The Path Forward: Customer Experience in a Time of Uncertainty

Customer experience and digital experience have merged. See how companies like Eastern Bank do more with digital to give back to the community.

Last year, we surveyed hundreds of consumers and marketers on the subject of customer experience. Our survey revealed that, when it comes to experience, what customers appreciate most of all is convenience. Sure, surprise and delight are awesome. But never underestimate the impact of just making things easier.

The survey also revealed that customers want and expect a certain amount of personalization, especially if they have interacted with your brand in the past. In many cases, personalization simply means showing customers you remember them (by pre-populating fields with information they have already given you, for example). In others, it means making them aware of offers and services that are relevant to them. Regardless of how a brand personalizes the experience, it tends to have one critical result: It makes the experience more convenient. 

Since we published those findings back in the fall, the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the world. From school to work to socializing to shopping, life has moved online. With in-person interactions either greatly limited or out of the question, customer experience and digital experience have merged. 

In many ways, this radical shift to digital makes delivering the convenient, personalized experience that customers want easier. To see how that works, let’s consider the actions of one of our clients here in the Boston area, Eastern Bank.

Making Banking More Convenient

Established in 1818 as Salem Savings Bank, Eastern Bank has always been community focused. They have it as part of their DNA to give back to the community. They have a two-decades-long commitment to contributing 10% of their net income to local nonprofits, totaling $120 million since 1999. That contribution is important to them. Not surprisingly, that community focus has been the hallmark of the bank’s response to COVID-19.

Eastern Bank started by increasing convenience for customers through its many digital touchpoints. Since branches are currently closed to protect public health, the bank realized that customers will have to rely on ATMs for basic banking transactions. For this reason, Eastern Bank has raised withdrawal and deposit limits at ATMs. And since call volumes have grown dramatically, it actively promotes online banking and use of its app. 

Accessing banking services is not the only concern for most customers, of course. In addition to their savings, many customers have loans and mortgages with the bank. Due to the diverse financial challenges that businesses and individuals currently face, the bank has sought to address concerns they may have about meeting their obligations. It has done so by waiving penalties for early CD withdrawals and providing customers with options for deferring mortgage and loan payments and avoiding late charges. 

Eastern Bank Covid-19 response

Eastern Bank didn’t stop at making existing services more convenient. Realizing that many in the community face emerging financial challenges, CEO Bob Rivers spun up new offerings to address these needs, including a $2 million Consumer Impact Loan Fund and a $5 million Small Business Impact Loan Fund. On the consumer side, these small loans are meant to help with day-to-day expenses, utility bills, groceries and so on. On the small business side, these loans provide working capital to cover operations as businesses work to weather this crisis.

New offerings, especially those aimed at customers in crisis, can’t make a difference if customers don’t know about them. With that in mind, Eastern Bank leveraged its digital capabilities to launch a campaign to reach potential loan recipients. First, it relied on its deep customer knowledge to identify the most appropriate campaign targets. It then deployed technical capabilities, including Acquia Personalization, to personalize the web experience for those interested in these services.

Finally, given the urgency of the customer needs that these services address, it is worth noting that Eastern Bank was able to get this program up and running in three short days. 

Lessons for the Long Haul

Every business will need to navigate its own course in the weeks and months ahead. But the example of Eastern Bank provides us with certain touchstones that can and should guide our actions.

First of all, business leaders need to think about customer experience holistically. This means acknowledging and accepting the new reality and ensuring that customers have a range of secure digital options when it comes to interacting with the organization. At the same time, leaders need to reexamine the organization’s offerings themselves and modify them as needed to reflect the continuously changing situation customers face.

Second, business leaders must understand that the pandemic has created new and in many cause urgent needs for customers. Coming up with products and services that directly address these needs is key to meeting customers where they are now. Remember, part of a positive customer experience is actually offering customers what they want. True leadership in this moment means making sure the organization can deliver. 

Finally, leaders need the technical infrastructure that enables responsiveness. As both a source of customer insight and fuel for personalization, data plays a big part in this. But companies also need systems that allow for the rapid analysis of this data and the ability to rapidly turn data-based insights into relevant, personalized experiences. To that end, these systems need to be adaptable, extensible and open.

No one can say exactly what the future holds. Nevertheless, the basic expectations that customers have for digital experiences will remain constant. At Acquia, we remain committed to helping our customers deliver those experiences and forge a path forward. 

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