CSP Happenings

Topic: Customer Service Experience

Your Branch Is Your Foundation for Gen Z

February 21, 2021

Though it might sound surprising, Gen Z is more likely to use branches than even Millennials.

This goes against common intuition. Aren’t Gen Z the most tech-fluent generation yet? Will they even want branches at all? The reality is their financial uncertainty, the evolution of the branch and the experiences they’re listening to and absorbing about personal finance, particularly from Millennials, are resonating with them and they’re taking their financial lives seriously. Consider the following ways your branch can serve Gen Z as in-person banking re-emerges in 2021.

Underlying Concerns Lead to Greater Branch Engagement

It must be stated: Covid disrupted in-person everything, and financial institution branches were no exception. With that said, public health experts are feeling cautiously optimistic about vaccination progress in 2021 and the re-emergence of in-person activities.

Pre-Covid, Gen Z was more engaged with branches than their Millennial counterparts. The reason? Gen Z is still laying the groundwork for their financial lives, and these preoccupations are a driving force behind them wanting to interact in-person. The ability to talk to a human being, gain context around their finances, learn about financial tools from a universal banker and the general will to get ahead in their financial lives all are underlying factors behind this trend.

As a financial institution, this is your chance. Think about the motivation driving an otherwise tech-preferential generation to go with a more “old school” in-person approach, and help provide a consultative hand to their personal finances.

Create a Lasting Relationship with a Consultative Approach

Think about the underlying concerns Gen Z customers are coming to your financial institution thinking about, and then have a plan to address them. In particular, think about:

Student loans. Gen Z has heard horror stories from Millennials about the crippling effects student loans can have on financial goals further into their lives. As a result, Gen Z is extremely debt-averse. Help them understand financing options and ways they can optimize their approach to paying back loans they take on.

Saving for a home. Gen Z has passively experienced the barriers their older counterparts have experienced regarding barriers to purchase a home, particularly in more expensive urban areas. Help them understand how their credit scores can help leverage financing, and help establish a long-term savings plan for them.

Retirement. While retirement might not be on most of Gen Z’s radar, the reality is that every dollar allocated now can go further for retirement than in the future. Help them understand the future value of a dollar invested today, and come up with plan to act on it.

The Branch Experience and Beyond

Many financial institutions are rethinking the branch experience, trying to create more of a coffee shop environment than a traditional bank, with the underlying motivation of creating a more approachable location that will be used casually and frequently. Capital One 360 Cafes are a prime example of this, and this type of approach can be a helpful tool to appeal to a younger generation.

Additionally, once Gen Z customers solicit your financial institution, make sure you have a digital plan in place to follow up. Find ways to follow up with them on their preferred platforms, give them ongoing education resources, and make sure they’re able to utilize helpful budgeting tools to ensure they continue to engage with your financial institution tomorrow and beyond.

2020’s Acceleration of Digital Transformation

January 26, 2021

The digital explosion of small, medium, and large financial institutions only accelerated in 2020 due to in-person restrictions from Covid-19. As a result, many organizations chose to make this a major focus, and the space evolved at a rapid pace, and it’s important your organization takes stock to see where the industry is headed, and how you can make sure your digital presence is competitive. Here are a few trends to consider for your financial institution this year:

Data Visualization for Internal Use

More customer data is available than ever before. On one hand, this data is being made available to the customer in the form of budgeting dashboards. Showing customers information like mortgage amortizations, projected retirement cashflows and recommendations for how they can tweak their budgets are all coming in full force. Similarly, financial institutions are beginning to become more savvy at customer-specific ad recommendations and making major decisions based off customer segments.

However, another area of opportunity lies in quick, real-time education of financial institutions’ staff based on individual customers. Having an abundance of customer information available is only useful if it can be processed and applied in real-time to help aid customer interaction. Financial institutions should focus on making pertinent information about customers easy to identify for their universal bankers. Converging disparate financial pieces (loans, mortgages, monthly expenditures, changes in spending habits) in succinct ways enables universal bankers to inquire, document, and recommend solutions based on an individual’s complex financial picture.

