Online Banking to the Rescue in a Pandemic

Lynn Matteson is a clinical psychologist who saw clients in an office in downtown Northampton. Payments come to her directly from those she works with, and also from insurance companies. Typically, she collected them, taking breaks every so often to walk to our Main Street branch to make a deposit.

“I always loved walking down Main Street and going in and seeing the gals who work at the counter. It was a nice, neighborly thing to do. Everybody is so friendly there,” Lynn recalls. “It was a nice little break in my day.”

If it hadn’t been for COVID-19, Lynn would still be taking that frequent deposit stroll, but the pandemic changed both where she works and how she does her banking. Lynn meets virtually with clients from an office in her home, in what’s called “telemedicine appointments,” and now makes mobile deposits using her Florence Bank app, on her iPhone. She says the learning curve was easy, and having the option was a relief.

“It feels clearer,” she says. “Money comes in, and I deposit it. I know it’s in my account. Boom. I can deposit it. I do it within hours of when I receive it. I don’t have to wonder, ‘Did I do that?’

Banking in a pandemic

Since the pandemic turned the world on its axis, many bank customers have made the transition to online banking, just as Lynn did. Some were already somewhat familiar, like Lynn; she had downloaded the Florence Bank app on her phone some time ago but used it only to check her account balances or to transfer money.

When the pandemic struck, though, she made the transition—along with 1,500 other of our customers who had never dipped a digit into the online financial world.

We now have almost 1,900 more customers using our mobile banking app, and more than 500 others who are using online bill pay through our website. Many customers who used the technology only rarely in the past are also employing it far more often now to make deposits and transfers, to pay bills and even to pay individuals—from the hairdresser to the babysitter.

Many say they have found the process of learning the app and website protocols to be intuitive and easy. There were also many who called customer service for a much-needed assist and appreciated the help; Lynne called a few times when a deposit didn’t go as planned.

We’re here to help
Bruce Holley, the eBanking technology specialist at Florence Bank, says he was on the receiving end of many calls from customers during the pandemic. Along with the Customer Service Center, his department of four employees got very busy.
In addition to paying bills, doing transfers and checking balances, customers were also eager to get information about whether their stimulus or unemployment checks were being received.
“The use of mobile devices and iPads, and the frequency of people going online really increased,” Bruce says. “People really wanted to know what was going on with their funds. There was a lot of uncertainty.”
Bruce and his team helped walk customers through whatever issue they were having with the mobile app or the website—from downloading the app on their device, setting up an account with a username and password to talking them through specific steps of a transfer, deposit or bill pay.
“When you’re speaking with someone on a tech call, you’re speaking on an individual basis. It’s not scripted,” Bruce says. “We were talking people through specific steps to get in the app or to get on the website. Different customers had different levels of familiarity. We asked questions and listened.”
Even in February, nearly a year into the pandemic, Bruce said he and his team were still helping new online customers get set up and acquainted, and heavy usage continued by those who had already made it through the learning.
Experimenting more and more
Susan Balboni has been a bank customer for many years, and she’s been using online bill pay for at least a decade.

She is well acquainted with Bruce and his team, too. Most recently, they helped her learn how to pay a person using the app or the website; it was a new service she hadn’t yet used. Now, she uses mobile banking to send funds to her children.

“It wasn’t hard to set up,” Susan says.

She notes that the pandemic makes this a great time to learn online banking. “This is the time to do it, and it’s easy to navigate it, and if you have trouble, there is someone to call,” she says. “Florence Bank is doing a good job at that. That’s the most amazing thing about Florence Bank. I don’t know that other banks have that kind of service or level of expertise. There are local people on the phone. They are providing a service and offering help in navigating it.”

Bob Nelson is another customer who is inching toward online banking because of the pandemic.

For many years, he was a traditional banker who drove from his home in Holyoke to the branch in downtown Northampton to cash checks, make deposits and pay his mortgage. After COVID-19 forced our branches to close—except for drive-through transactions, ATM usage and by appointment—Bob used the drive-up window at the King Street branch for a time and also made appointments at our downtown branch.

He also started using the bank’s website to check his balance and transfer money from one account to another. “I have yet to call the bank to learn how to pay bills online,” he says with a chuckle, noting he has been paying many bills over the phone and some at drive-up windows.

“Sometime soon,” he adds, “I’m tempted to call the bank and ask them to walk me through how to pay bills.”

We’re here when you’re ready

Bruce says he and his team are ready and eager to help customers like Bob—and you.

“We are happy to help people learn how to bank safely from the security of their homes,” Bruce says. “We can help customers learn how to use the Florence Bank website or app, get more adept at using those online resources, or help someone decide if they’re ready for that step.”

He adds that he and his staff can also make new users—as well as existing users—aware of security issues, talking them through the importance of antivirus software on PCs, for instance, and explaining safe browsing practices.
Bruce says he enjoys watching people learn that it is both safe and easy to bank online. He adds that once the skills are learned, they can be used when customers are sick or don’t want to drive, when the weather is lousy, or when they are out of town.
“We want to be sure we are meeting customers’ needs at all times,” Bruce says.

For this reason, we also encourage customers who enjoy in-person banking to make an appointment to be served. We have a tool on our website that makes scheduling easy.

Because Florence Bank is committed to serving our customers in all ways—always.