We spoke to one of Engageware’s many customers, Amy Riccitelli, Senior Vice President of Retail Sales, with Rhode Island-based BankNewport, about her team’s experience following branch closures and the role that appointment scheduling played in their COVID-19 crisis plan. Read below for a snapshot of our conversation.
Q: On March 21st, the bank announced that branches would be limited to drive-up banking and ATM/PTM banking, and that in-person lobby transactions would be available by appointment only. What led your decision making, and how were those changes communicated to customers?
Amy: Our decision was based on directive and guidance from the Governor’s office and Department of Health. Our #1 priority was the safety of our customers and employees, however, as an essential business we still wanted to be available to help our customers with all their financial needs. This is the reason we opened our lobbies limited to customers who had appointments while managing the capacity in our branches and the safety of all those in the branch at all times. Whether it was due to transactions that could not be done at the Drive-up, ATMs or digitally, or whether it was pure advice, we were, and still are, able to help our customers with their needs. Through appointment setting, we truly have been able to be here for our customers when and where they would like to meet.
Q: BankNewport has provided appointment scheduling to its customers since 2016, however the growth in appointment volume since the pandemic has been incredible: a month over month increase of more than 466% when comparing March to April, for example, and the trend is continuing through May. Why were appointments so critical to your customer service response, and how did customers respond to the changes?
Amy: By having an easy mechanism for our customers to make appointments with our bankers, it not only allowed us to manage capacity and therefore the safety of our customers and employees during this time, it allowed us to be prepared for the customer to ensure that we were most efficient in solving their need. Our call volumes are high during this time, so having this option on the website allowed customers to make their choice of time and day in the most efficient way possible.
Q: Have you seen any trends in the types of appointments customers have been scheduling since branches were closed? How did this differ from pre-pandemic, if at all?
Amy: We definitely saw a spike in lending and business appointments given the rate environment and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) efforts, however we also had the “everyday” appointments. Customers will always have need for advice and help from our bankers, and I am happy that we are able to accommodate their financial needs.
Q: Were all of the scheduled appointments for in-person lobby visits, or did you also support remote options such as phone or web conferencing?
Amy: All were for in-lobby transactions. However, I am interested in expanding our options to phone appointments in the future.
Q: BankNewport also has a Business Banking practice, including SBA loans. Were you involved with supporting customer applications for the Paycheck Protection Program? If so, how did you respond to that surge in demand?
Amy: Yes, we happily supported our community businesses with the PPP effort. Honestly, this was an entire Bank team effort; we leveraged resources from all areas of the bank, including our branch employees, to support our PPP customers from start to finish. Our Retail teams enjoyed working on these loans and truly helping business owners and their employees. We leveraged Engageware for setting all appointments for PPP which allowed us to be organized around the application and closing efforts, quickly execute on the closings (which was essential), and have a record of where and when these loans closed.
Q: How is the bank preparing to safely reopen branches when local regulations permit? How do you expect the demand for appointments to change at that point?
Amy: We are planning a phased approach for our reopening. From Day 1, we encouraged drive-up and digital use as the primary banking means for our customers. However we still allowed in-lobby activity, by appointment only, as a way to manage safety requirements but still be available to meet our customers’ needs.
As we slowly open our lobbies in the future, we will maintain all of the personal protective equipment requirements while also monitoring capacity limits in the lobbies. Appointment setting will continue to be an important component as we reopen so that we can manage capacity in the lobby. One positive outcome of this whole pandemic as it impacts our operating model is our focus and use of appointment setting. This has been very helpful to both customers and branch employees and necessary during COVID, however in the future we will continue to leverage this service as it provides a wonderful customer experience – customers can choose when and where they want to meet and we are able to be prepared for the customer visit and devote uninterrupted time to that customer…a win-win for all. It is an ongoing priority for BankNewport to provide options to our customers so they can bank with us as they choose. Allowing customers to set appointments with a banker that fits their schedule is one more effective option.
Founded in 1819, BankNewport is one of the oldest mutual savings banks not only in Rhode Island, but in the entire United States. Currently holding $1.75 Billion in assets, BankNewport is an FDIC-insured savings bank and a subsidiary of the Mutual Holding Company, OceanPoint Financial Partners, MHC. BankNewport currently operates 18 branches located throughout Rhode Island, and has been an Engageware customer since 2016.
Whether your bank is moving to an appointment-only model for customers who must still visit the branch, providing remote access to bankers via phone or video conferencing, or some combination of the two. The Essential Banking package has you covered. For more information, visit our banking by appointment page, or schedule a call with one of our scheduling experts.