Enhanced Support Amid Open Banking and APIs

The future of FinTech and banking is both clear and uncertain in terms of its trajectory. There is certainty in the idea of tech disruption in financial services, open banking and the sharing of customer information to third parties to add value and create opportunity. However, the specific way these FinTech organizations will impact financial services, and which services/products will offer the most value, remains uncertain. The good news is that financial institutions don’t need to identify the major impact players in this space yet, they simply need to open themselves to these opportunities. Making APIs available to third parties opens the door for “passive” innovation by letting third party tech companies apply your financial institution’s data with their own platforms. Simply put, the time to develop and provide an API to third parties is now in order to be on the front end of coming financial services innovations.

Enhanced Visual Interactions in Banks

Bank and credit union branches feel somewhat enigmatic at the moment. On one hand, consumers are conducting an increasing amount of the bank activity online and through mobile, taking some attention off of bank branches. On the other hand, this puts extra pressure on branch visits to leave a lasting impression and create a customer loyalty bond that is more difficult to do online or with mobile.

The increased use of kiosks give customers an opportunity to self service in ways that are proven to improve customer satisfaction when applied correctly. Additionally, visual screen displays allow for a flexible medium to tap into local events, culture and create a bond that extends beyond a transaction and attempts to form a deeper bond with customers. These factors, combined with a staff of universal bankers armed with customer information has the potential to create an experience that delights customers and creates a unique moment.

Balancing Security With Innovation

As the open API format of financial services continues to evolve, financial institutions will need to find ways to safely utilize the customer data they have historically been entrusted to protect. The PSD2, the second Payment Services Directive being established in the European Union, will likely become an international standard for financial institutions and payment services to operate under. This standard takes some of the responsibility for protecting customer data away from banks and into the hands of customers, with enhanced security checks. In short, this means that banks and credit unions will need to be aware of these changes in security measures, educate their customers, and most importantly, be ready to evolve with the these changes in the market. Traditional financial institutions will see an influx of competition from third party providers, and it is up to these financial institutions to utilize FinTech partnerships and their own offerings to maintain the interest and attention of their existing customer base.

2021 Banking Trends

2020 was a year of huge change, with a global pandemic, government stimulus checks, and an immediate need to switch to a more digital way of life. On the tail end of this past year, banks and credit unions will need to adjust to the new reality, the aftermath of Covid-19 and how the global economic forecast will impact this year’s growth. Consider the following trends and ideas for your financial institution this year.

Enhanced FinTech

FinTech has been on our radar for some time, and now organizations on both the banking side and the FinTech side are becoming more sophisticated about how they can work together. In the coming year, we’ll particularly see innovations in:

Payroll Fintech. Organizations will partner with FinTech companies to develop creative financing options for payroll, including options such as loans, advances, and other payment or savings systems built into their payroll framework to better serve employees without any more effort from employers.

Filling Gaps Between FIs and and FinTech Organizations. FinTech systems need to have proper access to work with banks and credit unions, and these financial institutions need to have their core systems set up in a way that FinTech organizations can work with. Historically, this has been a barrier to smaller banks and credit unions utilizing FinTech services, but we’re now seeing organization help to fill that gap and develop creative solutions for these smaller players.

Additionally, banking as a service organizations are helping banks flip the script for FinTech companies, treating these FinTech organizations as the client and providing them the banking services they need to have a platform and base for their services.

A Transition Out of Covid-19

Without getting too carried away, 2021 looks promising for the deployment of vaccines for Covid-19 and a tentative loosening of restrictions as the year progresses. With this in mind, small businesses will be assessing damage they incurred in the past year and thinking of ways creative financing and a prospective uptick in business can help them stay afloat and begin the recovery process. Financial institutions should be open-minded and come up with creative ways to think about small business loans to help those organizations in need and fill a much-needed gap.

Additionally, Covid-19 has change the way America interacts and does business, namely in terms of an explosion of digital and contactless interactions. Financial institutions should take stock of their digital transformation, see where they stack up in relation to competitors, and work to understand how their customer base has shifted behavior in the past year.

