Banks: how to carry on delivering great SMB customer service during a crisis

Banks: how to carry on delivering great SMB customer service during a crisis

Right now, every bank is considering ways to make sure they can continue to deliver high-value support to SMB customers during the coronavirus health crisis.

Even before COVID-19, quality of customer service was a high priority for SMB customers. According to our recent YouGov survey of SMBs*, 43% of small business owners would change banks if it meant they could get better customer service. Also, one in five SMBs with a £10 million+ turnover would like to have easier access to an account manager.

The steady growth in online banking through desktop and mobile devices means that people are increasingly familiar and comfortable with remote banking practices. In fact, current estimates suggest that, within three years, 72% of the UK adult population will be banking by app.

But with the current increase in customer demand, reduction in staff hours, and widespread insecurity caused by the COVID-19 crisis, how can banks continue to improve these services for their SMB customers? Let’s take a look…

1. Be present

Almost every major bank is now able to answer customer queries by phone, email, and now dedicated apps. But with more than five million small businesses in the UK, all currently needing answers at the same time, these three communication channels are being stretched beyond their limits. 

Bank of Ireland has tackled this problem by enlarging its online presence to include and Facebook Messenger. Identify and occupy the online spaces where you can effectively reach more of your customers to provide the support and guidance that SMB customers value. 

2. Be clear

60% of small business customers view an ‘immediate response’ from a bank’s customer support as being within 10 minutes. So with your customer service resources under as much pressure as they currently are, being able to offer clarity is key. 

Bank of Ireland signs off via its twitter account every evening at 8pm – letting customers know not to expect a response before 8am the next morning. It may seem like a small gesture, but with 67% of consumers using Twitter for issue resolution this kind of clear communication can go a long way to managing customer expectations and diffusing avoidable tension.

3. Be real(time)

Nothing beats face-to-face communication. Even the digital-native millennials say they prefer banking in person than through any other channel. So whilst everyone is practicing social distancing to help flatten the curve of the pandemic, anything you can do to provide real-time support with a human face is a worthwhile investment.

Barclays recently hosted a Facebook Live Event, bringing industry experts together to answer the questions of concerned SMB customers. You might consider hosting regional weekly livestreams, to give your SMB customers the reassurance of talking to a local business advisor and hearing how other customers are overcoming the current difficulties.


There’s never a time when customer service isn’t a high priority, but the unique difficulties everyone is facing right now make it vital. Getting this right will make you a valued supporter of your SMB customers at a time when they really need one, which will go a long way with them when life – and business – returns to normal.

*See what makes small business owners want to stay with their bank, and what help they truly need – sign up now to be the first to receive our small business insights report based on a YouGov survey of 1000 SMBs:

And if you’d like more good guidance and advice for small business owners during the coronavirus crisis, we’ve created an online resource that we’re updating daily:

(Header photo: Clay Banks on Unsplash)


Big Thinking Open Minded Banking Where now?


Small business


Author Photo

Rahul Savadia


I'm a Strategist at Earnest and my hobbies include unearthing great audience insights, looking stuff up, and frequently sitting down.