As we compare life today to just a few weeks ago, the difference is unimaginable. Birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers, weddings, graduations have gone virtual. Families and friends are staying connected through video conferencing, social media, email and maybe even reverting to a pen and paper to write a physical letter. Folks have even taken to their vehicles to parade by loved ones’ homes with heartfelt signs and cheers from afar. One thing is clear, people need people. Interaction is essential and in this time where physical closeness is restricted, if not forbidden, quality communication has never been more vital.
In the midst of this global crisis, financial firms seek to extend a hand in support of their customers. Assuaging fears, demonstrating strength and longevity, providing useful resources, all in an effort to calm frayed nerves so customers have at least one area of their lives (quite an important one), that they need not worry about. In the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, financial firms went to extensive measures to reassure clients that the firm is still standing and will continue to do so, that their life savings is not gone forever, that they can continue to safely do business with the firm. Just as a caravan of vehicles can warm someone’s heart on their birthday, so can firms who go the extra mile to show empathy, alleviate frustration, encourage and engage customers with resources that assist or enhance their new normal.
Now, reassurance has been provided and firms are shifting their messaging as we move into the next stage of our new reality. As your firm continues to offer clients support and guidance, here are ten tips to keep in mind:
#1 Update COVID-19 Web pages frequently
Updates should occur at least weekly. By now consumers are already aware that most, if not all business is being conducted remotely and firms have implemented their Business Continuity Plans. COVID-19 Resource Centers should be kept fresh, if even to offer creative resources that speak to our current at-home reality. Innovative resources might include:
- Creative ways to thank our health care and other essential workers (i.e. banners, lawn signs, notes on mailboxes or garbage cans, chalk messages on driveways or sidewalks, etc.)
- Boredom busters - Links to educational websites or crafting websites
- Recommended Book lists
- et al
#2 Place great emphasis on dates
Given the pace at which this pandemic has and continues to unfold it is crucial that website visitors are aware that what they are reading is still relevant. Materials should contain dates and the date of the last page update within COVID-19 Resource Centers should also be posted.
#3 Ensure that COVID-19 communications are highly visible
Customers expect there to be communication about the health crisis and visitors' eyes now automatically scan the page for the firm's Coronavirus message. Place this information prominently so they can:
- Receive immediate confirmation that your firm is in fact taking steps to protect both clients and associates
- Easily glean what is of most interest and relevance to them among your firm's COVID-19 materials
- Quickly move to their intended mission on the site
#4 Give customers a heads up about an expected decline in service
Calling any firm during this period almost certainly results in a significant delay in having one's call answered. For those customers who have hung up out of frustration and instead visited the site, or even for those whose first stop was the website, acknowledging the expected delay and requesting customers' patience goes a long way in alleviating testy attitudes!
#5 Ward off frustration, direct clients to alternate servicing options
In addition to proactively communicating about potential contact center delays, let clients know by what other avenues they can receive assistance. The website, mobile app, FAQs, AI features can all help to funnel clients elsewhere prior to needing a call center.
#6 Ensure that messages from the firm's executives have maximum efficacy
Greater than 75% of websites offer reassuring messages from the firm's CEO or other high level executive. The quality of those messages varies greatly from simple, "Don't worry, we’re still conducting business remotely" themes, to endearing video messages from casually dressed executives expressing sentiments such as "we are all in this together and together we will get through it." At a minimum, these messages should be coupled with a photo of the executive to add a warmer, more human touch. Additionally, messages from executives should be updated to address this stage of the pandemic. What is happening now is far different from what was happening in mid-February.
#7 Tie market volatility to the current environment
Volatility resources range from links to already existing Market Volatility content, to that material being placed within COVID-19 Resource Centers, to myriad articles directly addressing the current crisis, its impact on the markets and tips about remaining calm through the roller coaster ride. Best-in-class practices noted with regard to addressing extreme volatility during this pandemic include:
- Acknowledging that what clients have seen in the markets in recent weeks is unprecedented and scary
- Referencing other historic events during which the markets made extreme downturns
- Providing multiple reassuring messages and taking a "we will get through this together" approach
Linking to already existing materials or simply providing market volatility content without messaging that directly addresses the crisis at hand, falls short of adequately expressing the firm's commitment to staying side-by-side with the client through this ordeal.
#8 Consider speaking directly to our frontline warriors
We all have relatives or friends about whom we are concerned as they put themselves in harm's way daily in service to our society. Acknowledging them goes a long way in expressing your firm's concern, not only for our heroes, but also for those who love them.
#9 Utilize social media for COVID-19 messaging
Social media is the optimum avenue to reassure clients and provide updates particularly for those clients who may not have thought to visit your firm's website, but may be connected via social media.
#10 Express your community and/or global support
Your firm has likely already informed clients of the actions you have taken for them and on behalf of your associates. Let them know how your firm has rolled up its sleeves and dove in to lend a hand in support of your community, state, the country, or the world at-large.
- By Shelley Eramo