CSP Happenings

Topic: Customer Service Experience

As Covid Spikes, What Should Financial Institutions Do?

November 24, 2020

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.

Tech-Centricity as a Competitive Edge

October 27, 2020

More than ever, technology should be at the forefront of your overall strategy when thinking about your financial institution. In particular, you should think about the way your organization leverages FinTech partnerships and enhances your mobile presence to improve customer experience, stay competitive and lay the groundwork for meeting customer expectations in the future.

The Enhanced Collaboration of Banks and FinTech Startups

FinTech startups and financial institutions are currently in a phase of working together, creating alliances and developing a roadmap for the future. At the moment (and for the near future) this partnership makes perfect sense: FinTech organizations are on the cutting edge of data analytics and turning that data into value adds for customers, while banks provide regulatory compliance, an existing customer base and the security of a traditional financial institution.

However, moving into the future, the two separate parties will see a greater convergence. The current match-making between these two types of organizations is simply a predecessor for a larger industry trend: the inherent transition for financial institutions to organizations that have advanced analytics and the ability to leverage those analytics for a competitive advantage. Expect financial institutions to begin to think about how they can bring FinTech partners in-house in order to work more closely, have a synonymous strategy between the two organizations, and make data analytics a firm and internal part of their long-term strategy.

Increase in Digital and Transformation of In-Person

Digital banking has seen an explosion in the last five years, and that trend is likely to continue. Specifically, banks and credit unions are beginning to view mobile banking as their primary method of interaction with customers, with the vast majority of transactions now happening digitally and increasingly through mobile devices. Financial institutions will take note and try to leverage mobile by:

  • Introducing branding: Organizations will do their best to create their brand’s voice and convey it through their mobile app, conveying their core value adds, whether those be convenience, security or something else, along with their brand’s personality
  • Keeping up with new mobile opportunities: Along with FinTech organizations, financial institutions will look at their mobile apps to see how they can introduce useful pre-existing technology into their app. Things like peer-to-peer payment systems, personal budgeting help and money-saving tools will all continue to be integrated and expanded in the mobile banking world

COVID-19: An Opportunity to Connect

Let’s be real: There are a lot of negatives to to Covid-19. Many small businesses are struggling, as are individuals, especially those who have lost their job or seen their income reduced. And, perhaps worst of all, as a financial institution, you’re privy to some of the financial struggles of your customers and seeing their balance sheet being squeezed in real time.

However, any strong organization needs to recognize the opportunity at hand — the opportunity to connect, inform your customers, and provide value extending beyond the typically transactional nature of business as usual. Consider the following ways you can connect with your customers in a meaningful, substantial way.

Coach For Excellence

The employees of your financial institution are having to learn new skills on the fly as your organization adopts. These skills might seem like an “adjustment,” but treating them as such opens the door for inefficiency, lack of understanding and ignores the impact each touchpoint has on your organization’s bottom line.

Whether an employee is working in a newly-social-distanced branch setting, or perhaps a digital support person is learning new Covid-19 protocol, your organization should take this chance to train for excellence, helping employees understand their new responsibilities and showing them how to provide the utmost care for your customers.

Think about your training in these different ways:

  • Training employees for new skills. Learning a lot of new tasks and skills at once is difficult. Make sure your leadership team has a clearly defined training agenda and the training staff to support your employees.
  • Training customers for changes. One of the nuances of Covid-19 is that your customers’ experiences are shifting quickly as well. Your employees need to learn how to be coaches themselves – how to clearly explain new protocols, technologies and the reasoning behind these changes to your customers.
  • Train for emotional intelligence. Perhaps most importantly of all, your employees need to be emotionally responsive to the stress your customers are feeling. New protocols added to underlying financial stress create the potential for emotions to boil over when working with your financial institution. Prove to your customers that you’re on their team, and make sure your employees know how to address adverse reactions.
Actively Inform and Engage

Make sure your employees ask proactive questions to your customers, like if they understand new protocol, if they need special accommodations for their financial situations, an how they’re feeling about their finances and their relationship with your organization.