Understanding Your Brand Experience

While you probably think of your financial institution as a combination of services, digital products and the individuals who make up your organization, your customers view your organization as a brand. They think comprehensively about their experience with your organization, and diverse pieces of your business, such as your mobile deposit, their debit card, and a universal banker at all local branch, all combine in their minds to create a comprehensive brand experience.

Think about these different pieces when you think about the brand of your bank or credit union, and how you can leverage your brand perception to improve customer experience.


When customers interact with your organization, there should be continuity between the different facets. Think about the way you present yourself, the values you want to deliver on, the way you communicate with your customers, and perhaps most importantly, the way you can seamlessly communicate with customers from one touchpoint to the next.

For example, if they make an inquiry on their mobile banking app, a branch teller should be able to easily access that inquiry and understand any questions or issues the customer is having. Similarly, if something comes up on online chat, a branch teller should be able to understood what happened during that conversation, and the resolution.

Giving a comprehensive and consistent experience makes your organization predictable, which is a source of comfort and familiarity for customers, and will help drive home your organization’s identity.


Using a consistent voice in your online copy, your branch’s universal bankers and your promotional materials will help give your brand a human-like identity that will make you feel recognizable and distinct.

Think about the way you’re already presenting your organization — what are your biggest strengths? For example, if your financial institution thrives with millennials, you may want to adopt a more informal voice to help resonate with an exceedingly informal demographic. On the other hand, a more formal approach may make sense for high-end customers who value security above all else.

Consider the way you want to present yourself as an organization, and make sure this type of communication is consistent throughout your organization.

Unique Value Proposition

One of the most important pieces of your brand is the thing that you do best. Likely, there are many services you consider yourself on-par compared to other brands, but have a few aspects of your business where you truly excel. Identifying what those are can be key, because they truly make you special, are likely reasons why your customers choose to work with you in the first place, and should be at the forefront of your promotion.

Consider evaluating your organization and identifying your top one or two features that set you apart from the pack, and use that as the primary building block around which you construct your brand’s identity.

Differentiators in the Digital Space

December 22, 2020

While most organizations have a solid digital plan in place, many find it hard to separate themselves from the crowd. Digital and omni-channel banking is certainly a must-have, but as a major part of your business, it should serve to help your brand and organization stand out and impress. Consider the following to make sure your digital transformation goes above and beyond for your organization.

Establish Your Digital Leadership

Any successful financial institution should have a formalized digital leadership team whose sole focus is on your organization’s digital presence. Increasing numbers of interactions and touchpoints occur in a digital space, and it’s important these moments are viewed as meaningful interactions with your brand. Functionality, innovation and customer centricity should all be core tenets this leadership team is working to achieve.

Additionally, this leadership team should be able to mobilize and engage your other employers to think in a digital-first way. They should be able to identify the capabilities of your staff to embrace your digital brand, while also knowing when you need to hire a third-party expert, such as a programming or data analytics team to help your organization with short-term transitions and initiatives.

Make Yourself Agile

Your financial institution should be constantly evolving and improving. Establishing an API to embrace open banking is a great start. Additionally, your organization should have a team in place to regularly maintain, improve and research innovations for your mobile app and digital presence. Regularly planning for app updates and regularly rolling out new innovative ways to make the best use of your customers’ data will keep your client base strong and encourage a spirit of constant improvement within your organization.

Focus on the Customer Experience First

Technology should be a means to an end, and that means your organization needs to illustrate what a positive customer experience looks and feels like, and then make sure your digital presence is fulfilling those promises. For example, if your organization is striving for a true omni-channel experience that is seamless for your customers, you should start customer journey mapping different scenarios and exploring how that omni-channel experience truly plays out. By diving into the nuts and bolts of the customer experience, your leadership team will be able to identify concrete and specific ways to improve the technology proving the framework for the overall customer experience.

Focus on Mobile

An omni-channel experience is essential to the modern competitive financial institution, but within that context, your organization should approach omni-channel from a mobile-first approach. Increasingly, customers are conducting financial transactions and interactions from mobile apps, and it’s important your financial institution look at these interactions as an epicenter for the way customers view your brand as a whole. Quite simply, if you get mobile right, the other pieces will fall into place.


