By Robert Wanok
The COVID-19 pandemic has in a span of just months, changed the world in major ways that will continue to shape our lives (locally and globally) long after it has reached its end point. The psychological effects of being under quarantine and practicing social distancing will remain with us for months, as we grapple with the realities of uncertainty – “Is the coronavirus really over and done with us?”
As organizations wade their way through a situation and escalation that caught most unaware, we must face the truth that the ways of operation have changed tremendously. Many businesses have had to quickly learn the importance of being nimble, flexible, decisive and the hope is that these are lessons that will stay with us when normalcy resumes.
One of the things that stood out in Uganda was the swift response with which the population took to using various digital solutions in their day-to-day activities. From purchasing of groceries, ready to eat meals, making money transfers to making payments for delivery services of all kinds, digital channels saved the day for millions of people.
When dfcu Bank relaunched a revamped omnichannel online banking solution in 2018, our aim was to offer fast, safe, seamless and uniform experience across feature phones and other internet enabled devices like tablets and desktop computers. Since then, we have seen a great uptake of our QuickBanking platforms, both in download numbers of the dfcu QuickApp, website traffic and USSD enabled transactions.
We noticed a significant rise in the number of customers requesting to be onboarded to the Bank’s online platforms when the government made the initial announcement to limit physical movements. With the total lockdown, these requests rose each day, accounting for a big portion of customer enquiries during this timeframe.
As an institution, we have been encouraging customers to utilize our Alternative Banking Channels to practice social distancing and look out for the wellbeing of both our staff and customers. As an incentive to drive this usage and to do our part in limiting the COVID-19 financial strain on our customers, charges on certain transactions were also either reduced or totally scrapped.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the power of digital solutions in times of crises, but it has also raised questions on the feasibility of certain models of operation. One of the most notable discussions has been a debate on the need for physical office spaces and the requirement for employees of companies to physically be at these locations.
If staff can remain productive while working from home or any other remote location, is it necessary for them to bear the brunt of two-way traffic, school runs and the expenses therein simply because they must be seated at a company desk?
Do companies save on costs for utilities and maintenance when employees only come to the office fewer times a week? With the right tools and an internet connection, the work can be done.
The task for most institutions – both in the financial industry and other sectors is to embrace digital transformation and embed into every aspect of their businesses. Customer service, payment for products and services, behavioral change are just a few of the things that the world of technology can achieve. The key is to start, learn and keep advancing just as the tech world does.
There are ways to find light in such times and if making more possible for your business is something you can take out of this crisis; you can count yourself the winner in this battle.
Writer is the Head of Personal and Business Banking at dfcu Bank