Article

Inside Marketing: Moving Forward Means Better Training

smiling service representative of Asian descent talks on headset while partipating in online training on laptop
By Charlyne H. McWilliams

4 minutes

In a time when member engagement has moved from branches to call centers and digital channels, it is critical for credit unions to leverage technology to get staff up to speed.

As more cities and states start to look at how to reopen businesses and allow people to conduct commerce safely, there are some lessons we can take from the initial shutdown to the current environment. Technology is at the heart of the lesson.

Credit unions, like every other business, had to rethink how to maintain their commitment to serving members while also protecting them and member-facing CU employees. Safety and efficiency were two primary focuses when considering how business operated during the pandemic.

Some credit unions were ahead of the technology curve and already had their digital channels in place and operating efficiently (e.g., mobile banking, remote check capture and e-signatures) to serve their members. And what the pandemic showed us is that it’s possible to rely on those aforementioned technologies and even thrive with their use as opposed to the traditional handling of most transactions in a brick and mortar location.

Unfortunately, some members were (and still are) either unable or unwilling to physically visit a branch, even if it reopened. In this scenario, technology became the go-to solution to help credit unions respond to their members’ needs from managing bills and transferring funds to depositing checks. And if a member had an issue with one of those systems, they more than likely turned to the call center for assistance.

In the transition to working from home, not all credit unions may have considered the importance of ensuring that staff, especially those folks on the front lines, were familiar and able to talk about such technology so they could be ambassadors to members. For service representatives to effectively help members understand and accept this new normal in banking, they need to know and be comfortable with member-facing technology.

It would be safe to say that, during the pandemic, some credit union employees have been called to provide counsel on technology they may have never used themselves. And if they had, these front-line employees may still not have the level of familiarity needed to help frustrated members better understand the system.

Imagine you’re a front-line staff member at a small credit union—the pandemic hits, you are told you now need to work from home and oh, by the way, you will also need to field member inquiries about online banking or how to access the mobile app for the first time—topics outside of your normal area of expertise. You are not experienced at answering such questions, and at home, you have access to very little information about these processes; you cannot just walk to the next cubicle and ask your fellow employee how something is done. You may panic or try to call another employee you think knows the answers. This is a recipe for slower productivity and dissatisfcation on the part of the member and of the employee. Not a good scenario for your credit union.

Giving employees access to a learning system that helps them quickly become more comfortable with your credit union’s technical offerings can prevent this type of scenario. The proper system can help them be prepared now and for the future—and a prepared front-line staff means happier members who can advocate for your organization in these uncertain times.

Results from a Harris Poll commissioned by William Mills Agency found that 67% of people ages 18 to 35 and 82% of people ages 45 to 64 say they will be more or much more likely to use digital banking and payments during social distancing. After the pandemic, many members will have adopted the new digital systems and the credit union should encourage the continued use of these systems. This will require continuous training for employees so that they remain up to speed on your technology. Well-trained employees who are armed with real knowledge about your systems can improve member interactions. Training will also positively affect employee morale, because your staff will have confidence in their knowledge and ability to help members.

Learning new technology or quickly improving skill and knowledge-level can be daunting, but given the continuing atmosphere of distancing, digital training is likely your go-to method today—or it will be in the near future. Different styles of learning systems can make the process fun. There are game-based training systems and other online options that can help ensure employees retain the knowledge they obtain. An online learning system that allows employees to advance at their own pace is the ultimate in a learning experience platform. Credit unions that give employees this kind of learning experience will empower their employees to provide a positive member experience, even during a crisis.

The pandemic has been a challenging time that continues to present many obstacles, learning curves and points of anxiety for everyone. To come out of this as a better institution speaks volumes to a credit union’s desire to move forward with solid technology and a dedication to member service. No matter where employees are working during and after this pandemic, giving them the ability to truly be an asset to members is doable with the right technology and learning tools.

Charlyne H. McWilliams is an account supervisor and regional sales manager at William Mills Agency, the nation's largest independent public relations firm focusing exclusively on the financial services and technology industries. The agency can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or its blog.

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