Safety and flexibility are top priorities while providing reliable service during the pandemic.
Many consultants offer the efficiency and flexibility of delivering their services remotely—something that has taken on greater urgency during the challenging business environment of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Employees at the Memphis, Tennessee, base of operations for CUESolutions provider Strategic Resource Management Inc. quickly transitioned to a home-based work environment when the pandemic shut down business offices across the U.S. The Memphis staff accounts for a third of SRM’s total work force; the remaining employees, who work throughout the rest of the country, were already working remotely.
“We didn’t miss a beat when we made that decision for the safety of our staff to go remote,” says Patrick Goodwin, president of SRM. “Everybody’s set up with laptops, remote workstations and multiple monitors, so we were already well-equipped.”
Before the pandemic hit, SRM was experienced in using such video-conferencing tools as Microsoft Teams and Skype to facilitate internal communications. “We were very fortunate to have that infrastructure already in place, and we can service our clients that way as well,” Goodwin explains.
CUES Supplier member CU Engage, St. Petersburg, Florida, likewise has technology tools to facilitate remote delivery of its services.
“Last year, we made a major investment (time and money) in our technology, and specifically Microsoft Teams, and we also started working with our clients more remotely to help them reduce their travel budgets,” reports company co-founder/partner Jennifer Addabbo. “So, as far as how we conduct our day-to-day business and how clients work with us, there’s really not a huge difference.”
As part of its account management strategy, CU Engage reached out to clients at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. with advice for how to set up their team’s environment to facilitate working remotely “Those of us who have worked remotely our whole careers somewhat take for granted that other people are adjusting, but some people may not be as comfortable with video conferencing or the nuances of working from home as others,” Addabbo acknowledges. To help clients adjust to a remote working environment, CU Engage produced several videos with tips and tricks for being more productive under these new circumstances and shared them on LinkedIn. (Watch them at tinyurl.com/ydz35dlk, tinyurl.com/yclrksxh and tinyurl.com/yabgj7o6.)
Though SRM’s remote setup is functioning smoothly, Goodwin acknowledges that there is a loss incurred by not being able to meet clients face-to-face.
“We love our typical engagement of meeting clients and shaking hands, but we’ve adapted by using technology tools,” Goodwin says. But, he adds, “we’re always happy to reach out to clients via video chat, so in terms of our service, we haven’t seen a slowdown from a delivery perspective at all.”
Addabbo likewise sees business essentially progressing as it always has, despite the current crisis. “It really hasn’t changed much of what we do, aside from the fact that we like seeing our clients and taking them out to dinner,” she says. “The biggest hit is the conference environment, as credit unions tend to use the conferences to learn about new vendors and collaborate with their peers.”
As the pandemic crisis continues to unfold, Addabbo thinks it’s likely that there will be an even greater emphasis on one of CU Engage’s pillars of service: digital.
“In the long term, the question for credit unions and community banks is going to be: Are you on the right digital platform?” Addabbo predicts. “There may not be an urgent need to make changes in mobile banking over the next six weeks or so, but we’ll probably will start to see the pressure to upgrade as more and more folks use that platform.”
Goodwin says that it is still too early to predict long-term ramifications of the pandemic crisis, though he does see potential for greater focus on upgrading digital technologies.
“Digital was already trending before the pandemic hit,” he says. “We think it could have greater growth, simply because people are working from home and will be more likely to utilize digital banking and bill-pay. If a credit union realizes that their digital platform is not where it needs to be, that’s where an advisory firm is going to become very important in helping them make a critical decision in this area.”cues icon
Based in Missouri, Diane Franklin is a longtime contributor to Credit Union Management magazine.