The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has officially been labeled a pandemic by the WHO. As cases spread throughout the U.S., many companies are reviewing their policies, processes, and procedures to slow the spread of the virus. Many aspects of life are changing. People are working remotely, others are laid off or furloughed, all events are canceled or postponed, and more than a few people decided that now is the time to buy a year’s supply of toilet paper.
But there is cause for all these precautions. The coronavirus is more virulent and contagious than the common flu, and 40–70% of the world is projected to become infected. Many industries are already seeing major losses of income, including those in performance, sports, the service industry, and anybody connected with travel and tourism.
In times like these, credit unions can step up for their members while also keeping themselves safe. Here are a few Coronavirus safety and prevention tips for credit unions.
1. Set up hand sanitizing stations
All employees should wash their hands frequently. In fact, it’s estimated that frequent, proper handwashing could slow the spread of COVID-19 significantly. And especially with tellers handling so much cash, those hands are going to contact a lot of strange germs…
More importantly, branches should offer hand sanitizing stations. A little bottle of Purell here and there will help members look after their own health, too.
2. Eliminate coffee and snacks
If your branch provides free coffee, snacks, or candy, consider removing them during the outbreak. Communal foods are all well and good until a pandemic hits. But unfortunately, there are just too many people who still think that coughing into their hands is fine…
3. Strongly push eStatements and eNotices
Credit union statements, notices, and other member communications touch a lot of hands. They start in the credit union or outsourced facility, make their way through the mail, and finally end up in mailboxes.
eStatements and eNotices touch nothing. Plus, it saves you money, and it saves the planet trees. An email or two to your members about coronavirus safety could help your credit union convert members from paper to electronic statements.
Furthermore, outsourcing your credit unions statement, notice, and letter production will allow more of your employees to work from home during the outbreak.
4. Suggest online and mobile banking
Some members still prefer the in-branch experience, and who can blame them? But while COVID-19 spreads, credit unions would benefit from less traffic and person-to-person contact.
Email members to remind them to use online and mobile banking. To help out your less technologically-savvy members, create step-by-step walkthroughs for signing in, navigating the website, or using the app. Show people how to use remote deposit capture or other tools that minimize the need to visit the branch.
5. Let employees work from home
Not all employees need to be on premise to do their jobs effectively. Many staff who aren’t member-facing, such as IT personnel, should absolutely work remotely. Minimizing employee contact with potentially contagious staff and members will greatly reduce their chance of getting infected.
Additionally, if an employee feels sick, let them stay home. Now’s not the best time to take any chances. Find ways to support sick employees who stay home for the good of their communities.
6. Keep ATMs and other surfaces clean
You already keep your ATMs clean, but during an outbreak, a little extra vigilance can go a long way. Sanitize ATM touchpoints and keep it safe for members and non-member customers!
Furthermore, any frequently touched items, objects, and surfaces should get the same treatment. This includes desks, counters, pens, and door handles.
7. Consider closing your branches
Many credit unions are finding alternative ways to serve their members (without keeping branches open). Drive-through banking, ATMs and ITMs, more support for online and mobile banking (see point #4).
While this may seem extreme to some, radical social distancing is an important way and effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19. Many of the earlier tips, such as sanitizing surfaces and eliminating coffee and snacks, are less foolproof than simply closing the branch altogether.
8. Revisit your pandemic plan
For most people, the Coronavirus isn’t too serious. It presents long-lasting flu-like symptoms, and many people experience only a very mild version of it. However, the duration appears a little longer than the typical flu, and the mortality rate is at least an order of magnitude higher.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Revisiting your credit union’s pandemic plan will ensure that you can continue operating and serving your members even if things get rough.
9. Provide economic relief
Many industries are seeing an immediate impact to their earnings. Particularly members who work in food service, events and performance, travel and tourism, and other industries are already experiencing a loss of income. Considering the large amount of Americans living paycheck to paycheck and who don’t have $400 for emergencies, short-term lending might be a prudent solution.
Credit unions can offer short-term lending to their distressed members to alleviate some of their struggle. (In fact, QCash’s CU-specific lending platform can offer members up to $1,000 for 18-month personal emergency loans at 6.25%!)
10. Suspend fees and other payments
By many economists’ projections, unemployment could reach between 20% and 30%. Many other industries are experiencing massive revenue losses. Your members who are struggling the most may have a hard time paying for account fees, overdraft fees, etc.
Continuing to charge fees, however small, may stretch your members farther than they can handle right now. This is an opportunity to build stronger relationships with your members by reducing their economic burden during this recession.
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