Maintaining Connections to Bank Customers Through the Pandemic and Beyond

By Hal Cline

The economic upheaval caused by the pandemic has meant financial distress and hardship for many, and this, coupled with the necessity of physical distancing, has inevitably had a significant effect on how people view their financial situations and how they choose to manage their money.

This is manifesting itself in people changing the ways they pay. Mobile payments, online orders and tap-and-pay contactless payments are on the rise for those purchasing takeout food and groceries. Use of cash, which some are concerned with from a hygiene standpoint, has decreased for many people.

According to Fiserv research, nearly half of consumers are uncomfortable using an ATM touchpad as one in 10 report having specifically avoided using an ATM keypad. However, more than half of bank customers indicated they expected to return to in-branch banking, with fully 90 percent of survey respondents reporting they would enter a branch within six months of reopening. However, most also expect certain safeguards to be in place, including hand sanitizer, required masks for all employees, plastic barriers at teller windows and required temperature checks for employees and customers.

Many banks see this as a good time to innovate, engage and think differently about the experiences they deliver, from the drive-through lane to mobile banking. Here, we take a look at two Wisconsin-based financial institutions, Park Bank and First Federal Bank, that have taken steps to implement technology to better serve customers in the new normal of physical distancing.

Park Bank: Instant issue at the drive-through

Based in Madison, Park Bank updated processes and instituted new technology, while continuing to evaluate each of these to inform decisions about what banking looks like throughout the pandemic and beyond.

Client and branch personnel safety was at the core of Park Bank’s decision to offer contactless instant issue services through drive-through lanes at its branches. When clients require instant-issue cards, they are offered the branch locations available, so they may choose the one that is most convenient for them. A bank employee at the branch which will be assisting the client calls the client to schedule an appointment, and the client is instructed to pull up to the business lane when to have a card printed for them on demand.

Park Bank used longer cables and moved the PIN pad device to the computer nearest its drive-up window. The banker is able to sign on to that closest computer to generate the card and when prompted to enter the four-digit PIN, can feed the PIN pad outside to the client through the drive-up drawer. With the longer cables, the device is accessible to the client protected in a plastic sleeve. The cables are long enough so that clients can pick up the devices and take it into their vehicles to be able to enter the PIN. After choosing their PIN, clients place the device back into the drawer to send it back into the branch. The sleeve is then discarded and a new one placed on the device, ensuring that each use of the PIN pad is sterile.

“Our clear communication on the process has created a seamless and efficient experience for our clients,” said Suzanne Johnson, Park Bank’s VP for branch banking. “We chose the branches that offer this service to be spread throughout town so our clients would be faced with minimal impact, and they have shown great appreciation for our ability to provide this service to them.

“Park Bank wants our clients to understand that they can trust us to provide a variety of ways they can access their accounts that are most convenient for them. We also understand that our clients want to feel safe. Offering drive-through instant-issue cards accomplishes both goals.”

First Federal Bank: Technologies to enhance the customer experience

First Federal Bank in Waukesha has evolved its branch model to be more efficient and provide more self-service options for customers. In addition to running its branches by appointment only, installing floor markers to ensure customers maintain a six-foot distance, erecting plexiglass barriers and implementing strict cleaning procedures, the majority of transactions, deposit account openings and Paycheck Protection Program loan closings have been conducted through the drive-through or remotely with digital signature solutions. First Federal has also moved mortgage closings to the title company whenever possible to reduce exposure.

First Federal has seen an increase in drive-through traffic commensurate with the decrease in lobby traffic. The bank has experienced an uptick in customer interest in contactless payment methods and found it worked well being able to print those on-site in order to get them to customers quickly. The bank also elected to implement instant issue in the deposit support area and deploy the cards, as needed, to the branch locations for pick up in the drive-through.

“The response has been overwhelming and very positive. Customers who had little interest in digital solutions have adopted them quickly in the wake of COVID,” said Michelle Haslam, SVP for operations. “There are some positive things we’ve learned as a result of the pandemic which we will keep for the long term. I can foresee us implementing more technologies such as ITMs and virtual tellers in the near future.”

Financial institutions driving positive change

We continue to be impressed by the ingenuity and commitment of financial institutions so they can better serve their customers in unusual times, working to minimize human contact at the drive-through window—including instant issue at the drive-up. The two most common scenarios we see are pre-ordering cards over the phone and then picking them up at the drive-through, along with ordering cards when a customer is at the drive-through.

Once they pull up to the drive-through, customers can typically get a card instantly issued in as little as five minutes. They can wait at the window, drive on through to move then line and come back around or they will often bring the card to the customer if they are parked.

Banks and consumers continue to adapt. What was new and uncomfortable a few months ago is now becoming the accepted norm. By communicating with their customers, keeping them updated on changes to policies and procedures, and letting them know they are always mindful of their safety, banks can continue to reach their valued customers in new and engaging ways.

Hal Cline is director, business development output solutions at Fiserv.