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Connecting With Account Holders in Times of Crisis


No one could have foreseen the unprecedented challenges that businesses and individuals have had to face this year. A global pandemic, nationwide shelter-in-place orders, school closures, mass event cancellations, and an uncertain economic future hit America all at once, creating an environment of anxiety that has both businesses and consumers scrambling to keep up.

As lawmakers try to provide relief to those hit hard by coronavirus disruptions, financial institutions are having to adapt business operations and navigate new regulations while still supporting their account holders—many of whom have lost jobs or are having to pay unexpected medical bills. The question is—how do you connect to and support your account holders during (and after) a time of crisis?

In this blog post, we’ll give you tips for pivoting your marketing strategy in a way that resonates with consumers in 2020. We’ll discuss how consumer expectations have shifted this year, and take a look at how you can incorporate empathy into your financial institution’s marketing messaging.

Shifting Consumer Expectations in a Time of Crisis

Today’s consumers are looking for more than just products—they see their financial institution as a trusted partner and rely on them for essential services and information. What does that mean during the global coronavirus health crisis?

According to the Harvard Business Review, “The core expectation that consumers have of brands in any situation, but particularly in a crisis, is that brands will do what is right for their employees, suppliers, customers, and society at large, without regard for how much it costs. 90% of consumers stated that brands should be willing to suffer substantial financial losses to ensure the well-being and financial security of others. The brands that do not run the risk of alienating a wide swath of consumers; 71% of those surveyed promised that brands and companies that placed their profits before people during the crisis would lose their trust forever.”

Incorporate Empathy Into Your Marketing Messaging

While all industries have been affected by the changing landscape of a post-coronavirus reality, financial institutions must pay particular attention to how they are connecting with consumers. As the arbiter of home and auto loans, the caretaker of checking and savings accounts, and the primary contact for financial questions, you play a major role in your account holders’ financial wellbeing. With millions of people out of work and hundreds of thousands directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, you don’t want your marketing messaging to miss the opportunity to truly connect with consumers by coming off as too “salsey” or tone-deaf.

“In March 2020, a 12-country survey by Edelman found that consumers want to hear from brands during a crisis, but what they want are comforting, straight-talking messages that lay out the steps brands are taking to deal with the crisis.”1

The key here is empathy. As a financial institution, the best thing you can do is try to put yourself in your account holders’ shoes. If a person has just lost their job or is caring for a sick loved one, chances are they are not going to appreciate a barrage of product offers they don't need. Instead, reassuring members that you are going to be there for them, and have their backs if they hit hard times should be an essential messaging strategy going forward.

Reach Your Account Holders on Digital Channels

The modern consumer expects to be able to interact with their financial institution digitally. According to Pew Research, “The vast majority of Americans – 96% – now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones is now 81%. Along with mobile phones, nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults now own desktop or laptop computers, while roughly half now own tablet computers and roughly half own e-reader devices.” This is especially true today. “Shelter-in-place orders have fueled media consumption, with internet use increasing by as much as 70% and streaming by up to 12%.”1

These numbers tell a revealing story. It's evidently clear that in order to effectively reach your customers, your financial institution must create tools and services that are digitally accessible. Consider your mobile app or online experience as an extension of your institution’s customer service. Your digital experience should have a similar “feel” to your overall customer service experience. If a mobile app is not in your institution's long-term plan, engage with your teams to make sure your current website is responsive, meaning that it automatically adjusts to whatever size screen your member decides to engage with (desktop, tablet, or smartphone).

Related Reading: Develop an Omnichannel Experience that Delights Your Customers

Product Positioning

This is the time for businesses and financial institutions to put solutions before sales—especially given that 89% of those surveyed want brands to produce goods that help meet pandemic-related challenges.1

This has created the perfect opportunity for businesses to start positioning products that will speak to the needs of the anxious consumer in 2020. For example, in June of this year, Ford Motor Company released their Ford Promise program, which allows eligible customers who lease or purchase a new or used vehicle through Ford Credit and then lose their job within a year to return the vehicle to Ford; customers will be covered for up to $15,000 of their remaining balance.

“We feel like right now, the economy is at the stage of recovery where people want things to be back to normal, they want to buy, but they’re still a little nervous about what the future holds,” says Mark LaNeve, vice president, U.S. marketing, sales and service in a report by Ford Media. “We want them to know we understand that, and we’re here to support them in their buying decisions.”

The key takeaway for financial institutions is to position products that are actually going to help your account holders during difficult times. An empathetic marketing message that resonates with consumers such as, “We’re all in this together” will fall flat without a product that does more than pay lip service to your message.

SWBC’s MPOWER+ Vehicle Return Protection offers financial security for your borrowers while helping your institution manage risk, generate non-interest income, and increase borrower loyalty. Visit our website to learn more.

1https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5593e24de4b008b7a5a37348/t/5f06080a415af964a98a9da4/1594230796268/CG-WhPpr_Covid_InsuranceCos_6.8.20.pdf

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