Centris FCU leads the way: Leveraging core innovation to revolutionize member experience

Many credit unions claim to be member-focused, and subsequently make huge investments into marketing campaigns, fancy logos, and shiny new online banking apps that are still limited to the same half-dozen transactions as previous ones. While there is certainly a place for each of these investments, the folks at Centris FCU took a different approach to improving member experience – leveraging their modern core to optimize operations from the inside-out.

“If you realize at two in the morning that you have a problem, you should be able to tell us at two in the morning and not wait until it’s convenient for us,” explains Centris Federal Credit Union’s Kris Schuler, Payments Manager.

At Centris, and most financial institutions across the country, the disputes resolution process has long been a multi-touch, cumbersome series of manual processes. You know how it works, a member visits the branch or the contact center where a time-consuming and sometimes awkward interrogation takes place. If the member is not transferred to another staff member to repeat the story, the initial forms are transferred to specialized back-office staff who essentially reprocess the interrogation, sifting through irrelevant information, finding gaps in the data, then attempting to gather this information from an already exasperated member. Are we there yet?

Commonly, multiple vendors will be involved in the resolution, requiring back-office staff to learn and use multiple systems and transcribe data into multiple screens for further dissemination. The opportunity for error continues to escalate, as member confidence wanes and staff morale declines.

Still, dispute resolution, powered by data consolidation and operational optimization, remains largely immune to automation and innovation, which is no huge surprise. As is the case in many industries, glitzy interfaces are plug and play. They are easy to source, budget, and a breeze to implement.

While it’s easy to assume that member engagement is driven by designer websites, stadium naming rights, and ornate lobbies rivaling the décor in Trump Tower, Centris’ experience indicates that these assumptions may be off the mark.

Backed by the mantra, “Centered on Member Experience”, the Centris team focused on eliminating pain-points, for the member and office staff.

The Centris team had a vision: disputes resolution shouldn’t require staff to endure endless training, while exhibiting boundless empathy and patience, followed by tedious, duplicative back-office work. The breakthrough was seven years in the making. Schuler and her team challenged the assumptions and the deeply engrained habits of the industry. They also challenged their technology partner for the seemingly impossible.

Centris’s SVP of Corporate Operations, Tera Schaecher explains her approach. “We built a business case with Plan A and Plan B. Plan A: ‘this is what we want if we can have the world.’ Plan B: ‘this is what we have to do if we only serve the members’ component of this.”

Schaecher explains, “after Kris talked with our core conversion partner at the Corelation conference, ‘Plan A’, the world, was opened to us and we were able to do everything we asked and more at a price point that allows us to save meaningful time that will continue to accrue for years to come.”

Schaecher pauses, “saving money was never the point. I could see the operational inefficiencies and that was tearing me up, but I knew that couldn’t be the priority because we needed to focus on the member side first.”

The point was pain. Schuler smiles as she recounts the conversation with her DaLand PM. “Hey, I have this crazy idea. I want to streamline the disputes process… I want our members to be able to initiate disputes in our online banking system, but I don’t want it to be tied to any one OLB vendor. I want it to be agnostic. And, if we can get rid of the double work… That would help us fulfill our mantra, Centered on Member Experience.”

The result is a single, elegant workflow, built directly into the core, initiated by a member through online banking, or by a front-line staff member. Centris determines the questions posed and the responses are automatically populated into the appropriate forms.

Building out a highly efficient, core-driven, fully configurable operational workflow may not be all that glamorous, but the impact is undeniable. When Centris’ Senior Fraud Specialist first demoed the solution, she “nearly burst into tears,” recalled Schuler. “This is the kind of stuff you hope and dream to implement from an IT/Ops perspective.”

Schuler returned the Centris mantra. “If I can make it more efficient for the member to self-serve or talk to us, that means we met the mission. If I can make it more efficient for my team to handle the dispute once submitted, then we’ve fulfilled that mission. If I’ve made it so that we’re getting the information we need to win the case without going back and forth, then we’ve fulfilled that mission.”

With several thousand disputes processed since the initial go-live back in Q4 of 2023, an average savings of 3-5 minutes per dispute in their call center, and a savings of 10-15 minutes for disputes processed in-branch, Schuler and her team have clearly fulfilled their mission. Her staff is happier, members are empowered, and the institution is saving hundreds of hours in tedious, painstaking work. Win-win-win.

Schaecher sums up the experience this way, “When we started, it was daunting. There was no solution that fit our needs. We couldn’t find a product to slide right in. Through networking and collaboration—both internally and with our DaLand as our partner, we came up with something great!”

Our team at DaLand is proud to partner with courageous leaders (and friends) like the executives at Centris FCU. We are reminded here that the best path forward is rarely the easiest one. Here’s to journeying together!


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Randy Ralston

Randy Ralston

Randy is a serial entrepreneur with experience in retail, manufacturing, eCommerce, real estate, blockchain mining, and business consulting. As a father of five, he understands the economic and financial pressures ... Web: www.dalandcuso.com Details