As individuals and organizations, we’re all navigating a sea of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. Banks and credit unions are not exempt, and are being forced to make tough decisions that balance the need to protect employees and customers, while providing much needed support and service. 

Thankfully, investments in digital banking technology are enabling banks and credit unions to make a seamless shift to remote banking in response to the crisis. Banking customers can now leverage online and mobile tools to do just about all banking related tasks – from basic functions such as checking balances, depositing checks, and transferring funds to online account opening. The challenge for banks and credit unions (as it is for all of us) is the speed at which we were forced to pivot. In less than a week, our worlds changed.  

At Engageware, we help banks and credit unions improve their customer engagement. Because of our exclusive focus on retail banking, we have proprietary data that details digital banking behavior across digital channels. We’ve seen usage of banking chatbots increase by 50% since March 1st and the number of questions customers are asking is increasing 5% each day. But the questions banking customers have are not just around COVID-19. While we saw a spike in questions with terms like “hours,” “online banking,” and “password” during the weeks of March 9th and March 16th, the majority of the questions customers are asking are quite basic: routing number, transfers, and account number.

We’ve also seen a dramatic spike in questions that, for many, might require some banking expertise, terms like rates, refinance, loan, mortgage rates, and “skip a payment.” In fact, the week of March 16th, search terms for mortgage rates, refinance, rates, mortgage and loan made up 5 of the top 10 questions asked in mobile banking apps. Banking customers are looking for help right now and turning to the channel they are being forced to use: digital.

As a society, many of our behaviors are going to change as a result of this pandemic. We expect to see the same transformation when it comes to banking behaviors. As GonzoBanker recently suggested, “The movement of transactions to digital and drive-up won’t reverse itself. Sure, some people will go back to branches, but it’s likely that far more will stick to the new channels they finally used. Why wouldn’t they?” 

To quote Albert Einstein, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” The opportunity for banks and credit unions is to recognize these new norms and meet their customers where they are. It means being proactive and offering a complete self-service solution, from basic help that not only answers their questions, but also provides the tools needed to take the next desired steps, including scheduling an in-branch or virtual appointment, or opening an online account. Your customers are going to rely on digital channels more than ever, and the banks and credit unions that make the experience as seamless as possible will thrive, both during the immediate crisis, and beyond.

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