The longer lockdowns persist, the more widespread and embedded customer behaviors may become, but the data suggests banks need to do more to encourage digital adoption and to make the change permanent.
This means banks must ensure customers using remote channels have a positive experience both during, and beyond the crisis. Many banks have been challenged by a surge in customer queries, which has led to delays in customers being able to contact their bank. There are creative ways to improve this experience, for example using chatbots or redeploying branch staff to boost contact centre capacity. It is also particularly important to ensure staff are empathetic in dealing with customers in potentially stressful situations. In addition, banks should use the crisis to identify where the current customer journey can be improved to enhance the experience post crisis.
For changes in customer behavior to remain beyond the crisis, banks must reinforce the benefits of remote channels not just restrict branch access.
2. Are we witnessing the end of cash?
Use of cash has been in decline for some time, but with many physical shops closed due to COVID-19 pandemic, this has accelerated. Fifty-nine percent of European consumers say they are using less cash today than before the crisis. Contactless payments are up around 30% (net), online payment tools by more than 20% and card payments up 10%. Almost 30% of consumers expect to be using less cash and more contactless payments over the next couple of years.
While banks may be tempted to rejoice at the fall in cash usage, there is a need for caution. The latest estimates suggest around 40 million adults in the EU don’t have a bank account and there is typically a correlation between cash dependence and poverty. Such concerns in Sweden, possibly the most cash-light society in the world led to its parliament voting in favour of a bill requiring banks to ensure people had access to nearby ATMs and businesses could still make deposits. The European payments council has also been explicit, saying it’s “a societal objective to minimize the cost of cash whilst ensuring its availability… for those to whom cash remains a means of payment of choice (pdf).”
While cash usage may decline, banks will continue have a clear role to play in its circulation. This means organizations will need to work collaboratively to focus on improving the efficiency of cash handling across the financial system.
3. Can banks rebuild customer trust?
Today, only 19% of consumers say they completely trust financial services firms. Yet, banks are on the front line supporting customers through the crisis, by transmitting government stimulus measures, offering forbearance and emergency funding to clients and donating to relief efforts.
The EY Future Consumer Index suggests that firms that behave responsibly and ethically will be rewarded. Nearly half of European consumers say that their future purchasing decisions will be positively impacted by firms that are actively supporting the community, ensuring they are doing good for society and being transparent in all they do. On the other hand, 40% say they will be less likely to purchase from firms that are focused on maximizing profits.
This presents real opportunity for banks to highlight the work they are doing in their communities and improve the trust deficit in the sector.