Having more ways to connect can accommodate the needs of different members, helping to strengthen existing relationships and even foster new ones.
Strong branch and phone support were historically the key components to building member relationships, and they’re still a staple in many communities today. However, the pandemic changed everything, challenging credit unions to think bigger and expedite future plans.
Members have always wanted technology, convenience and speed; credit unions have been considering such advances in their five-year plans. In 2020, digital became urgent; credit unions were forced to interact and communicate in new ways by increasing the number of touchpoints they had with members. Moving forward, institutions will need to provide more optionality to compete on members’ relationships and trust. It all comes down to being there for members when they need it most.
A HubSpot survey on customer expectations showed that consumers have access to many communication channels, and they expect to solve their issue using the most convenient or best suited one. These consumers use an average of three channels when contacting a business, including phone, email, live chat, mobile apps and other online channels. Of those channels, 82% reach out by phone, 62% by email and 43% by live chat. And these numbers have only been trending up, especially as members use email and live chat to open accounts, apply for loans, finalize documents and more.
Institutions like $2.3 billion Arizona Federal Credit Union, Phoenix, are leveraging digital touchpoints to open accounts online, which has resulted in more than double the number of accounts during spring 2020 and have been able to meet heightened volumes with ease compared to before the pandemic. Other institutions have successfully used live chat to help serve their members. During the pandemic’s onset, $3.5 billion TruStone Financial Credit Union, Plymouth, Minnesota, experienced approximately 5,000 conversations a month, a 189% increase in normal, pre-pandemic activity. $8.4 billion Patelco Credit Union, Dublin, California, has experienced a 25% increase in both calls and emails toward the end of March and into April 2020 compared to before the pandemic. Regardless of the preferred channel, it’s important to make these options available as members want 24/7 real-time access.
Members also want a seamless user experience across their preferred channels. A Google Research report showed that 98% of Americans switch between devices on the same day, while 46% of the population manages their finances online. Often, members will start looking into their accounts on their phone before using their tablet or laptop to explore further. Members should have access to these resources and tools through whichever channel works best for them on a regular basis. Partnering with open banking technology partners that provide application programming interfaces and easy integrations to fintechs of choice is how credit unions can create, customize and design solutions that meet the needs of their members.
Think About What’s Possible
Once credit unions expand their touchpoints and create a consistent experience, it’s time to use empathic banking to reach them. This type of banking puts members’ needs at the forefront, while credit unions provide products and services at the exact point of need or in anticipation of future needs. This requires data to know and understand the member. For example, the credit union should already know how members prefer to interact, in which channel and what time of the day, whenever it asks if the member would like to pay today to avoid late fees. Or it should know how members are spending their money so it can recommend cards and develop better loyalty programs. In both examples, the credit union is aware of its members’ banking habits and proactively recommends relevant products and services.
Just staying relevant is not enough. Not all members are alike; they demand options. Being available for members at their moments of need requires multiple touchpoints, consistent user experiences and proactive recommendations. Member engagement includes online, mobile, email, live chat and social media. Having more touchpoints can accommodate the needs of different members, helping to strengthen existing relationships and even foster new ones.
Shanon McLachlan is president of Symitar, a division of Jack Henry. Symitar has been selected as the primary technology partner by 700 credit unions, serving as a single source for integrated, enterprise-wide automation and as a single point of contact and support.