Covid-19 is unpredictable and stressful, but for that reason, it also opens the door for a more intimate relationship with your customer. Think about ways your organization can go above-and-beyond to make sure they understand new processes, feel appreciated, and are shown flexibility in order to help protect their financial lives. Showing the level of commitment enhances your relationship with your customers and pivots your financial institution from a transactional vendor to a trusted partner.

Get Out of Your Customers’ Way

October 26, 2020

It might sound like an oversimplification, but sometimes the best customer experience is the one the customer doesn’t realize they’re having. Customers are increasing their interaction with financial institutions through digital platforms, and in order to enhance that experience, your organization should streamline online activities so customers can easily and conveniently interact with your financial institution.

Provide Free, Customizable Tools

Customers need to be able to use the tools you provide for them, such as budgeting software, retirement planning and how they organize their savings buckets. However, they way your organization sets up your tools may be different from how your customers want to use them. Think about if your tools may be too “rigid” in their application, and how they can allow for customers to use your tools the way they want.

As an example, customers may want to be able to categorize different types of food purchases, such as separating drinks at happy hour from a dinner out with the family, even though both would typically fall under “Food and Dining.” Providing the customization ensures that your customers will be able to use your budgeting tools (in this example) in a way that is meaningful to them and the way they think about their expenses. Think about how you can set up your tools to allow for flexibility and a tailored approach.

Keep Promotions As Targeted As Possible

Promotions can be a tricky thing. On one hand, you want to utilize your customer data and your platform to promote new products and drive sales as much as possible. On the other hand, you don’t want to jade the overall customer experience by making your digital interface feel like a clickbait website full of pop-up windows and banner ads.

Pick your marketing opportunities wisely, make sure they’re non-abrasive (ie make sure they don’t interfere with online banking activities), and most importantly, make them relevant. The more accurately you can use your customers’ data to give them timely, relevant ads and promotions, the more likely they are to find utility in what you have to offer.

Encourage Digital Engagement

Get your customers to engage with your digital platform as much as possible. By creating an easy-to-use, streamlined app and online banking platform, you can remove the friction from your customers’ experience and enhance their utility of your dashboard. Think about ways you can make every task as simple as possible – from making mobile deposits to creating a new account. Similarly, anticipate ways your customers might get more utility out of your platform. Can you waive certain ATM and overdraft fees? Can you pre-approve them for new accounts without a waiting period? Anticipate your customers’ needs, then make achieving them as easy as possible.

Transform Your Social Media’s Role

September 20, 2020

Your financial institution’s social media strategy may feel inconsequential. After, all, if every organization has a social media account, aren’t infrequent posts enough to get by?

While this type of thinking can be alluring, the reality is that if you aren’t taking your social media strategy seriously, you are leaving money on the table and customers out in the cold. Think about ways you can use your social media not as simply a message board, but as a way to drive sales, develop your brand and acquire customers.

One-Way Promotions to Two-Way Communication

Think of posts not just as a message board, but as the beginning of a conversation. When your customers posts responses, follow up with them, whether good or bad. By addressing shortcomings and celebrating positive feedback from customers on your social media posts, your organization is winning by become real, approachable, interactive, and gaining the intrinsic qualities of a person, rather than a lifeless organization.

In particular, when dealing with negative feedback, address concerns with your customer in the post, and then follow up in direct messages to help address their concerns. Escalating the issue at hand and working toward a resolution shows your organization will go above and beyond for your customers, and other customers will take note.

From Information to Personality

Rather than simply trying to communicate information in a sterile, matter-of-fact tone, think about how your social media accounts can bring life into your posts. Consider the following when thinking about your brand’s “voice”:

  • Who is your target? By thinking about your target market, you can tailor your brand’s voice around that. By focusing on younger Gen Z and Millennial consumers, adopting an exceedingly informal tone may benefit you. Maybe you have a niche audience or industry you’re targeting. Keep these things in mind to help develop your brand’s identity.
  • What is your strength? Your brand’s social media presence should always play to your strengths. Think about what you do well, and put that message on full blast.
  • Create comprehensive marketing. Most importantly, be consistent! Across your different marketing materials and social media accounts, having consistent branding and tone will help establish your brand and make you memorable.
Transition From Advertiser to Marketplace

Current and potential customers should be able to take action on your social media accounts, including direct links to create an account or easily access their own. Think about the way you incorporate landing pages into your posts. In particular, if you are promoting a product or service, give clear instructions, provide linking to the next step and make sure that process is easy and intuitive from end to end. This sales funnel can be incredibly effective when it functions correctly, and putting attention into details will reap rewards for your financial institution.

