The golden opportunity to use soft skills for digital banking adoption (1)



“Ignoring technological change in a financial system based upon technology is like a mouse starving to death because someone moved their cheese”

– Chris Skinner

 Digital banking and most often, mobile banking has created huge opportunities in terms of social inclusion and accessibility. This is furthermore important now, when the world has adopted ‘safe distancing and digital lifestyle’ as the new normal to withstand the COVID 19 pandemic era. In recent times, selling bank products and services is being restricted to the ones that customers can take immediate advantage of, especially digital banking. In many parts of the world, it is no big deal because it has been around in the last decade as a normal banking practice. However, in developing countries, digital banking is treated by some parts of the populace as a dangerous territory to venture into.

Digital banking has come to stay and has become even more relevant in the  pandemic era with its lockdowns and social distancing. Cash is no more King. Digital banking is gradually being accepted even among the elderly citizens who are usually risk-averse and associate the relationship as a target area for fraudsters and cyber-criminals.

Since March 2020, all the banks in Ghana have taken advantage of the lockdown and restrictions to sell digital banking to their customers and the public at large. Customers were sent various messages to patronize the banks’ digital products. I personally found some of the messages not only interesting, but revealing. It is said that words can be powerful depending on how it is said. Whiles some messages seemed too casual, others were soft, gentle and yet professionally written. See how bank customers are now being pampered for choice. It is indeed a buyers’ market now. Let us see how some banks’ messages looked like:

BANK A (17th April)

“Dear valued Customer, bank on the go with XXX mobile banking while at home. We have enrolled you onto XXX Mobile. Dial *XXX and activate with your account number”.

BANK B (13th March, 2020)

“Dear Valued Customer, in our attempt to prevent the spread of COVID 19, we wish to inform you that we will be putting in place certain measures to safeguard you and our staff whiles on the Bank’s premises. Kindly bear with us as some of these changes may not be in line with our regular Cultural and Banking procedure. TOGETHER, let’s stay safe!”

BANK B (19th March, 2020)

“Dear Valued Customer, as your trusted banking partner, kindly be reminded that we have taken necessary steps to maintain e standards in our branches. You may also take advantage of our XXX Mobile App. USSD on *XXX, Visa Card or Internet banking platforms to transact business at your convenience. TOGETHER, let’s stay safe!”.


BANK C (21st March, 2020)

“Dear Valued Customer, while we assure you of your safety at all our branches, we will like to encourage you to patronize our 24 hour e-channels to carry out all your banking transactions. Let us stay safe together”


BANK D (18th March, 2020)

Dear Client, due to the COVID 19 outbreak, we encourage you to wash your hands frequently, avoid crowded areas and close contact with people. Using our digital channels will help you stay safe”

Some of you may be wondering what the fuss is all this about, but I tell you that human beings are also emotional beings. If you had  received these four messages in your inbox, how would you have rated their communication language?


BANK E (Advertisement on 5th May, 2020)

“Experiencing any issues today? All our XXX helpline via XXXXXX. Stay safe XXX cares.” The hotline is provided.


Positivity in Crisis – Boosting Mobile Banking


In boosting digital sales like mobile banking, the first reaction from customers is: “What’s in it for me?” It is a simple question, but one that is at the core of successful mobile banking marketing campaigns. Why should your customers care? Why should they pay attention? And (most importantly) why should they try mobile banking?

Even though we are in a pandemic era, answering these questions (with a reason other than “it’s more convenient”) can elevate a bank’s marketing campaign from one that raises “awareness” to one that drives adoption.  To drive adoption, you need to raise awareness of the benefits, educate customers on how-to use your new tech, and give customers a reason to change now. How can this be done effectively?


Tech-Friendly Customers

A banker that knows his customers and have segmented them would easily know that digital banking has long been adopted by the youthful customers, whose culture is always “touch and go”. They hardly have time for adverts and since they are tech-savvy, they are more inclined to adopt mobile banking, use of the apps, not forgetting other payment apps from the Fin-techs!

This isn’t to say older customers won’t adopt new tech. In fact, the majority are interested in banking online and digital tools. But they need more help than younger customers — and often a bigger incentive to change. You need different tactics. Most SMS have no follow-up holiness to interact with.


Friendly but Professional Language Usage

The above SMS messages can tell you the professionalism that is adopted in messaging customers. Sometimes we forget that the new paradigm in service quality is not treating all customers equally, but rather treating all customers fairly. While a young university student would not be bothered about these messages, a high-net-worth customer living in uptown suburban Accra would not treat a shabby message kindly. He or she expects a follow-up call from the Relationship manager to take him or her through the recommended product, with the feel-good experience.


What next after creating the Awareness?

The above SMS messages which flooded customers’ phones in March, created awareness of the existence of the digital banking platforms. Nothing followed apart from the convenience and the need for social distancing protocols directed by the authorities. It would have been exciting if special hotlines were provided for customers to enquire when assistance is needed. Of course, in the case of the elderly, who are already technophobic, they would not bother to speak to a machine and such persons would then continue to flock the banking halls. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when promoting mobile banking is to focus only on awareness. Telling people how great your mobile banking app is (in most cases) does not automatically drive adoption. The expansion of digital payment has come with its fair share of challenges as with all things new.


Statistics Before COVID 19

According to the Summary of Economic and Financial data, mobile money transactions recorded GH¢32.8billion in value as at the end of 2019. This signifies a more than 45 percent increase from the previous year’s value. However, cheques – which are the main payment system for banks – recorded GH¢16.9billion in December 2019. This is a decline of GH¢300million from the value recorded in the previous year. The total number of transactions recorded under mobile money as of December 2019 was 200 million; whereas that of banks was 599,000 – just about 3 percent of the mobile money number. The fourth Economic Update Report on Ghana published by the World Bank says GHANA is the fastest-growing market for the mobile money platform of any in Africa. I cant wait to read the next statistics post COVID 19.


Powerful Soft Tools to Promote Digital Banking

I am sure you are all aware of how difficult it is to change peoples’ attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and so on. Why? Because while your tech is convenient, change isn’t. how about the following?

  • Empowerment of front-line staff to be digital advocates: The perfect opportunity to promote mobile banking is when customers visit your branch. You can pull them out of a busy line and walk them through how to complete their transactions digitally.
  • Confidence: This means your frontline staff need to be confident in using your mobile app, and recommending it to customers. There need to be an active buy-in from staff, who may previously might have been skeptical of digital technology previously. This buy-in encourages staff to be confident and more tolerant of queries from customers.
  • Active Listening Skills: Do you really hear what people are really saying? Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others. Clearly, listening is a skill that we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, you can improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. What’s more, you’ll avoid conflict and misunderstandings. All of these are necessary for success in getting customers to adopt the bank’s digital services.
  • Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness   . Understanding your own personal style of communicating will go a long way toward helping you to create good and lasting impressions with others.

In digital or virtual banking, the fact that one does not see the customer does not make the job nicer and easier. This is the best time for staff to enhance their communication skills, not just face to face or body language or listening, but rather perfecting it in a virtual environment where you cannot see the customer face to face.

Next week, I will tell you of both positive and negative scenarios which portrayed the skills of bank staff both in traditional and virtual banking. Please use this golden opportunity to explore the exciting virtual environment while still staying close to your customers.



Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.



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