Throughout the coronavirus crisis, the financial services industry has had to grapple with sudden Federal Reserve rate cuts, service disruptions, increased fraud and consumer panic—all while continually adjusting business practices to meet safety regulations and quickly executing governmental relief programs. Individuals have faced an enormous financial shock, with 26 million people filing for unemployment in the first six weeks and 47% of respondents to a recent Corporate Insight survey indicating that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their financial well-being. The financial hardship of unemployment—paired with reduced access to in-person banking services and general uncertainty about the future—is spurring high demand for remote and immediate banking assistance and customer service.

Overall, banks have stepped up to provide as much information and assistance to customers as possible, though their approaches vary. Since the pandemic’s onset, all 18 firms in the Bank Monitor coverage set have launched dedicated public site information hubs, sent emails to account holders or adjusted customer service options to meet high demand. The best firms incorporate all three approaches with clear, widespread and consistent messaging, while several lack at least one type of response or rely on existing servicing resources.

Public information hubs

The pandemic’s unique and widespread nature has required firms to augment their available resources frequently instead of relying on static, generalized information. While all 18 coverage set firms initially presented simple pages with vague descriptions of COVID-19’s impact on services, most now provide comprehensive resource centers that include branch closure details, digital banking resources and customer service contact information and outline various relief efforts for consumers and businesses. Several firms stand out for adding unique resources:

  • Chase provides videos with step-by-step instructions for completing common banking processes from the firm’s mobile app
  • Bank of America, Capital One and U.S. Bank offer assistance information in both English and Spanish through clearly labeled language links
  • Truist launched a podcast with actionable insights and self-care tips for healthcare workers
  • Though all firms at least provide a homepage link to information hubs, PNC and SunTrust offer ubiquitous access via anchored notices across the public site
SunTrust Public Site Anchored Coronavirus Screenshot
SunTrust Public Site Anchored Coronavirus

Direct communications

Two-thirds of coverage set firms first emailed customers about the pandemic before March 25, providing reassurance and information in the first few weeks of the crisis. This critical early response allowed the banks to promote full lists of resources and explain where to find up-to-date information. As individuals became inundated with similar emails from every imaginable industry, most banks wisely refrained from sending additional emails, with several notable exceptions. Significant developments, such as the disbursement of CARES Act economic impact payments, warranted further emails from seven firms. Meanwhile, Ally took the unique approach of sending customers ideas for self-care and virtual social events alongside banking resources.

Fifth Third CARES Act and Ally Holistic Resources Emails Screenshot
Fifth Third CARES Act and Ally Holistic Resources Emails (Truncated)

Customer service adjustments

In recent weeks, banking institutions have scrambled to meet the soaring demand for customer support, which has created large disruptions and extensive call wait times. Generally, banks have taken three approaches to reducing call center traffic. First, all 18 Bank Monitor firms have highlighted their digital banking capabilities through client emails or site promotions, encouraging customers to resolve questions for themselves whenever possible. Second, most firms have notified customers of longer wait times and service adjustments through notifications on the homepage, customer service page or secure message center.

Citi Contact Us Page Notice Screenshot
Citi Contact Us Page Notice
Wells Fargo Secure Message Center Notice Screenshot
Wells Fargo Secure Message Center Notice

Finally, select firms have adjusted digital support channels and self-servicing options:

  • Fifth Third launched a prompt-based virtual assistant on its authenticated site that can handle basic account and hardship assistance inquiries, though it funnels clients to live support for more complicated questions
  • While KeyBank and PNC suspended online appointment scheduling tools, Chase posted a prominent notice stating that users could still schedule phone appointments
Fifth Third Virtual Assistant Window and Chase Appointment Scheduler Notice Screenshot
Fifth Third Virtual Assistant Window and Chase Appointment Scheduler Notice

Corporate Insight is closely monitoring how firms are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read our continuing coverage on our company blog, and for our clients, we have launched an authenticated site section that collects messaging across all firms we track in the following industries: Banking, Healthcare, Insurance/Annuities, Investing and Retirement.

If you are not a Corporate Insight client, follow the links provided to learn more about our Bank Monitor research and Bank Digital Audit.