Banking With Gen Z

Move over Millennials, Gen Z now has a seat at the financial table.

It may be hard for older professionals to believe, but the oldest Gen Z consumers are already 23 years old and some have entered the workforce. Banks and credit unions should treat this generation as a huge opportunity: an opportunity to establish lifelong customers early in their careers with massive growth potential, to stay ahead of the curve of evolving consumer expectations, and to expand the way financial institutions provide value to customers. Consider the following when thinking about your Gen Z customer acquisition stragegy.

Focus On Your Mobile Experience

Dialing in your mobile experience should be priority #1 for Gen Z. Gen Z is still in a phase where they are likely to use physical branches outside of COVID-19 due to economic insecurity and being in the early stages of their financial lives, but they’re also heavily dependent on mobile, conducting transactions with regularity and expecting a fluent omni-channel experience. Intuitive interfaces, easy help, dashboards that help them make sense of finances and new features like AI and sophisticated chatbots can all help aid the mobile experience for Gen Z.

The Expectations Are Higher

Along with having more mobile interactions, Gen Z simply has higher expectations when it comes to their digital interactions with a brand or service. This younger generations is too young to have gone through the same digital struggles of past generations, such as clunky interfaces or semi-regular bugs, so creating a fluent and well-oiled experience is of the utmost importance for wooing this generation.

In some ways, this goes with other trends we’re seeing, but financial institutions should work to be more consultative with Gen Z consumers. Specifically, helping to provide valuable insight into their finances will be huge for this generation moving forward. Pertinent analytics about their financial health and spending habits is a great place to start, and organizations that can capture this in a meaningful way will win a large market share of this generation in the future.

Gen Z Hates Debt

Learning from their older Millennial peers, Gen Z is uniquely aware of the debt they have incurred or are currently incurring while in school, or they’re taking active steps to avoid taking on student debt by exploring other options of employment and education. Regardless of their personal circumstances, as a generation, they are hyper-aware of debt and are vigilant to avoid to at all costs. This specific insight should provide a template for financial institutions. How can they help this generation conquer debt? How can customer data be uniquely used to process this information, provide a clear picture, and provide realistic goals? Using Gen Z data to help them achieve their goals, particularly in terms of debt, will separate winners and losers moving forward when working to acquire this next generation of customers.

Your Financial Institution’s Potential to Serve

To put it lightly, customer service has changed in the past decade. To put it accurately, customer service and experience has completely transformed, and like other industries, financial services must continue to evolve and grow with customer demands.

Specifically, banks and credit unions have traditionally provided value in ways separate from customer experience. Security, regulation and legal protection are core characteristics of financial institutions, and will always be valuable.

However, customers now have higher expectations for banks, and are looking for an enhanced customer experience that impacts their lives. Consider the following ways your organization can be a servant to your customers’ needs, goals and aspirations.

Serve Budgeting

Budgeting is one of the most tangible ways a financial institution can utilize customer data to provide unique value. There is a catch, however – it has to be useful and meaningful.

In this sense, think about if your organization is ready and willing to provide this feature, and if so, dive in. Poorly-categorized expenses, inability to fully capture all transactions, lack of customization and lack of month-over-month measurement are key downfalls of budgeting apps and interfaces. If you can overcome these barriers, you open the opportunity to become a meaningful part of your customers’ day-to-day lives.

Serve Unique Opportunities

With access to customers’ financial information, your financial institution can provide information about unique opportunities customers will want to utilize. Utilizing information like their age, spending habits and monthly income, you can make targeted and customized recommendations for products like investment accounts, life insurance and other types of loans when you think your customer will need them.

