The crisis has reaffirmed the importance of customer connection in banking

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Author: Ti Eng Hui, CEO, Baiduri Bank


July 8, 2022

One of the biggest lessons to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic has been the importance of connection. Whether it’s our relationships with our families and friends, or with the community and the world around us, the repeated lockdowns have served as a fitting reminder of the value of strong, lasting connections.

In the business world too, the pandemic has re-emphasized the need for companies to lead with empathy and put customer experience at the very heart of their operations. In fact, never before has it been more important for businesses to focus on meeting the new and changing needs of their customers. The pandemic has reshaped customer expectations and habits, with consumers now wanting simpler, faster service and digital solutions as standard. Those who fail to adapt to these new standards of customer service will soon find themselves left behind in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

This is especially true in the banking sector. Before the pandemic hit, banks had spent years working to restore consumer confidence in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Then, after many years of effort and investment to restore customer confidence , the banking world has been hit by a new crisis in the form of COVID-19. This time, however, lessons had been learned and banks around the world were quick to respond to the rapidly unfolding emergency with a slew of innovative digital solutions and a repurposed customer service experience.

As Brunei’s largest conventional bank, Baiduri Bank has felt compelled to lead the way when it comes to the industry’s response to the pandemic. Acting quickly and sensitively, Baiduri Bank supported customers with a range of financial relief methods, including loan deferral and restructuring, as well as introducing new digital channels to streamline user experience and prioritize low-risk contactless interactions. As the world tentatively reopens and moves towards a new post-pandemic normal, Baiduri Bank remains more committed to its customers than ever and is fully focused on improving user experience through innovation and digitalization.

A bold new era
Long before the pandemic hit, new technologies were beginning to reshape the banking world as we once knew it. Digital-only challenger banks, artificial intelligence (AI) and remote payment methods were rapidly redefining the industry, with banks under increasing pressure to innovate and expand their digital offerings. Then, in March 2020, as the pandemic took hold and kept people confined to their homes, it became clear that the banking industry should fully embrace digitalization during this time – and quickly.

Baiduri Bank has been emphasizing digital transformation for a few years now, and the unprecedented events of the past two years have only underscored how important it is to pursue this mission of continuous, customer-focused technological advancement. . In March 2020, we relaunched Baiduri b.Digital Personal, our award-winning personal online banking service. This successful relaunch proved to be very timely, as it offered our customers a range of enhanced features allowing them to access a host of banking services from their smartphones.

Suddenly, when lockdown measures kicked in and bank branches closed, customers needed to be able to access banking services remotely, and the Baiduri b.Digital Personal app allowed them to do just that. Offering a safe and secure way to transact remotely, the new and improved version of the app includes a biometric login feature, as well as a fast online registration process. Once customers are set up on the app, they can use it to view a dashboard of their assets and liabilities, set a savings goal, and view a number of in-app calculators, including including a loan calculator, a retirement calculator and a risk profile. tool. Designed to be an “all-in-one” platform to help customers navigate their personal finances and get the most out of their money, the app offers a number of features not found anywhere. elsewhere in the Brunei banking sector – which has proven particularly attractive to new users. .

Recognizing the growing appetite for contactless payment options in the wake of COVID-19, Baiduri Bank is also partnering with financial firm UnionPay International (UPI) and telecom provider DST to launch a pioneering e-wallet. With DSTPay, Baiduri Bank and UPI customers will be able to scan QR codes at more than 200 outlets in Brunei, allowing them to pay for products and services with a simple tap of their smartphone. The cross-industry partnership is now preparing for the launch of phase two of DSTPay, which will enable contactless payments at 25 million UnionPay merchants around the world.

