The COVID-19 pandemic flipped customer experience programs across all industries upside down, and banking makes a prime example.
As bank branches closed or limited hours and visitors, financial activities abruptly shifted online or to call centers, breaking old patterns of customer behavior and setting new ones.
Amid this disruption, it’s time to face facts: Your pre-COVID CX data may no longer be useful for understanding your customer experience today.
Information collected in January and February, before COVID arrived, reflects an entirely different reality than the one facing financial institutions now. Even data from earlier in the pandemic — March and April 2020 — needs to be treated differently than more recent data. For example, you probably cannot reward employees for CX-based targets based on early-pandemic data.
Instead of continuing to attempt to force trendlines to fit out-of-date data, now’s the time to reevaluate CX program priorities. It’s critical to listen to customers’ needs in real time instead of relying on pre-pandemic insights that simply do not reflect today’s uncertainty. If you tune in intelligently, you will get rich insights that help you understand how all the disruption impacts your bank or credit union.
Here are three suggestions for getting started.
1. Pause Your CX Program’s Compensation Elements
It’s normal and reasonable to tie financial incentives to CX results. However, we’re not in normal times.
COVID-19 has changed brand capabilities overnight. Customer expectations have shifted in unexpected ways, too. For example, bank branch visitors may now expect a higher standard of sanitation, enforcement of social distancing measures, and other adaptations that keep them safe. Providing good service is only the bare minimum.
“COVID-19 has changed brand capabilities overnight. Customer expectations have shifted in unexpected ways, too.”
In this context, attempting to meet key performance indicators that were set in a radically different reality is a distraction from what really needs to be done: understanding how customers’ needs and situations have changed, and adapting appropriately. Instead of incentivizing unrealistic goals, focus on listening.
However, it may not be possible to eliminate compensation entirely, as such a shift may be met with internal resistance from chief human resources officers or board compensation committees. If pausing isn’t an option, here are a couple tactics you can try:
• Only compare months in which you had full operations in both 2019 and 2020. You may need to wait a little longer to get a “fair” baseline.
For example, even if all your branches reopened at full capacity on June 1, full capacity in 2020 means something different from what it was in 2019. You may not be able to normalize results year over year until later this fall, if you’re able to do so at all. And while you may be able to get “close” to comparing results, you will still need to be thoughtful about your approach.
By understanding trends post-reopening, you can start to bring back compensation goals. The key here is to be thoughtful. If CX-based compensation becomes an employee detractor, the impacts are much greater than missing a short-term payout that leaves your employees disenfranchised.
• Use statistical analysis to adjust trendlines for the outlier months.
This is a more complicated approach that involves using 2019 data as a guide for adjustment. If you adopt this tactic, it may make sense to wait until later in 2020 so you have more data available for analysis. And you may still get pushback from operations team members who continue to believe 2020 is nothing like 2019. Tread lightly!
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2. Listen Closely to the People Your Institution Serves
The pandemic has created widespread innovation in the financial sector — much of it on the fly. Banks and credit unions have had to rethink their processes to meet new customer needs, such as an increased demand for personal finance advice and online banking capabilities. They’ve also had to adapt the employee experience to new situations, such as remote work.
However, with all this turbulence, customer, non-customer, and employee experiences have been in constant flux. To gather the quality experience data you need to drive strategy forward, it’s incredibly important to listen to those individuals carefully. This is especially true as financial institutions adjust to the “new normal” and begin to test the innovations they piloted during the pandemic at scale.
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3. Add New and Fresh Data Sources
Besides listening more closely to consumers and business customers, banks and credit unions should also take this time to rethink how they listen. What listening posts do you use, and how would adding new ones change your customer experience? Now is an excellent time to take stock of your programs and answer these pressing questions, particularly if you’ve already had to change your channel mix amid all the other disruptions of the pandemic.
You may also want to amplify your employee listening capabilities. Hopefully, you were already listening to staff before the world changed. But the constant shifts of the past few months have likely put them under a great deal of stress. By demonstrating that leadership cares about their needs, you can help employees feel more invested in the company and more inclined to serve as brand advocates instead of detractors.
Employee listening methods don’t have to be expensive or time intensive. Quick pulse surveys can help you understand how employees are feeling, while panel-based surveys may be more effective for planning long-term experience and organizational strategies. The important thing is to get started now so you can make necessary adjustments quickly.