Inside Marketing: What 2020 Taught Us About Branding and Customer Service in a Crisis

plan ahead printed on recycled paper stuck with red pin to cork board
By Samantha Hall

3 minutes

3 key lessons every credit union can take from the pandemic and apply while planning for the future

The COVID-19 pandemic will be remembered in the future as one of the most uncertain times faced by individuals, organizations and industries around the world. From unique lockdown measures to social distancing practices and racing toward vaccine rollouts, generations saw a crisis first-hand like they never had experienced before.

While every industry was touched in some way by the pandemic, financial services felt a strong push to modernize and adapt to the changing situation. Credit unions, which historically held the competitive advantage of offering members exceptional customer service, had to find a new way to maintain this level of service without traditional face-to-face interaction. Any plans to increase mobile banking or improve the digital customer experience were placed on a fast track as these plans moved from “nice to have” to must have.

There are three key lessons every credit union can take from the upheaval of 2020 and apply to their marketing practices moving forward: 1) the importance of humanizing your credit union, 2) how to leverage reassuring messaging, and 3) the need to prepare messaging in advance.

1. Humanize Your Brand Experience

Humanizing your credit union simply means giving it a relatable and approachable voice. Think of your frontline staff, who greet every member with a warm welcome. Now apply that warmth across all of your digital platforms. This will keep your member experience consistent and positive, whether a current or potential member is on your website, social media pages or visiting the branch.

2. Be Reassuring

One way to humanize your credit union is by leveraging reassuring messaging, which became incredibly important in 2020 and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Members look to their credit union as more than just a place to conduct banking—credit unions are pillars of their communities. Because of this, members will seek financial advice and assurance from their credit union on what to do in a crisis like the pandemic. Proactively displaying such messaging and guidance on your website or social media will show that you understand what your members are experiencing. Inform them about common stress points, like the steps you are taking to keep them safe in branches or when they should expect their stimulus relief.

3. Plan Ahead

While you can’t prepare for every crisis in advance, 2020 has emphasized the importance of having a plan. For example, if everyone were forced to work from home again in the future, surely your credit union now has the tools already in place to accomplish such a shift. Similarly, you should plan out how you will communicate to members in future crises and the channels you will use. This needs to be customized based on member communication preferences so you can meet them where they are, especially in times of stress. Knowing who will create messaging, the gist of what you will communicate, how often and through what medium will make tackling a future crisis much easier than scrambling as events unfold.

As state and local mandates are lifted and vaccination becomes more widespread, another new normal is on the horizon. Taking stock of the valuable lessons we learned the hard way in 2020 can help ensure a more prepared approach to future crises and the ability to offer members support in chaos. While there will probably be more uncertain times ahead, using these tools will help your credit union navigate them with certainty.

Samantha Hall is an account agent at William Mills Agency, the nation’s largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter @wmagency, Facebook, LinkedIn or its blog.

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