2020 began with such promise. We turned the calendar into this new decade with little thought to altering business-as-usual. We continued doing our best to serve our members and provide a good, albeit, not entirely consistent member experience through our branches, contact centers, digital banking, and convenience services. For most credit unions, member experience was a work in progress, but that was ok, because we would work on it as time allowed.
Then the big pivot. Stay-at-home orders and daily COVID-19 Task Force meetings became the norm and we all just tried to figure out how to serve our members and keep everyone safe. Now, we’re entering August and the re-opening has started slowly and in some instances with regression. We’re all now extremely aware how far six feet is and face coverings have become our new accessory. As we continue to plod along through 2020 with little assurance that business-as-usual will come back any time soon, what can we do to keep serving our members and focus on the health of our credit unions? It’s times like these that make or break member relationships. How do we earn and maintain our members’ trust?
We need to re-boot, re-imagine and re-define our member experience.
- Reboot– I have one go-to rule when attempting to troubleshoot a device that is not functioning as expected. I turn it off and turn it back on. And honestly, that works about 90% of the time to solve the problem, whatever it may have been, and return to the experience I was expecting. For credit unions and how we serve our members, the experience has been greatly altered. As you reboot, in the near-term, take this time to ask the questions about what worked well and what didn’t with your member experience. What were the choke points and barriers of entry to getting members interacting with you when the branches’ role was absent or severely limited? Are there some immediate or very short-term changes you can make to continue your members’ use of digital channels past the shutdowns?
Do a quick analysis of your members’ behavior by channel before, during and now after the stay-at-home orders. Examine how members did basic transactions with you and ask your employees for feedback. Some areas to consider are daily limits on mobile deposits, external and internal transfers with the goal of making moving money easier for your members and implementing measures at your branches to increase operational efficiency and decrease costs such as shorter hours or a by-appointment-only model.
Think of your re-boot as closing apps on your phone to save power and help it run more efficiently. Put resources into channels that will give you a short-term operational win while positioning you to re-image and re-define what your members’ experience will become.
- Reimagine – Our reality now is that our branches, which for years allowed us to serve our members with face-to-face interactions, have become places of last resort. We’re all looking for ways to get our members to transact with us through digital channels and to minimize the in-person interactions. However, how do we maintain the personal aspect of member service when these in-person interactions have become so limited? Reimagining the member experience is the next step after your re-boot. Look at your digital channels and see how you can improve the experience.
Digital channels are not just limited to digital banking and technology, though I am sure that if your digital experience does not include online account opening, online lending apps and digital signatures that these offerings have shot to the top of your priority list. Examine the digital channels in which your employees are now providing the member experience – over the phone and via email.
What measures can you take in your contact center to ensure the interactions are more personal? Listen to your phone tree and your employees’ voicemail messages to ensure what you are saying is accurate and easy for your members to follow. Consider enabling call back features on your phone system so members can get off hold. Another personal-touch-over-the-phone option that I experienced with my credit union was assigning callers (based on their phone number) to representatives they have interacted with before. This allows your employee to better help and the member to talk to someone who is already familiar with them.
With most of our front-line employees now providing more and more member service via email, what can you do to make sure their responses are up to the standards of service you are accustomed to delivering in your branches? Ask your employees what are common service questions and issues they are receiving via email and then set your communications team to work on drafting email replies that employees can use. This will increase the efficiency of your front-line employees’ responses and ensure the consistency of the member experience. Consider also, making video appointments. This experience may not be for everyone, but being able to see the person who is helping you feels much more personal and enables some of the nuances to communicating that are lost in phone or email only conversations.
In the short-term, concentrate on the details of your digital service provision to make it easier for your employees and members, while also re-imagining how to provide a member experience with a personal touch that continues the relationship and the trust your members have with you.
- Redefine – It is incredibly difficult to see any positive outcome from the pandemic, but the redefinition of how we provide a great experience to our members may be one. 2020 has given us the opportunity to fundamentally alter our thinking and our members’ expectations for being served at our branches.
Take a long, hard look at your branch strategy and operations. Focus on ways to decrease members’ reliance on performing transactions in this channel and invest in technology and platforms that will allow members to do more of their transactional banking digitally. The focus should be on moving from transactions of making deposits and getting cash, to a member experience built on a consultative approach that delivers the benefits of in-person interactions, heightens connections and deepens relationships.
The redefinition of your member experience and finding the right path for your credit union will take time. By rebooting and reimagining the member experience in the near-term and short-term, you are positioning yourself to redefine the member experience in the long-term. Take advantage of the events of 2020 thus far to break the mold of business-as-usual and put your resources into defining your member experience as one based on personal relationships and trust.