Be a Knowledge Expert

The financial world is always changing, and it’s sometimes hard for average consumers to keep up. Financial institutions should bear this load for their customers, giving them only the most pertinent information about macro-economic trends and the ways they impact individuals’ finances. Think about one-time COVID-payments, Roth IRA cap increases, and tax changes as opportunities to provide unique value to your customers based on their unique financial pictures.

Protect their Downside

Security is hugely important for consumers, and most Americans are trying to self-educate and make smart decisions, particularly in terms of the ways they incur debt and how that might pay off for them in the future. With a wealth of experience, banks and credit unions should work to advise consumers about this, warn them when they might be over-leveraged, and provide resources for more in-depth consulting. This provides a potential new stream of revenue for your financial institution, enhances your relationship with your customers, and most importantly, protects their financial wellbeing in order to create a meaningful and valuable relationship.

Reimagining the Modern Financial Institution

August 25, 2020

One of the biggest exciting-yet-uncomfortable realities of financial services is how much the role of financial institutions is changing. For executives and directors, this can be extremely unnerving. Ideas of digital transformation and customer engagement come to mind, but it’s hard to see how those ideas look in practice without a full understanding of the opportunities new technology presents and how information sharing is applied in a meaningful way.

In order to understand the true value of financial services in 2020 and beyond, executives need to think of their financial institutions less as isolated businesses that provide a service, and more as background players who will be constantly, albeit less obviously, present in their customers’ lives. Customers won’t necessarily go to the bank or credit union; instead, the financial institution will always be there — when grocery shopping, browsing online or getting your oil changed. Consider the following mental transitions your financial institution can make to rethink the way you interact with your customers.

From Bottleneck to Door Opener

Banks and credit unions have always served a major role as a protector of their clients wealth and information. Security and regulation are staples of financial services, and these pieces should never be taken for granted. However, younger customers have higher expectations for how technology should work for them across all sectors of their consumer lives, and having a financial institution that gets in the way has the potential to frustrate customers, even if done so in the interest of security.

Instead, financial institutions are maintaining their high levels of customer security while also streamlining and opening opportunities for the way customer data can be utilized to benefit these individuals.

A major piece of this puzzle is the role financial institutions have as guardians and beneficiaries of their customer data. Historically, financial institutions have always had huge amounts of intimate customer data. In 2020 and beyond, these financial institutions have a responsibility and a major competitive advantage to enhance and utilize that data.

From Centralized to Information-Fluent

When we think of digital banking, we think of a stand-alone platform; log-in screens, account dashboards and security questions come to mind. This current setup is valuable and won’t go away any time soon. However, rather than serving as a stand-alone platform, financial services will increasingly become a lens through which commerce and online activities function. Perhaps more accurately, financial institutions will always be in the background, whether by providing customer security during a transaction, leveraging customer data to make purchase recommendations or streamlining the online shopping process.

Additionally, this will come in the form of increased information sharing. With the Internet of Things taking off and a higher expectation around interaction of mobile devices with other kiosks, banks and credit unions will be expected to protect customer privacy while, within regulation, readily sharing customer information with other devices. Rewards, vital customer information and speed of purchase all benefit from this ease of exchanged information.

Obstacles and Solutions for Digital Transformation

Updating digital systems in financial services can be expensive, inconvenient, and down right intimidating. Most organizations are concerned with their day-to-day, and are often so focused on their current performance metrics, that it’s hard to step back and imagine tearing that entire system apart.

However, tearing your current digital platform apart opens the door for new revenue opportunities, enhanced customer experience, and a new level of growth for your financial institution. Consider the following barriers and how you can help your organization overcome them.

Lack of Explicit Need

Sometimes, financial institutions struggle with the logic of replacing something that is working perfectly well. Most financial institutions have mobile banking that is functional and meets their clients’ basic needs. While this current system in place is great, executives and their organizations may be missing out on major growth opportunities by not re-examining and improving their digital offerings.

