It’s not surprising commerce continues to migrate to digital channels across all sectors and that the pandemic has pushed further the already speedy digital banking trend. In the FI world, consumers rely on their bank or credit union’s virtual branch to navigate real-life decisions.
A recent family trip to Florida’s gulf coast reminded me of how much importance customers put into “What it says on the website.” We visited an area decimated by Hurricane Michael the year prior; although it remains a beautiful destination, the storm’s impact was still evident. Some businesses only had websites left standing, as we soon came to learn.
If It’s Not Online, Does It Even Exist?
One afternoon my daughter announced it was “Oyster Day” and that our evening’s dining choice would need to include that menu option. Like any self-respecting twentysomething would do, her next step was searching online and finding a venue touting the best raw oysters in the area with live music to boot. Since her choice was a 20-mile drive from our rental property, I asked a few follow-up questions; the exasperated “Yes, Dad” responses went something like this:
- “Yes, Dad, they’re open on Wednesdays.” (Many of the area restaurants seem to take Wednesdays off.)
- “Yes, Dad, they have fried shrimp.”
- “Yes, Dad, I’m sure they’re still in business - I’m looking at their website right now.”
That last exasperated retort sealed our fate. We got in our car and followed the GPS directions to a promised night of raw oysters, fried shrimp, and live music. However, a half-hour later, we found ourselves staring at an empty lot housing nothing but a concrete pad. We later learned the hurricane had so heavily damaged the restaurant it was bulldozed. Disappointed and a little embarrassed, our daughter pulled up the website on her phone again, showing us the eye-catching menu options and hours of operation. How could this place be out of business yet still have such a robust online presence?
Searching for Facts Amid the Rubble
Today’s customers constantly judge businesses based on the online identity they maintain. In this case, the business’s digital presence had become completely uncoupled from reality, and, sadly, the establishment was no longer around to address any resulting ill will. It’s easy to envision a more common scenario, however.
What if a financial institution has added new products, changed hours, or closed branches, but none of their current or prospective customers, whose first inclination is to Google it, has any way of finding out? It’s a recipe for a bad online review.
Even if the website is updated, have you confirmed that search engines have the current information? Think of your online identity as a real-time representation of your FI’s current situation. More powerful than old-school advertising channels like billboards and Yellow Pages ads, they can also be kept much more current - but only by devoting relentless attention to the task.
If all else is (literally) swept away, customers will still count on digital channels to know what services are available – especially at their financial institutions. As evidenced in our family dinner outing example, a “virtual branch” may even survive a crisis that a brick-and-mortar counterpart could not.
The Bottom Line
To prevent damage to a brand’s reputation by outdated, unclear, or simply inaccurate information, websites and other digital channels must be kept current at all times. Anything less is setting up customers for disappointment. As for my family, we Googled the next best destination that had both oysters and fried shrimp and then called ahead for a table.
The trials of the pandemic over the past 14 months have similarly wreaked havoc on traditional operating models and forever changed customer expectations. These experiences – mine and yours – have created fundamental shifts in the way banks and credit unions must operate going forward.
With that in mind, consider a read-through of the latest SRM Academy report, compiled by my talented colleagues: Seven Pillars for Post-Pandemic Processes in Banking. This timely work focuses on key strategies and quick wins that can help banks and credit unions maintain operational excellence in the wake of the recent upheaval.