Our customers continued to respond positively to our enhanced digital offerings. Between September 2020 and September 2021, Baiduri Bank saw a 53% increase in average monthly transactions and a 52% increase in its active user base. As we continue our journey of technological transformation, our customers remain, above all, at the very heart of our digital mission.

keep things personal
At Baiduri Bank, our clients are well informed of each of our decisions. We take a humanized approach to financial services, using our in-depth knowledge of client needs and preferences to create a truly personalized service. Above all, our approach to customer service is guided by our core values ​​of reliability, empathy and inclusion – in our online and offline interactions.

Banks around the world responded quickly to the rapidly unfolding emergency with a host of innovative digital solutions

We strongly believe in an omnichannel and “phygital” approach, which guarantees a seamless customer service experience across all channels. In September 2020, Baiduri Bank released its first AI chatbot – Emmi – as part of the revamped website. One of the first of its kind among Brunei banks, Emmi uses predictive analytics, which means it is able to actively learn from conversations, provide relevant answers even before customers finish their questions and to offer the best answers according to the context.

By chatting with Emmi, customers can get answers to their frequently asked questions in real time, helping them better understand our products and services. Additionally, during the second wave of the pandemic, we actively trained Emmi to provide up-to-date information and assistance on COVID-19. Our customers have appreciated this enhanced level of digital support, and we’ve seen a marked increase in our digital engagements during this turbulent time.

While Emmi marked our first foray into the world of AI, we are now committed to exploring other applications of this revolutionary technology. From robo-advisors to enhanced cybersecurity and predictive analytics, there are a number of different ways to use AI that will help create an ever more seamless and intuitive service for our customers.

When it comes to our in-person interactions, we maintain the same level of commitment to high quality customer service. We understand that everyone has different needs and preferences, and some may prefer to use our traditional physical branches to conduct their banking transactions. That’s why we continually seek to improve our in-person experience, ensuring enhanced facilities and a full range of services at our high-traffic branches, while offering the services of other more localized branches to better meet the needs of communities. that they serve. . Financial inclusion is at the very core of our mission, and we hope to empower every customer to take better control of their finances in a way that works best for them.

Building a sustainable future
In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, customers and businesses have begun to reassess their values, considering what kind of post-pandemic future they would like to see as the world reopens. The past two years have shown that our communities are extremely capable of collective action in the face of an emergency – and now is the time to build on that momentum and tackle some of our world’s most pressing issues head-on.

The climate crisis may be the next looming global emergency, and at Baiduri Bank, sustainability is a real priority. We are developing a detailed roadmap that will integrate sustainability into our strategy and operations going forward, aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and matching national commitments to good environmental practices. With this in mind, we have also reviewed our corporate social responsibility (CSR) commitments, ensuring that they reflect the UN’s pillars of sustainable development and prioritize doing good – for the environment. , for our communities and for our people.

At the height of the pandemic, Baiduri Bank donated much-needed PPE equipment to frontline healthcare workers as they fought to save lives and protect citizens from the virus. As part of our CSR efforts, we have also donated care packages to underprivileged families with special needs across Brunei, as well as sending a number of laptops to underprivileged students in for home learning purposes, in partnership with the Ministry of Education.

We have also partnered with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports to develop an innovative national volunteering app, named “Mengalinga”, which translates to “We Care”. Launched in August 2021, at the start of Brunei’s second wave, the app has been instrumental in organizing and mobilizing volunteer support, with over 1,100 people and 115 organizations registered on the app in February 2022.

During this unprecedented time, Baiduri Bank is committed to supporting its valued employees, introducing a dedicated internal WhatsApp line specifically focused on mental health and wellbeing. At the start of the pandemic, all employees received special care kits including surgical masks, and we introduced a series of virtual wellness activities and workshops in collaboration with health experts to offer a continued support for employees working from home. All of our employees have also been offered two days of compensatory leave for each dose of vaccine to allow them to recover at their own pace. Throughout the pandemic, Baiduri Bank has strived to make a real difference in the community it serves.

In the months and years to come, our ESG principles will remain at the heart of our strategy, and we will continue to look towards a more sustainable future, where the needs of our customers, our employees and our wider communities will always come first. first.

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