Simply put, you don’t know what you don’t know. Or, in this case, you don’t know what business opportunities your organization is missing. Consider just a few of the potential offerings:

  • Customized marketing opportunities. By enhancing your digital platform, your organization can create customized, timely marketing for your internal products, based on customer needs, and informed by data.
  • FinTech partners. It’s hard to emphasize the value of FinTech partners enough. These organizations can utilize your customer base and bring you value through digital innovation. Best of all, by providing your customer base, you’re already bringing value to the table for them, giving you leverage for low- and no-cost partnerships.
  • Better security. Your outdated platform might have holes in its security, or at best, it’s falling short of enhanced standards in customer data protection.
Replacing Outdated Systems With Utilitarian Infrastructure

Many organizations face this issue of the status quo with their IT systems — using programming languages that are outdated, and often require expert knowledge to operate due to their archaic nature and complexity. Similarly, the individuals who understand how to operate these systems may be resistant to change. After all, by maintaining the status quo, they have total control over the current platform, bring value through their ability to navigate that platform, and want to protect their value.

However, executives and directors need to see the bigger picture of their IT infrastructure. In particular, transitioning to an open API is a huge step in the right direction, and should be a short term goal for any organization without this system in place. By transitioning to an open API, your organization opens the door for other innovators, such as FinTech and an abundance of tools, to operate on your platform and utilize your customer data in a way that can enhance the customer experience and accelerate your transformation.

Leveraging Existing Customer Data

Existing customer data gives businesses insights and opportunities otherwise unthinkable as recently as 15 years ago. Stock brokers, Netflix and data miners are all using customer data to anticipate needs, create valuable offerings and better communicate with their customer base. Financial institutions have huge potential with analytics, both in terms of customer data and the capacity to help customers by better understanding their behaviors. With the security of customer data as a top priority for financial institutions, financial institutions have to be careful with how they use customer data in adherence to regulation, but 2020 and beyond will see the full expansion of analytics into the financial realm and a world of new benefits for customers.


Understanding current data about customers helps financial institutions better segment their potential customers based on behaviors and promote to them accordingly. In this way, institutions can expand their reach while also differentiating their client base.

The ability to savvily target outreach for new audiences helps financial institutions grow, but pre-screening and understanding customers they reach out to also helps to identify ideal customers. Financial figures, spending habits and credit all play into a financial institutions target market, and predictive analytics helps identify these people beforehand.

Marketing and Promotions

Understanding current customers and their finances goes a long way. Especially with FinTech partnerships on the rise, financial institutions are finding creatives ways to make offerings to customers. With predictive analytics, those offerings can be budget/income/customer-specific and feel more relevant as a result.

Cross-selling, offering new products, enhancing existing services offered to customers and simply providing a higher level of customer service are all core benefits of predictive analytics when used as a marketing function. Consider an example of a FinTech budgeting tool. Promotions and advertisements, like something a customer might see on a dashboard or as a banner ad, could be personalized and reflect their unique financial behaviors. By promoting in this data-driven format, customers can get a valuable perspective on the benefits of a new tool from a personalized ad.

Screening and Qualification

Pre-screening is a valuable and important step in selling a financial product or service. Whether a car loan, mortgage or a credit card, pre-qualification helps pave the way for an appealing and seamless purchasing experience. Customers will be delighted by not having to go through the screening process, and will feel validated as a result. Additionally, predictive analytics can help promote the right type of product a customer successfully qualifies for, avoiding any annoyances or questions that might arise when an unexpected obstacle could have come up in the past due to their financial standing and history.


Predictive analytics serve an essential security function for financial institutions by identifying fraudulent activity. Understanding customer behavior and buying habits enables predictive analytics to accurately identify outliers in their traditional purchases as a means of preventing identity theft.

Similarly, predictive analytics will play an important role in the future of information sharing. Open banking is taking off, and financial institutions need to be able to secure important customer information while also sharing it with FinTech startups and other partners. Predictive analytics, including the dissemination of that information and the way it’s being accessed, will help to identify any breaches in security quicker and allow institutions to act quickly in the event of a security breach. This idea extends to businesses and other vendors, who will benefit from the quick identification and nullification of fraudulent activity.