Offering essential services, Santander on Cheltenham High Street has remained open throughout both lockdowns. Quickly evolving to provide safe and effective banking during such unprecedented times, the branch has continued to support its customers and Cheltenham-based businesses while also raising over £2000 for charity.
Communications Assistant Alex Boulton spoke to Keith Smith, Business Banking Manager, and Anthony Morrison, Community Hub Director, about how the pandemic has affected their branch, customers and businesses and their hopes for 2021.
How has 2020 been for you as a branch and wider business?
It’s certainly been an unexpected year for everyone – a real rollercoaster. We’ve made changes to how we support our customers so they can keep banking with us in a way that they feel comfortable with. Our team has embraced lots of change and we’ve all developed new skills to help our customers through new channels, like our Online Chat service and over the phone. The feedback has been fantastic and we’re proud to be helping people through such a challenging time.
We’ve had a busy year supporting Cheltenham based businesses. Our business customers have really appreciated us reaching out proactively to them. We’ve been supporting them with help that goes beyond banking – for instance, our Survive and Revive programme includes a range of webinars for businesses, as well as signposting support and guidance on help that’s available for businesses. We’ve also been supporting businesses through the Government backed finance schemes.
What challenges have you faced in terms of the pandemic, and how have you responded to them?
Our main challenge was to keep helping as many customers as possible while following Government guidelines. As an essential service, our branches remained open with Covid secure measures in place, including new screens for our internal ATM machines. We’ve made changes to some services, so for example mortgage appointments being done over the phone. Colleagues who needed to work at home have been supported to do so and we launched a new Online Chat service which has been really well received by our customers.
Our colleague Tracey has been busy making face masks with all the proceeds going to our charity partners – The Alzheimer’s Society and Age UK. So far, we’ve raised £2000 so a massive thank you to everyone who’s already bought one!
Have you noticed any changes in the ways people are banking because of the pandemic?
Less people have been visiting our branches and more people have been using our digital channels. Of course, we’re still here to help our customers, including anyone who needs us in branches and through our phone and online channels, including the new Online Chat service. We’ve also been calling some of our more vulnerable customers to check that they’re doing ok and offering any support we can. Those calls have been really rewarding and we’re so pleased to be able to help people.
Business clients have found it really comforting that they can still pick up the phone and speak to a locally based Business Manager who understands up to the minute changes and how these challenges impact their business.
Onwards and upwards, do you have anything planned for the new year? What are you and your team most looking forward to?
I think like everyone we’re looking forward to (hopefully) being able to meet people face to face and in branch again! As part of our Survive and Revive programme to support businesses, local business customers have the opportunity to appear on our digital screens in branches, so keep an eye out for those.
The team are looking forward to welcoming our customers back in branch and having great conversations about how we can keep supporting them. As a team, we’re looking forward to keeping up with developing new skills – onward and upwards indeed!