The customer magic of immediate card issuance

As financial institutions re-evaluate their branch-positioning strategy to facilitate more meaningful and profitable engagement, instant card issuance offers an appealing opportunity for branches to remain relevant while meeting—and exceeding—the customer experience today’s consumers expect.

The ability to receive a replacement debit card instantly by visiting a branch is critically important to customers. Instant card issuance offers a highly effective way to deliver on a key consumer desire: convenience. After all, consumers in today’s on-demand economy don’t expect to wait for much of anything, especially for access to their money.

While it used to be a “nice-to-have” perk, instant card issuance has become an expected practice for financial institutions. Already, thousands of financial institutions have jumped at the chance to offer instant issuance as part of their overall business strategy. Projections illustrate at least one competitor in any institution’s branch footprint will have instant issuance, giving those institutions a competitive advantage.

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The unfortunate reality is, if you don’t offer instant issuance, you’re behind the curve. Worse, by making customers wait to receive a card in the mail, you’ve already compounded the problem by inviting a negative customer experience before the customer even enters the branch, and you’ve lost an opportunity to deliver an outstanding customer experience. Instant issuance provides three significant benefits that help create an experience worthy of your customers and your financial institution’s brand.

Deliver a superior customer experience: The ability to instantly replace a lost, stolen or compromised card is far more important than getting one at the account opening stage. Being there for customers in their moment of need is a fantastic advantage and an ideal way to deliver an outstanding customer experience.

Think of what it means for customers to know you instituted instant issuance so they could enjoy uninterrupted card use and protection against potential card compromise or card fraud. By doing so, you reassure them you are committed to helping them meet those needs.

Support in-branch interactions: Instant card issuance delivers the rare opportunity to have face-to-face interactions with your customers. In fact, consumers expect a higher value of service when they visit the branch, according to a five-year trend forecast by Mordor Intelligence. Build on that excellent customer experience of providing them a card, for example, by walking them to the ATM to activate the card (if necessary), while also helping ensure they start using the card right away.

In-branch instant card issuance also offers the opportunity to cross-sell other card benefits or products and provide education by teaching customers how to load their newly issued card to their mobile wallet, for example.

Increase card transactions, activation and usage: Instant card issuance is a valuable tool for financial institutions to acquire and maintain the lead payment spot in customer wallets, by placing a ready-payment tool directly in their hands.

When customers walk out of your branch with their newly issued (and, possibly, activated) debit or credit card in-hand, you’re closer to maintaining that coveted top-of-wallet status, a status more difficult to achieve using a standard 10-day card mailing. Customers otherwise must wait days for a new card to arrive, adding a level of friction to an already stressful experience.

The bottom-line effect is significant: Over a 45-day period, instant issuance cards outperformed mailed cards by 53 percent. By failing to provide instant issuance, a financial institution loses revenue each time the customer is forced to use an alternative method of payment while waiting for their card.

While the pandemic and social distancing guidelines contributed to a decrease in branch traffic, the branch is not going away. Branches are still important even in a digital, self-service world because there remains an ongoing need and desire of consumers for in-person, human interactions for certain issues.

But financial institutions must reinvent the branch strategy to stay competitive and relevant, elevating the priority of the customer experience. Instant card issuance delivers an effective way to take advantage of the brand-building effects of face-to-face interactions, while also increasing card activation and usage.

Nicole Machado is the executive director of card services for Harland Clarke.