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Where customer and employee needs intersect post-COVID

When we emerge out of the pandemic into the new post-COVID world, it’s important to examine the crossroads of what both customers and employees need from their banks and credit unions. Understanding that the employees’ experience is intrinsically linked to the customer experience will be key. Leaders of these organizations must recognize and adapt to the interdependencies of these two important groups in order to ensure excellent customer experience moving forward.

First, banks must discern what the new work environment looks like for their employees. During the rapid adjustment to closing their facilities at the onset of the pandemic, their readiness to accommodate both customer and employee needs was exposed. While many companies were well-positioned for work-at-home, many others were not.

After arming them with the technology needed to do their jobs at home, employees working remotely had to learn to use new devices and software, and find room within their homes to set up a workstation, all the while feeling isolated by the inability to directly interact with supervisors, coworkers and customers. This was the second opportunity for their employers to recognize and address both EX and CX needs. Just as a CX strategy identifies and resolves customer needs, especially during change and stress, an EX strategy (if it was in place) directs bank leaders as to how to meet the needs of the employees.

Some customer touchpoints weren’t impacted, as they were already being met by remote resources (employees and technology-enabled functions). Yet the need for face-to-face interactions between customers and employees didn’t completely go away. Different customers favor different channels of interaction, so even during the peak of quarantining, no single channel CX strategy would suffice. That said, those better able to accelerate digital transformation strategies were better equipped to provide a seamless experience during the transition.

New needs of both customers and employees – such as the need to speak face-to-face without a physical location – resulted in new technology decisions, many of which will have long-lasting impacts on the banks’ future operational structure.

Also revealed was the need for:

  • Flexibility of work hours as employees adapt to a different work-life balance. This contributed to the need for more sophisticated workforce management (WFM) strategies and tools, most notably in customer service organizations.
  • More training to enhance the technical skill sets of employees.
  • Flexibility in addressing financial hardships of customers, and employees alike (fee forgiveness, payment extensions, PPP, etc.)
  • Empowering front-line employees to provide personalized services and communications to customers (often through extension of CRM across all channels – including chat, voice, chat bot, AI and video)
  • Long-term plans for operating models that address new and different job functions for employees, costs to support them remotely and new security considerations. This includes determining who can work at home and what work they can do.

Fulfilling these needs as banks and credit unions move forward through the remainder of the COVID-19 period and into what comes next is paramount. How can organizations thoughtfully plan now to operate in the “new normal?” A major strategic step would be the alignment of their CX and EX strategies. Bank and credit union leaders are witnessing simultaneous stresses on both customer and employee experiences. When the groups are supported separately or unevenly, there will be problems.

Recognizing that EX and CX are interdependent is a leadership responsibility. Excellent customer experience can only happen when the employee experience is good as well. The pandemic is a test of mature management skills and an opportunity for leaders to connect with both customers and employees, and then demonstrate their support for their experiences, and making them as positive as possible.

During COVID-19, banks have the opportunity to up their experience game by recognizing and addressing the unprecedented needs from their customers and employees. This is truly an experience we can all learn from, respond to and memorialize for getting even better at our business as we move forward.

Jamie Gomoll is senior client strategist and Kurt Schroeder is chief experience officer at Avtex.

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