As the events of the last few weeks unfold, there is no questioning it  — we have found ourselves in an unprecedented situation – locally, nationally, and globally.

The changing tide of the COVID-19 pandemic has set forth widespread economic, health, financial, and lifestyle changes, and it seems that no business, industry or sector remains untouched.

In times like these, communication and accessibility to information are now more important than ever before.

As individuals, businesses and institutions are faced with new financial challenges, questions from the consumer banking and business banking communities are outpouring. The need for banks and credit unions to step up and provide superior digital support is greater than ever. 

At Engageware, we are uniquely positioned to work exclusively with financial institutions across North America. With over 200 banks and credit unions on our solution and that we work with daily, we have insight into what banking consumers are most in need of, now, and every day. 

Because of our niche positioning, we have developed industry best practices on how to provide the digital support that’s missing in banking digital channels, including how to answer consumer questions and position them to take the related next steps.

We want to share these with the broader banking community so that you can deliver better and faster relief to your bank customers and credit union members in these challenging times.

What Banking Consumers Really Want to Know Right Now

As banking consumer behavior changes and as financial institutions direct their customers and members to their digital channels, certain themes have surfaced in the kind of information consumers need right now. We’ve summed the top 4  financial institutions need to provide in these times.

1. Disclose your new hours and locations of operation.

It goes without saying that staffing branches is a major challenge facing the banking community.

With limited staff, banks and credit unions need to make decisions about which branches can remain open, which have limited hours, and which are temporarily closed.

example of a bank displaying temporary operating hours due to covid-19

These changes to your branch hours and operations need to be clearly communicated across all your digital channels. Consider placing the below questions in a central, visible location on your banking website, online banking, and mobile apps.

  • Are your branches open? 
    • If so, which ones?
    • Have hours changed?
  • Are ATMs / Drive-Thrus open?
    • If so, which ones and during what hours?
    • What is the maximum amount I can withdraw from an ATM in one day?
  • What special precautions are being taken to protect customers in branches that remain open?

2. Reassure customers of the health and safety protocols you are taking.

With everyone’s health at stake, your customers and members are going to have a lot of questions ranging from the health implications of going into a branch, to the cleanliness protocols of public spaces and machines, to potential scams during this vulnerable time.

Some of the questions we’re helping our customers answer include:

  • What are you doing to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in open branches?
  • Is my money safe in the bank? Are you FDIC insured?
  • Is my money “clean”?
  • Where can I receive the latest [Financial Institution Name] updates on the COVID-19 outbreak?
  • What should I do to prevent phishing / scamming during the COVID-19 outbreak?

3. Assist consumers with the transition to remote banking.

Heeding to advice from local and national authorities, consumers are practicing social distancing and limiting interactions outside of their homes.

While the concept of online or remote banking is old news to some, many individuals are — for the first time ever — making the transition to adopting mobile and online banking measures. 

Make sure your digital channels provide step-by-step instructions on how to set-up and enroll in remote banking such as online banking, mobile banking, mobile deposit, bill pay, and how to access their tax information. Include screenshots, guided tutorials, and even video demonstrations.

Here are the top questions banking consumers have right now related to remote and digital banking:

  • What banking / transactions can I do from home or online?
  • How do I set up / enroll in online banking?
  • How do I do a wire transfer?
  • What is your routing/ABA number?
  • How do I transfer funds to/from another institution?

4. Educate about the hardship services your institution is providing.

With the economic slowdown, businesses of all sizes have had no choice but to close their doors to do their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Workers have been sent home, some forced to take unpaid leave, furlough, and others laid off. 

The demand for financial assistance is at an all-time high. Make sure your communications to banking consumers empathetically acknowledge this new norm, and educate them about the measures your institution is taking to offer assistance in this time of financial hardship. 

For example, are you waiving fees? Allowing payment deferment or skip payment? Are you offering zero-interest loans?

Make these offers prominent across your digital channels, and consider sending out email communications, texts, or even phone calls to make sure your clientele is aware of the financial assistance available to them.

Some questions you should consider adding to your digital channels include, but are not limited to:

  • What should I do if I have been financially affected by the COVID-19 outbreak?
  • How do I stop my Bill Pay?
  • What if I can’t make my auto/ home/ loan payments?
  • Can I defer payment? If so, how?
  • Will I be charged late fees?

Banking Questions & Answers for Today, and Every Day

While there are many new questions banks and credit unions need to be prepared to answer in the coming days, it’s important to remember the everyday, common banking questions that customers will continue to have and need support for, no matter the situation.

On any given average day, we estimate that there are approximately 2,000 digital support questions for every 25,000 accounts. In the current pandemic environment, with more people banking remotely, the amount of digital inquiries will only spike, so it’s imperative to not overlook these common questions.

The Most Frequently Asked Banking Questions:

  • What is your routing/ABA number?
  • How do I find my account number?
  • Can I open a savings or checking account online?
  • How do I reorder checks?
  • What are your hours and locations?
  • What are the current rates and fees?
  • How do I set up / enroll in online banking?
  • How do I do a wire transfer?
  • How do I transfer funds to/from another institution?
  • How do I apply for Bill Pay?

Best Practices for Delivering Digital Support

Having the right content is a great start, but banks and credit unions will need to ensure their customers are able to easily find and follow how-to content, wherever they are. 

This includes making information accessible not only on banking websites, but also in online and mobile banking channels.

Follow best practices for formatting the banking support answers so they not only answer the question, but provide additional, relevant information, and calls-to-action, so consumers are well-supported in both the informational and execution of banking tasks.

Content: Follow The 3 A’s Answer Format

Not sure how best to communicate critical information to banking customers at this time? Follow our proven best practices. The magic is in how you answer and provide information in a time when we are all seeking it the most. 

Best Practices for Optimal Support Content

1. Answer the question

Your answer clearly and succinctly answers the question.

2. Provide Additional information

Supplement the answer with other relevant information, and link directly to it.

3. Make your content Actionable

Give customers related actions to take with prominent calls-to-action.

Increase Your Channels of Communication with Chatbot

In the absence of digital support that fosters self-service, banking customers will resort to one of two things – visiting a branch or calling the contact center.

In today’s unique circumstances, the first option is more or less a moot point. Therefore, you can imagine that bank and credit union call centers are under immense stress to assist, while also working with limited staff.

In times like these, financial institutions may consider opening another channel of communication with their consumers that can alleviate the pressure on contact centers. 

Banking-specific chatbots are a great way to deliver digital support across all of your digital channels easily and efficiently.

Chatbots can quickly answer simple how-to technology questions such as registering for online banking, guiding customers through  journeys like how to reset passwords or set up bill pay.

In times of uncertainty like today, banking chatbots can also be customized to deliver specific questions instantly with pre-loaded guided conversations. 

Helping Financial Institutions Help Their Customers & Members

We’re all in this together. As a banking community, as a provider community, as human beings. 

At Engageware, we are finely attuned to what is happening in this industry and in response to this crisis.

Our customers enjoy the benefit of the shared experience of a network of over 200 banks and credit unions. We are uniquely equipped to support you and partner with you during this challenging time. If you would like to speak to someone about how to address the rapidly changing needs of your banking community, reach out. We’d love to help.

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