Financial organizations are still seeing an increase in drive-up traffic today, 3+ months after reopening their lobbies to their clients from the COVID-19 shut down. In the midst of all the risks and unknowns, people are playing it safe where it's possible, especially when it's convenient. And drive-through lanes for banking checks both of those boxes.
The decline of lobby foot traffic isn't new to banks and credit unions; it was an industry trend and challenge for most financial institutions prior to the shutdown, but is has certainly been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the shutdown, financial institutions were concerned about decreased lobby activity. COVID has simply elevated the priority on finding creative solutions to extend excellent service beyond the lobby and continue building strong relationships with clients in a world where in-person interactions are limited.
Your Questions, Answered
We've been inundated with questions from our clients as they search for ideas:
- What impact will COVID-19 have on client relationships within our buildings?
- How do we continue to build strong relationships with minimal face-to-face contact?
- How do we separate ourselves from our competition and demonstrate our superior customer service if our clients do not come into the branch anymore?
- How do we stop financial institutions from becoming a commodity?
These are not new questions, but they are a heightened concern for financial and retail industries. To address these concerns from a high-level, we encourage our clients to be proactive instead of reactive. First, do not wait for economic recovery to start making changes; make those changes now so that you are ahead of the curve. If you have been contemplating a shift from traditional, transactional banking to relationship banking, now is the time to act (and if you haven't considered this transition, now is the time to do so!).
Secondly, transactions in your lobbies will likely continue to decrease, especially now post-COVID because your customers have become accustomed to this 'new' way of doing business. While they have been forced to learn to utilize technology to handle their transaction needs, they still need guidance and education when it comes to lending and wealth management. Financial institutions need to start thinking outside of the box to help separate themselves from their competition for these services. We encourage our clients to think differently about how they can deliver better, unique experiences in ways that work best for their clients.
Okay enough rhetoric, what do financial institutions really need to do to continue to be successful in their industry during these challenging times?
It's simple: listen to your clients. Find out what they want from you, because the issues or items that were important to them four or five months ago may not apply anymore.
People still need financial guidance - that's never going to change - but they want it in a new manner. They want the comfort of what they've always had, in a way that accommodates their 'new normal.' They want services to be convenient, and available when they want them. They want interaction and a sense of being valued and appreciated.
I believe that this pandemic is a snapshot in time. and will eventually pass. People have short memories and in due time they will fall back into their normal rituals, carrying forward only the improved practices that made their lives easier. The best thing your financial institution can do now is get out in front of this new normal and work to anticipate the new ways your clients will want to work with you - and then put those solutions in place.