HR Answers: Building and Maintaining Relationships Between Back-Office and Front-Line Branches

group of employees with all hands in to help each other
By Courtney Nunn

3 minutes

Alabama credit union's branch services team strives to ensure communication and member experience stay at the forefront of operations.

A credit union is much more than monetary values and financial transactions. It’s about the people behind those operations—who can, quite frankly, make or break your organization. Credit union members want to feel well taken care of, and that feeling is derived directly from staff members. Without the understanding of company values and a commitment to uphold them, a credit union is only as good as its weakest member. Cue employee relationships, where the backbone and the heart of the credit union connect to establish morale and create a favorable member experience.

At America’s First Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, great emphasis is placed on staff relationships. The importance of sustaining relationships between our front-line and back-office staff is well known and well reciprocated. This relationship is vital, and each group needs the other in order to provide great member service.

AmFirst's back-office staff provides certain nuanced assistance to our front-office branches, which ultimately contributes to our overall member services. This chained reaction requires a healthy, functional relationship, and sustaining that relationship is a critical task. To ensure harmony, we emphasize two-way communication and promote the value each department brings to the other: Successful back-end logistics make for more seamless front-office deliverables. Both departments make up the heartbeat of AmFirst and together equal unparalleled member service.

As in any organization, speed bumps can occur, causing a breakdown of the communication and understanding we’ve worked to establish. This is where AmFirst’s branch services team steps in, serving as a mediator between the two departments to help reconnect and mend while striving to have open, honest and transparent communication regarding any existing or perceived pain points. This allows us to proactively reduce frustrations and help make the processes under our control run smoothly.

In June 2020, our branch services team conceptualized and put into action a commitment plan to help cultivate stronger interdepartmental relationships. We began with our consumer lending and real estate departments, which were, at that time, feeling pain points due to COVID-19 and its effects on in-person loan signing logistics. Frustrations caused by the pandemic resulted in departmental friction, but once we aligned and brought all the burning issues to the table, we were able to identify key pain points and work through them. We also learned each team had the same passion and intention to take care of each other and create a great member experience. Ultimately, this experience demonstrated the true power of communication and allowed room for team relationship-building.

Since that time, additional departments have been added to this exercise, and each interdepartmental meeting has been impactful—leading not only to quick resolutions, but also to the identification of more long-term issues that needed to be proactively addressed. Each staff member who participates in these meetings has recognized that increasing communication and interaction among departments has broken down walls and created a more cohesive work environment. Our branch front-office staff members have the comfort of knowing decisions made within the back-office have been communicated and approved by us on the branch services team to ensure their best interests, as well as those of our members, are at the forefront of all operations.

And that is what AmFirst is all about.

Courtney Nunn is branch director for $2.1 billion America’s First Federal Credit Union, a community-chartered credit union with 21 branch locations in 12 counties throughout Alabama. With more than 200,000 members, AmFirst is one of the strongest credit unions in the nation and is committed to providing cost-effective financial services.

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