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This post How Financial Institutions Can Best Support Customers in the Coronavirus Reality was originally published on the Silverline blog.

As someone who travels frequently to meet clients and partners, I have been acutely aware of the impact Coronavirus is having on customer service center wait times. CNN recently reported that travel booking sites have been overwhelmed by call volume, and my airline app has a banner asking travelers not to call unless they have a trip in the next 72 hours.

Financial institutions are not immune to these demands. If you haven’t felt the impact already, brace yourselves for the triple whammy of care center employees working from home, a reduction or elimination of in-person service options, and an increase in call volume as customers are anxious about the financial impact of this crisis. As an example, one community bank I use in Kentucky emailed me yesterday that they were closing all branches to walk-in traffic starting today.

In light of so many work environments changing recently, Silverline has been working hard to provide our clients and partners with our POV on how to shift to a remote or work-from-home approach. Remote work has been part of Silverline’s culture since our founding, and we are committed to supporting your teams as they venture into potentially uncharted ways of working. You should also check out our recent post for tips on effectively working from home for the first time and ensuring your team has the tools they need to collaborate when working remotely.

In the last week we have been working with clients to help them activate disaster recovery plans and transition some or all of their employees to work from home. In that process we have learned that some businesses don’t have the scale needed to effectively transition their entire workforce to work from home. Others have been able to transition effectively to work from home, but are struggling to react to the increase in call volume. For both, we have been using tactical approaches to implement additional tools to enable self-service and other call deflection techniques leveraging Salesforce — all in order to enable them to continue to provide the service their customers expect.

Deploy a customer community

One way to deflect incoming customer inquiries is to give them a place to go to get answers and submit questions and service requests. It takes time to build a knowledge base that supports the entirely of your customer servicing needs. However, standing up a community with basic FAQs and high propensity questions will help your customers get the answers they need without long phone wait times. Adding a support request intake page that is tied to your knowledge base can help filter incoming requests against questions that are already answered in your knowledge base, and route those requests that are not answered in your knowledge base to the right service associate.

If you have an existing support page, one thing you can do quickly and efficiently is deploy Salesforce web-to-case to ensure that customers who are not able to get through by phone have a way to submit service requests that will be tracked in your Salesforce org.

Streamline scheduling

One approach I have seen financial institutions take is to close to walk-in traffic but continue to offer in-person service for more complex transactions, such as new policy intakes, loan closings, and account performance reviews. Although there are a number of ways to shift those interactions to be more virtual and encourage social distancing, for interactions that need to be kept in-person you can streamline scheduling those appointments by leveraging an online scheduling tool. Lightning Scheduling Manager for Financial Services Cloud allows users to choose from available time slots to schedule appointments from their mobile devices or desktop computers.

Add a channel with chat

Live chat is a website-based feature that lets you communicate with customers in real time. It offers many of the advantages of phone-based support, such as being able to support more complex requests with the advantage of being a more asynchronous communication channel that allows your support agents to help more than one customer at a time. Additionally, research shows customers are more satisfied with chat interactions than other agent-supported methods. According to a report by Econsultancy, 73 percent of those who have used live chat said they were “pretty happy” with the experience. In contrast, 61 percent who reached out to companies via email said they were satisfied, and only 44 percent of phone users were satisfied.

Leverage chatbots to mitigate volume

Employing a chatbot can help in several ways. First, similar to a knowledge base, your chatbot will encourage call deflection by handling many of your most common customer queries so that your service associates don’t have to field those calls. Additionally, an AI-powered bot provides your customers with a more conversational interaction than your knowledge base, which tends to encourage usage. Finally, if a customer ventures into territory that the chatbot is not able to answer, the interaction can be shifted efficiently to your live chat channel where an associate can complete the interaction.

We are working with clients today to implement solutions like these leveraging Salesforce with Financial Services Cloud and Service Cloud in order to respond to the immediate needs of the Coronavirus pandemic. Implementing these tools now will help you provide your customers with the support they need while also providing your employees with tools to work in a safe and productive environment.