The Year Ahead: Looking Forward To 2021

It may be difficult to think ahead during times of uncertainty, but financial institutions should take a moment to consider the way the financial services world is changing, and how they can best serve customers in the following year.

When planning for the year ahead, consider the following trends and possibilities for your organization.

Ramped-Up Platforms and Services

Consumers utilizing digital channels is nothing new, and by now, your organization should have a strong omni-channel platform in place that helps customers navigate easily between branch, digital and app-based interactions with your organization.

However, a new spin the your digital footprint is the way customers can interact with your organization. While digital interactions used to be transactional, we’re seeing a transition to more sophisticated and meaningful exchanges between organization and customer

These include:

Learning. More and more customers are using their financial institutions to learn about new products, offerings, or simply looking to their financial institutions for guidance and help in their budgeting.

Opening Accounts. Customers can take a more autonomous approach to working with your financial institution if you’re able to streamline and enable online processes, such as opening a new account or creating a new tool they can access on their own.

Customizing and Tailoring. Customers are looking for more intimate solutions to their needs, such as highly personalized budgeting tools and tailored retirement calculators. Similarly, your organization should be working to use your customer data to personalize and enhance promotional material and cross-selling within your organization.

Make sure your organization is pushing to expand and improve your digital offerings in ways that deepen your relationships with your customers and provide lasting value.

Creative Financing

Many small businesses have suffered as a result of government-mandated closures and otherwise decreased foot traffic due to Covid-19. As a result, there will be a major impetus on financial services to work with new and existing organizations to finance new endeavors, think creatively about win-win scenarios for both lender and borrower, and contribute more broadly to the economic health of their communities.

Banks and credit unions should begin planning now for ways they can work with local businesses to create positive pathways to economic recovery, as well as weathering what are hopefully the final months of Covid-19’s biggest negative impact on the economy.

Questions Over Covid Aftermath

It would be presumptuous to say that Covid-19 will be officially over and done in 2021, but dissemination of a vaccine is a major step in the right direction a cause for optimism. If not comprehensively, vaccine distribution may open the door for a greater sense of “normalcy” in society, health and economics, at least in the United States.

However, there will likely be long-term residual effects of Covid-19, many of which we can’t predict. The stock market has done well, but it still feels like the verdict is out regarding the long-term effects of Covid-19 negative effects on small business. Regardless of larger, publicly-traded companies, Main Street USA will take time to recover, especially industries heavily reliant on in-person interaction, such as bars and restaurants.

Similarly, the trauma of 2020 will likely change consumer behaviors and attitudes around personal finance, and these attitudes will carry into politics and our culture as a whole. One thing is certain: This year was dramatic, and its impact will be felt after Covid-19 is controlled and diminished.

2020: A Unique Year For Financial Services

2020 was a year unlike any other. Covid-19 was a massive shock not only to the public health of the world, but to the economic systems that rely to varying degrees on interpersonal interaction.

Financial services are unique in that banks and credit unions feel their customers’ financial stresses — seeing the large-scale economic disruption of Covid-19 play out on an individual level, across individuals’ various employment scenarios, household makeups and unique financial challenges.

Personal finance is often thought of as transactional and sterile, but the reality is that it is deeply intimate and emotional. Banks and credit unions interact in this intimate space, and there are key learnings executives and directors should take away from this year.

You Are the Expert

In 2008 and 2009, the global economic meltdown happened relatively quickly, but at a snail’s pace compared to the economic changes of 2020. This year, businesses were ordered to close overnight, money was pulled from pre-planned engagements, and individuals had to restructure their daily life in a matter of days.

This rapid pace of change applied to other arenas too, such as the financial world. Small businesses were allowed to apply for economic relief funding, landlord and tenants laws were given temporary alterations, and stimulus checks were largely distributed directly to individuals’ bank accounts.

As a financial institution, your organization had to know about all of these changes for your own business purposes. However, your intimate knowledge about changing laws and financial practices lends you to be an expert and source of knowledge for your customers.

