During the past few years, credit union C-suites have been energetically planning their digital transformations; execs selecting the right technologies and technology partners and attempting to deploy new systems well. Then the pandemic began, driving a still higher level of consumer demand and usage of digital and contactless banking tools.
By the middle of 2020, half of American consumers use digital banking tools as alternatives to visiting branches or ATMs, including those users who are traditionally late adopters of such technology for a variety of reasons. And, while many consumers state that they will return to branches for more complex transactions when it is again safe to do so, the majority state that they will continue to use digital services for their ease and convenience. To keep members satisfied and continuously engaged, it is vital that some of the more critical functions be performed seamlessly, without friction or barriers.
Unitus Community Credit Union is a $1.5 billion credit union serving more than 100,000 members in numerous counties throughout Oregon and Washington. In 2019, the credit union began leveraging a new voice and text analytics tool to further improve their understanding of the “Voice of the Member”.
What they found surprised them. One of their first insights was a much higher volume of mobile deposit-related member phone calls than they expected. The data was very clear, this self-service experience was not nearly as seamless as they perceived. Unitus responded by creating a cross functional team that listened to member calls, journey mapped the experience, met with Vertifi Software, their mobile deposit solution provider, to seek recommendations for an improved member experience, and more.
According to Blaine Bartholomew, the credit union’s assistant vice president of member experience, “An important part of improving this experience was reaching out to our longtime mobile deposit partner, Vertifi Software, to seek recommendations for solving the pain points we found. That was a breakthrough for us.
“We hadn’t looked closely at our mobile deposit platform — member segments, risk settings, etc. — in some time. Vertifi helped us better understand the risk management system settings available, which helped us evaluate if we had the right balance of member experience and risk management.”
Unitus challenged everything from transaction fees to funds availability timelines to deposit limits to restrictive endorsement requirements by looking more intentionally through the member’s lens.
During the first half of 2020, significant improvement had been made to the mobile deposit experience. Unitus began actively promoting mobile deposit, as impacts of COVID-19 limited branch availability.
The results have been dramatic. Volume is up substantially, exceeding 25,000 check deposits in recent months, despite branch availability beginning to normalize.
Check repairs, deleted deposits, and other exceptions adding member friction and requiring staff handling are significantly down. For example, deleted deposits reduced from 6% to 2% from early 2020 to present. This is a reduction of over 1,000 deleted deposits per month. Far fewer checks require review, and the remaining ones are being released for deposit much more quickly.
As a result, call volume to the call center is dramatically lower — a huge win for both the members and the credit union. For example, this past July, Unitus had a 35% reduction in mobile deposit-related phone calls, a reduction of an estimated 33 hours of total talk time for their employees and members. Finally, and most importantly, there has been no increase in check losses attributable to mobile deposit.
Karen Salman, assistant vice president of deposit operations, says, “The changes we made served us well when the pandemic began. With a better understanding of the risk mitigation tools in place on our mobile deposit platform, we were able to remove many of the barriers our members were experiencing in depositing their funds without assuming greater risk. The DeposZip U.S. Treasury Check Verification tool was available just as the first round of stimulus checks were released. It saved us a ton of time and caught a number of fraudulent items.”
Salman and Bartholomew acknowledged how proud they are by what was accomplished with mobile deposit. Unitus plans to replicate that success with other digital services in pursuit of greater member usage, satisfaction, engagement, and long-term transformation. They agreed that the process was thoughtful and detailed, underscoring an obvious aspect of successful projects.