The coronavirus pandemic has impacted on all aspects of life and every industry. Danske Bank has played a key supporting role in providing unprecedented financial support to personal and business customers across Northern Ireland. But what role have they played in supporting customers who may be feeling a great sense of isolation and vulnerability? agendaNi spoke to Stephen Bloomfield, General Manager of Conduct and Customer Experience at Danske Bank.
Danske Bank is Northern Ireland’s biggest bank and therefore plays an important role in society. How do you ensure you look after the most vulnerable people in your customer base?
At the very heart of our business is a desire to deliver an exceptional customer experience to all our customers. We’ve worked hard to create a culture of inclusivity and improve the support we provide to customers who are in vulnerable circumstances, whether through bereavement, financial difficulties, mental health issues, gambling addictions, disabilities and many other scenarios we come across every day.
Knowing our customers is key to this, but we have also adopted a strong partnership approach and developed valuable relationships with many fantastic organisations within the charity and voluntary sector such as Action Mental Health, Alzheimer’s Society, Advice NI, Extern, Hourglass NI, the NOW Group, and many others.
We’ve invested significantly in staff training and in system improvements to help identify and support our vulnerable customers. Today we have 108 Vulnerability Champions in our branches, contact centre and support functions. We were the first bank to become JAM Card friendly back in 2018, have 200 trained Dementia Friends in our branches, contact centre, support teams and front of house security staff and last year became the first bank to sign up to The Equality Commission’s Every Customer Counts initiative, a public commitment to making our services accessible to customers who have a disability.
Many thousands of people couldn’t leave their home, or didn’t want to, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. How did you remain accessible for them?
We quickly introduced a range of new measures including dedicated phone lines for older customers and the development of a ‘Step-by-Step’ guide to help people understand the different ways to do their banking from home. We also created a ‘Plan Ahead’ guide and a carers’ account to encourage vulnerable customers to think about how they might be able to make banking easier for themselves with support either now or in later years.
One of the most impactful actions we took was to set up a ‘Check In and Chat’ team. This team proactively calls elderly customers to see how they are keeping. We know some of these customers may not have family or friends nearby to help them with their messages, and may be feeling lonely. The conversations could be about anything and everything, not necessarily about banking, and we signpost customers to organisations like Age NI if they need extra support. To date we have made over 10,000 such calls and we will continue this work over the months ahead.
We have also extended our volunteering programme so that colleagues in other teams can spend some time during their working days making these calls too, further widening our reach.
A lot was put together in a short period of time, but it has all been very well received by customers and their families.
Stephen Bloomfield can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org