Increasingly, we’re seeing customers ask for more from their financial institutions, particularly in terms of digital tools and help with their personal finance and budgeting. You should apply this thought process to macro-level changes as well, and be the “translator” that can communicate the way new laws and policies affect your customers on a case-by-case basis.

Coaching For Change Should Be Constant

When Covid-19 hit, your financial organization likely had to change protocol on the fly, specifically to assist customers using your digital platform for the first time or to re-allocate responsibility to staff among temporary branch closures.

Hopefully, your organization had a strong protocol in place for training for new skills and change management. If not, now is the time to establish those change management operations as a permanent part of your organization. New technology, partnerships with FinTech organizations and disruption in the financial services world all necessitate a regular, established training routine to help your staff adapt to new skills. Make sure to invest in your people and make sure they can help customers navigate new offerings and make the most of the ways your organization is improving.

Do the Right Thing

It sounds simple, but ethics in business has moved beyond a basic underlying function and come to represent a major feature of brand identity. Make sure your organization is doing things that are beneficial for your customers, particularly in times of hardship, to position yourself as a trusted partner and friendly face in a sometimes harsh financial world. You’ll be rewarded with passionate brand advocates and a deepened customer relationship.

Take Stock Amid Disruption

November 24, 2020

With Covid’s impact on all aspects of life, it’s important to take stock in you organization’s ability to ride the wave of change, incorporate new obstacles into your plan, and create a meaningful and valuable experience for your customers. Those who can be agile and ride this wave of change will be rewarded with loyal customers and a brand reputation that is set up for success.

Actively Changing and Evolving

Is your organization regularly rolling out initiatives, working to improve, and functioning in a constant state of change? While it’s good to perfect certain processes, the reality is that if there isn’t some degree of “discomfort” within your organization, you likely aren’t making a great enough effort to evolve. Technology changes, the transition to universal banking and increased partnerships with FinTech and analytics providers are just a few ways the sector is changing as a whole, and these changes necessitate constant training. Make sure your organization is feeling the effects of change. If not, find a way you can improve, and start getting out of your comfort zone.

Embracing the Mobile Experience

Simply put, your organization should be mobile-centric. This means that branch staff, online support and your overall strategy should be putting the mobile experience at the top of your list for customer experience initiatives. Banks and credit unions are seeing an increase in the number of touchpoints that occur through a mobile app, so if the rest of your staff isn’t keeping pace with your mobile presence, focus on training to have a mobile-first outlook within your entire organization.

Establishing Partnerships

In order to stay competitive and innovative, your financial institution should be actively seeking partnerships. Specifically, you should be focusing on FinTech and data analytics partnerships. FinTech partners can bring unique financial tools to your customers in exchange for access to your customer database, and in doing so, create value for your organization, resulting in your financial institution having innovation “baked in.”

Additionally, your organization should be largely focused on making data-driven decisions. Understanding net promoter scores, analyzing most and least profitable products/services and learning more about your digital engagement should all be top priorities. Bringing in an analytics team or consultant can help you identify your blind spots as an organization, get a plan in place to process and analyze data, and train your staff to utilize that data in an effective and meaningful way to drive revenue.

Focus on Customer Centricity

Your entire staff should have the customer journey (and multiple customer journeys) in mind during interactions. Additionally, your digital strategy should have a clear map of different customer paths. Simply put, customer centricity is a must going into 2020. If you feel your organization needs to improve in this facet, begin to produce detailed customer journey maps — identifying variances and different journeys for different products, services, sources of information and types of customers. By building a framework, you can begin to wrap your mind around the greater picture of the customer experience, and pick out ways to incrementally improve.

Make Your Digital Transformation Meaningful

Most financial institutions are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating their digital platforms, thinking of ways they can improve the technology they offer, stay up-to-date with the competitive landscape, and check the necessary boxes to consider themselves digital leaders.

However, too often, these measures don’t maintain a customer-centric approach. Leaders and decision makers feel pressure to “keep up with the Joneses,” and are simply focused on having the flashiest, newest technology available as a means to look smart.

