Michalis Michael, CEO of DigitalMR, explores these findings and what they mean for the future of banking.
When we are finally on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic, several key sectors will be remembered positively for the way they took charge and handled the crisis, from healthcare to supermarkets and logistics companies.
Banks, on the other hand, are unlikely to fare as well in the eyes of consumers. A social intelligence report compiled by DigitalMR analysed customer sentiment amongst the top 11 global banks during the period of February 2018 to April 2020 and found customer relationships hit an all-time low during the peak of COVID-19.
In today’s digital world, dissatisfied customers can switch provider with the click of a button and, if banks are to emerge stronger, they must take heed of lessons from the lockdown period and prioritise customer experience in a way that they have never done before.
Here are five of the main customer service lessons banks should take from the coronavirus lockdown according to artificial intelligence.
1. They need to be adaptive
The banks that received the most positive sentiment during lockdown were those that were reactive and quick to adapt their approach in line with what their customers truly needed. Unfortunately, they were in the minority and, despite so much bank advertising claiming to be “by your side” and “in this together”, many failed to practice what they preached. In such times of adversity, banks needed to truly demonstrate they were listening to their customers by providing personalisation and products that reflected their needs at specific moments in time. Moving forwards, they must take a more customer-centric approach and provide real solutions in response to new and emerging challenges their customers are facing.
The banks that received the most positive sentiment during lockdown were those that were reactive and quick to adapt their approach in line with what their customers truly needed.
2. Digital is king
Our world today is undeniably digital, and the pace at which disruptive technologies are arriving is accelerating. Arguably, digitalisation in the banking sector moved at an even rapider pace during lockdown, when even those unfamiliar with online banking were forced to bank from home as banks scaled back physical channels and human-led advisory. Despite this, many banks did seemingly little to speed up and optimise their digital processes to account for a surge in online enquiries and applications for Government support, such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme [CBIS]. To put themselves in better stead post-coronavirus, banks must become innovative and embrace digitalisation so their responses to emergencies like COVID-19 are quicker and more effective. There is no getting away from the fact that digital transformation is vital if they are to be fit for purpose when it comes to lending in the future.
3. It pays to be efficient
Our analysis of customer sentiment throughout lockdown shows that lengthy wait times to speak to a customer service adviser was one of the main frustrations, with some customers experiencing waiting times of four hours plus, and banks like Barclays pulling their customer service functions completely.
Crisis-stricken customers need quick support and solutions, and banks must work hard to address efficiency if they are to improve customer experience moving forwards. Much of this will be achieved by enhancing digital self-service for customers and implementing immediate measures to ensure they have the operational capacity to act quickly. COVID-19 has proven that automation and using data to make efficient decisions is essential for handling increased demand for credit and delivering faster decisions.
4. They must act in times of need
Despite the Government saying in March that banks were required to grant temporary reprieves on mortgage repayments to help families struggling financially during the crisis, our research shows that many failed to issue them. Whilst payment breaks are not a long-term solution for those in financial trouble and could raise bank liquidity concerns, customers in distress need to know that they can turn to their bank for extra support. Many consumers will be considering a switch post-lockdown, so it’s critical that banks offer the trust and services that they demand.
5. They must adapt their fraud strategies
Another key concern amongst customers during lockdown was inconsistencies surrounding fraud, with many consumers worried by their bank’s lack of response to fraud calls, and banks such as HSBC reported to have been overzealous with fraud concerns by cancelling cards when not required. According to Proofpoint, a cloud security and compliance specialist, 80% of accredited banks were unable to say they were proactively protecting their customers from fraudulent emails, and 61% have no Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance [DMARC] record whatsoever, putting customers at heightened risk during the pandemic. To regain customer trust, banks will need to enhance their fraud detection activities to mitigate new financial crime typologies, as digital transactions increase and electronic payment growth accelerates.
Whilst our findings related to banking customer sentiment during lockdown are somewhat scathing, banks can still emerge stronger from the crisis if they learn from their shortcomings, implement the necessary immediate measures and take advantage of opportunities. By embracing digitalisation and using artificial intelligence to inform their responses to customer needs, banks can successfully navigate the new normal, support disproportionately affected customers and renew consumer confidence.