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Social Distancing and the Need for Self-Serve Banking

woman using mobile phone on colorful night background
By Brad Eral

3 minutes

Even while we’re all missing the human element of everyday life, every additional payment channel provides value to members.

This post has been reprinted with permission from the SWBC blog.

Every American citizen, along with the rest of the world, has been impacted by COVID-19, better known as the coronavirus disease. In these uncertain times, businesses are moving to work-from-home operations, events have been postponed or canceled, and school districts across the country have closed their doors. While there are many unknowns and the long-term impact is yet to be determined, financial institutions have the opportunity to leverage technology and self-serve channels to empower their account holders and borrowers to manage their banking needs while minimizing their trips away from home.

During times like these, we often hear about the importance of diversifying investment and loan portfolio assets in order to protect your overall business; however, diversifying your payment channels can not only give you a strategic advantage, but it can also offer your members convenient ways to make their loan payments and access their accounts in a time when travel is being limited.

Self-Service Trends

In today's age of social distancing, self-servicing, online purchasing and curbside pick-up have become a part of our new “normal.” Account-holders not only are looking for a more convenient way to pay but a safer one. With branch lobbies being closed, employees and members working from the comforts of their homes, and residents of entire cities being mandated not to leave their houses, financial institutions are forced to evolve and adapt. Self-service payment channels are no longer a convenience; they have become a necessity.

The ongoing trend toward self-service has been evident for years, particularly to younger members. In fact, more than 60% of American consumers reported that they prefer digital self-serve tools for simple inquiries. It can be challenging for credit unions, in particular, to jump too far in the self-serve deep end since the differentiating factor in the credit union model is member service and the human touch. And while I think we are all missing the human element of everyday life as we’re forced to self-quarantine and distance ourselves from our colleagues and friends, every additional payment channel that you offer provides value and is important to your account holders.

Impact of a Remote Workforce

As financial institutions establish work-from-home policies and have fewer customer support staff in-branch or in call centers, self-serve channels will be critical. Outside of the current environment, we’ve seen clients experience a reduction in queue sizes and call volume by implementing self-serve channels. For example, when $585 million Financial Center First Federal Credit Union, Indianapolis, launched its e-services platform, it saw a major shift in how borrowers paid their loans and a reduction in the number of calls to its contact center. 

Within a year, the CU experienced a 161% increase in payments processed through self-serve channels. With an increased remote workforce, self-service channels can help reduce call volume and give your staff that will remain onsite the ability to reduce call wait times and provide the best service possible.

While the long-term impact of the pandemic remains unknown, I have no doubt that we will all learn and grow from this experience. Service to members remains a priority and mission. Oftentimes, it's during the bad times that service stands out.

As account vice president for the financial institution group at CUES Supplier member SWBC, San Antonio, Texas, Brad Eral serves financial institutions throughout the Midwest with lending services, insurance and loss mitigation programs. Before joining SWBC, Brad worked in the software space helping retailers leverage technology to improve their customer experience.

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