When COVID caused widespread closures in March, Fifth Third Bank pivoted quickly. They closed branches to walk-ins, promoted drive-thru window transactions, and extended the ability to make one-on-one appointments to all customers who wanted to meet with a banker either in-person or by phone.

As part of the recent Future Branches Digital Summit, Engageware had the opportunity to speak with Shanna Anderson, Senior Manager, Retail Sales at Fifth Third to discuss the bank’s customer service strategy during this time of transition.

Brick-and-Mortar Branches Key to Long-Term Success

For Fifth Third, they see a future that includes both branches and digital options. They stress that customer choice is critical in fostering a sense of community.

“While many in the industry have said traditional brick and mortar branches won’t be part of retail banking’s future, we disagree,” noted Anderson.

The bank is embracing the omnichannel world. Their research and outreach to the community revealed that customers want the ability to choose the channel that fits their needs at that moment. According to Anderson, many customers will use digital channels for small transactions such as paying a bill or depositing checks, but they still want face time with their bankers for important decisions or financial questions.

“This behavior isn’t specific to just one generation. It’s not just the older demographic that seek in-person interactions with bankers. Across age groups, from those buying their first home, applying for a college loan, or making other financial decisions, customers want a face-to-face experience.”

To address this demand, the bank continues to expand its branch network. Even before the pandemic, they reconfigured branch spaces to best serve customers and support conversations and convenience.

How Appointments Helped Fifth Third Pivot

The bank closed branches to walk-ins on March 21, making lobby visits available only to those with scheduled appointments, making it easier to comply with social distancing regulations. Anderson credits an agile team and a thorough business continuity plan for their success. They also stayed in close touch with customers.

Because they know preferences vary, they reached out to more than 1 million customers in less than two weeks via email, social media, text, and even outreach directly from branches to explain the new procedures for banking activity, cleaning and sanitizing protocols, and how to contact the branch to make an appointment.”

“It was important to include personal communication during this time. Many customers are experiencing a change in their financial situation and our bankers are here to help them figure out their options,” Anderson noted.

Fifth Third already used Engageware Appointment Scheduling for in-person visits before the pandemic, averaging approximately 154,000 appointments a month. When the bank changed its operating model in mid-March, they continued to honor previous appointments, opened up more in-person time slots, and rolled out a new option for phone meetings as a way to support customers who want to remain at home and still meet with their banker.

Making Banking Personal With Appointments

Fifth Third has been leveraging scheduling capabilities to quickly respond to customer demand for some time. At the beginning of the year, with interest rates low, they saw an uptick in appointments for personal borrowing appointments. Since COVID, they’ve devoted extra time to helping businesses with baking appointments for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and questions associated with the rollout.

As the pandemic put a halt to walk-in customers, Fifth Third moved to amplify the availability of appointments. They made it visible on the website, digital assets, and had bankers continue to drive awareness during outreach to customers. They’ve even trained associates who serve customers at the drive thru to suggest immediate in-person meetings if that’s what the customer needs.

Since mid-March, Fifth Third has seen a spike in customer appointments versus last year:

  • 517% increase in customer-originated appointments
  • 105% increase in total appointments made
  • 18,000 total phone appointments (over about 8 weeks)

What’s Next for Fifth Third?

“COVID reinforced that banks need to think quickly to ensure customers receive the attention they need, and we are continuing to remain agile,” said Anderson.

The bank is evaluating new loan products in response to real-time customer feedback. They are looking ahead to implementing additional scheduling capabilities as part of the customer engagement strategy for 2020 and beyond, including Queue Management and additional appointment options.

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