Most credit unions who have made a reasonable commitment to the Internet and web products have experienced impressive out-of-the-gate successes. Most will tell you that in a very short time they went from a service that did not exist to one that is critical for at least some of their members. New tactics and products continue to come to the market at a relatively quick pace. Credit unions still find themselves in a "product add" mode for things such as e-statements, member service chat rooms, e-mail marketing, and others. However, these new products are not always making a significant change in the future of many credit union e-departments.
E-branch managers run the risk of finding their growth, budgets, and excitement quotient soon reaching a plateau. Many credit union CFOs are starting to sharpen pencils on operational expenses and beginning to challenge this delivery channel as a potential over-service area and cost center. Some CEOs and credit union planners mark the turndown in the dot com phenomenon and our economy as an indication that it is time to return to more traditional delivery channels and their expansion. E-services may not reach the strategic integration into credit union strategies that will fulfill the promise of this new area for credit unions and their members.
How do we go beyond the 5-10% member penetration that most e-service departments have reached relatively quickly, to one where as much as 50% of the members benefit from this new delivery channel? How do we assure that 100% of our membership benefits from a strategic integration of the Internet?
These are two different problems. Obviously, as a delivery channel, our penetration is based on the demographics of our membership and their abilities to reach the Internet. But do our delivery channel strategies take us beyond early acquirers to the skeptics? Have we created pricing and service fee scenarios that move members to this new delivery mode? Have we effectively weighted these services so that MCIF and CRM systems encourage members to give us a return on our investment? What are the problems in reaching a larger and more skeptical audience?
A one hundred-percent benefit for our membership means that the Internet integration must reach all of our delivery channels in a way that our services improve dramatically over where we are today. Are traditional department managers working effectively with credit union e-strategists on how their departments could benefit from a higher level of integration? Initially, this might only be improving credit union employee awareness of credit union offerings and member marketing efforts to be reinforced during their activities. But it can go way beyond that. Are these departments effectively channeling members to our e-strategies by educating members on alternatives to lobby, phone center, and other delivery channel activities? Are our current staff members on board with the long-term financial service tactics?
It's more than just buying a new gadget or adding a new service. How will e-marketing and e-statements be an effective force in your credit union if you only have one email address out of a thousand memberships? How can you expect member penetration for your Internet banking to reach 50% when passwords and security are becoming more stringent? Can we continue to rely on the fact that our services through the Internet are self-evident, or do we have to increase our member education tools on the Internet as we try to reach more people?
In this series of articles, I hope to outline some key strategies that your credit union should address both in the long- and short-term that might increase your credit union's chance of real membership growth for e-strategies.
As a full service data processing and home banking solution provider, WESCO deals with the issues of implementing e-strategies for credit unions every day. If you would like more information about how WESCO answers the important questions raised in this series of articles, please contact Randy Karnes (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Scott Page (email@example.com). We are also interested in your ideas and comments!