In the process, they sometimes sacrifice customer experience, or fail to improve the overall customer experience. Think about the following pieces when reviewing and improving your digital offerings.

See Covid As An Opportunity to Help

While Covid has been devastating for individuals and organizations from both a health and economic perspective, it’s an opportunity for your organization to provide support in a time of need. Namely, your digital platform and your ability to help customers utilize it will be hugely helpful. Think about ways you can go above and beyond:

Replacing in-person. Due to restrictions and for personal health reasons, there are likely a lot of individuals using your digital platforms for the first time. Thinking specifically about tech-resistant customers, think about ways you can help streamline the process, make it easy to understand, and help overcome any hurdles.

Proactively communicating. Think about ways your organization can help proactively communicate information related to unemployment benefits, forgiveness programs instituted by the government, or new initiatives your organization is undertaking to help customers during economic uncertainty.

Support. Try to increase your digital chat and phone support while customers are forced to utilize your digital platforms. Make sure you’re showing that your organization is accountable and willing to support customers through difficult times.

Begin and End With Customer Experience

When you’re considering a feature to incorporate into your digital platform, think critically about how it will help (or hurt) your customers. Too often, cost-cutting measures for automation are made without the customer in mind, or new technology is hurried through the door without thorough review about customer usability. By keeping your customers front-and-center, you ensure your organization is addressing the “why” behind your digital platform.

Create a Digital Culture

Make digital improvement a regular part of your organization’s activities through:

Review. Make sure you’re measuring the performance of various digital touchpoints and working to improve them.

Exploration. Have regular exploratory processes in place to learn about how new technology and partnerships can be incorporated into your organization’s digital offerings.

Education. Take time to make your branch employees fluent on your digital offerings. Help them understand how the customer sees their in-branch experience and your digital platform as one larger experience with your organization and brand.

As Covid Spikes, What Should Financial Institutions Do?

Covid has likely had major implications on the way your financial institution operates and serves its customers on a day-to-day basis. Make sure you’re considering the following to ensure customer satisfaction during a tumultuous time.

Help Out and Listen

Make sure your organization is in tune with the stresses of your customers, and understand the different types of obstacles they might be facing in their financial lives.

Businesses. Make sure you understand the financial status of the businesses you serve, and have open conversations with them about their ability to continue to pay outstanding business loans. Help protect your financial organization against any potential downside or inability to pay from your clients while also being proactive about creative plans to help them stay afloat during a difficult time. Similarly, serve as an information resource for them and help them understand their options during difficult times.

Customers. Think about ways you can adjust your organization the make small exceptions that will go far for customers. Are there certain fees you can waive that you might normally charge for, such as overdraft charges? Are there information resources you can provide them related to setting up direct deposit for unemployment benefits? Think of ways you can go above and beyond for your customers to give them a hand up, especially if they’ve fallen on hard times.

Importantly, your organization needs to be more in tune with your customers than ever before, especially during a time of fluctuating financial legalities (e.g., the CARES Act), economic insecurity (potential lay-offs) and increased stress.

In particular, make sure you’re paying close attention to your social media. Look for changing customer behaviors, attitudes and concerns and make sure you’re addressing them frustrations as early as possible. Seemingly innocuous actions that may have flown under the radar in the past, such as overdraft charges, could potentially cause customers to become angry and affect your brand image.

Smartly Allocate Resources

Think about your in-person and virtual components of your organization, and how you can better allocate your human resources to meet the needs of your customers.

In particular, look at where your organization is being stressed. Specifically, many financial institutions are seeing an uptick in online engagement and phone time, while seeing a decrease in branch visits due to social distancing. With these changes, are there staff members you can utilize to re-allocate their time and attention away from your physical branch and instead have them assisting with your call center operations or digital strategy?

Budget and Adjust to Interest Rates

Make sure you understand how interest rates are affecting your business, especially in terms of cuts to interest rates, revenue implications and the status of business loans or mortgages you currently have with your customers. Think about opportunities you can present your clients with in terms of low interest rates to help drive revenue or refinance a mortgage, and make sure your organization is financial prepared for the road ahead.