If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Starbucks headquarters in Seattle, stop in the coffee shop inside. Step out of the elevator into a tall, sky-lit space filled with the aroma of roasting coffee and experience the same employee friendliness you have come to expect at your corner Starbucks.
Behind the scenes, down a floor, the taste team tests more than 600 cups of coffee daily in a private “cupping room” as new blends are prepared for market. However, in the tightly regulated financial industry, deploying new products is not as simple as taste-testing a cup of coffee. Rigorous testing is required and credit union employees must be trained to use new tools to enhance the member experience, and in a way consistent with the organization’s cultivated brand experience.
But just like that coffee shop in the Starbucks headquarters, the credit union headquarters branch represents an opportunity for research and development and staff training while helping to reinforce to the staff that the branch is still largely seen as the face of the organization.
Headquarters As The Test Bed And More
To be competitive, credit unions are expanding online and mobile services. Members have little patience with apps that don’t make their banking experience easier. In the headquarters, IT and product experts can more easily co-locate in the HQ branch to test these technologies with members prior to their general release.
The opportunity for R&D also reaches beyond the IT department. “The greatest advantage an HQ branch serves for management is that we are able to quickly look at a number of different operational issues and make decisions on them,” says Steve Anderson, COO of HAPO Community Credit Union ($1.2B, Richland, Wash.) “Instead of having conversations in theory, we can go downstairs to the main branch and discuss things in 3-D.” (Below: HAPO Community Credit Union HQ Branch)
The marketing department can also leverage the HQ branch for R&D. Does the organization have a new marketing campaign? Try it on for size in the branch downstairs, make adjustments, and then roll it out.
Great Member Service Begins With Staff Training
According to the 2011 PwC FS Viewpoint Report, 27% of consumers suggested they need better service. Staff training is crucial to delivering a world-class member service experience. When a headquarters branch functions as a live classroom, the credit union’s training team has the opportunity to connect new hires more directly to the mission of the organization.
It is this added layer of context that helps a trainee understand, for example, the importance of a choreographed member experience. Anderson likens HAPO’s HQ branch to a teaching hospital. “Things don’t always go as smoothly as you’d like,” he says. “Make sure your members know how this branch operates and have front-line management ready to step in if the process hits some snags.”
Source: “Getting to Know You: Building a Customer-Centric Business Model for Retail Banks” PwC FS Viewpoint. April 2011, p.23.
The Face Of My Credit Union
Erich Schaefer, CEO of Golden Plains Credit Union ($448.4M, Garden City, KS), says, “Our members are our lifeblood. Continuous contact is necessary to maintain a good working knowledge of our successes and failures.” Golden Plains’ headquarters branch serves as the administrative team’s main point of contact with members. “Member surveys can help fill a void, but nothing provides management with better feedback than face-to-face interaction,” Schaefer says. With their HQ branch just a few steps away, the Golden Plains team achieves this interaction on a daily basis. (Below: Golden Plains Credit Union HQ Branch)
The connection of the branch with an organization’s administrative functions can have a powerful visual impact as well. For Golden Plains Credit Union it says, “This is the most successful financial institution in town.” The building’s scale and its branch functions send a clear message that this credit union is an enduring part of the area’s economic vitality.
Leverage The Facility
The per-transaction cost of the traditional branch delivery model is increasing. Credit unions are continuously looking for ways to leverage more from their expensive facility assets. One way credit unions have found greater returns is through creating synergies between the administrative functions of the credit union and the HQ branch. Ask yourself, what opportunities does your credit union have to test and try out new products, campaigns, and strategies in your HQ branch?
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