Evolving the E-experience

Today’s credit union Websites fall far short when it comes to variations of transactions and member services offered through core products. They leave gaping holes in what members can accomplish virtually, driving them back into branches where they take up expensive teller time.

 
 

Today’s credit union Websites fall far short when it comes to variations of transactions and member services offered through core products. They leave gaping holes in what members can accomplish virtually, driving them back into branches where they take up expensive teller time.

Internet transactions should mirror or add to current non-Internet transactions, rather than being sneak previews or dim reflections of what happens in a branch. To maintain their historical role as service leaders among financial institutions, credit unions must set their sights far above current standards for mature Internet offerings and true e-commerce.

Developing True Self-service
The development of a real self-service model for credit union operations begins with the resolution that commerce can and will be conducted over the Internet. The next step establishes the components of that commerce and how each transaction will be completed, mirroring member-teller transactions. In this process, we must answer the following questions:

  • What steps are necessary for members to buy the products they see on the Web site?
  • What clear advantages will Internet commerce present to members that lead to initiating a transaction immediately?
  • What measures are necessary to enable the consummation of a transaction at the credit union’s end, for example, transfer of loan funds into the member’s account?

The ultimate goal of a true self-service model for credit unions is to eliminate interaction with employees, except when the member wants personalized service.

A Continuum of Shared Experiences
Currently, credit unions are not developing business processes that integrate “e” into their traditional policies and procedures. We continue to segment what happens in the lobby, from what happens at an ATM machine, from what happens on the Internet. What’s missing is a culture that gives the member core, shared experiences between all delivery channels.

A member’s e-experience is controlled by three major components. The first is the Web site’s brochure-ware, which allows consumers to research services and products. Another is the transactions process, which ideally leads to the end goal without employee interaction. The third component is compliance-ware, which makes e-services between members and organizations legal and binding with the necessary disclosures and Internet safety protocols. Early e-offerings required the member to read the fine print and then visit a branch to complete the transaction. True e-commerce blends interactive disclosures into transactions at the proper point.

A true self-service model handles all service processing flows through a single policy and procedure guide. Establishing such a seamless continuum of service options means amending current traditional practices to accommodate e-commerce. The results are processes that are entirely automated with or without personal assistance. Members can enter a branch, for example, to get sales-assisted self-service – just one of many options for a mature e-model. It brings the employee back into the picture as an addition, not a replacement, to what the member can do virtually.

Evolution Requires Strategy
Credit unions’ current goals for Internet strategy are a far cry from their potential. Consumers’ assimilation of computers is growing constantly, making e-commerce an evolutionary process. In the early Internet world, Web sites offered members a loan and that was the end of it. Later other steps were added, such as filling out a virtual loan application and submitting it via e-mail, but that’s as far as it went. Continuing the evolution to the ultimate goal of completing entire transactions requires an evolutionary strategy and long-range planning, along with constant review along the way. The current buy-and-wait approach is simply not cost-effective. It wastes resources on incremental solutions that, in isolation, have little shelf life.

Another expensive mistake is failure to proceed quickly in integrating Internet activity into non-e environments. The e-model works in every single area, but we need to get members excited about it and leverage that excitement through every channel. Are there Internet terminals in the lobby? Do employees use both e-tools and non-e tools in giving personal service? Are we coaching them to communicate Internet service offerings? Are there posters advertising our Web site? Are we streaming videos about the Web site to drive-up windows? Just because some members don’t dial up yet doesn’t mean they’re not interested in e-service.

Instead of developing strategies, credit unions are still hoping and waiting to buy e-commerce in a can. Nothing so all-encompassing ever comes in a can. Technology partners can only place tools within our reach. It’s up to us to develop the well-rounded strategy to move toward true e-service models, particularly the coordination of e-systems with core systems.

E-tools need to be as common as the teller platform. It’s not about best of breed, but about incorporating “e” into our core processing so that it can expand at the rate we do business. E-processes should be inexpensive and operationally based. The process is expensive only when it’s not assimilated into our current operations to gain efficiencies along the way.

Enhancing the E-Service Culture
Our strategies are based on determining what constitutes the culture of an e-credit union. We’re no longer aiming for an e-branch or e-department. The objective is an internally developed e-culture that is based on education and a desire to know what’s going on in the marketplace, as well as an understanding of what our members want. E-culture focuses on convenience, on fitting into a member’s life, not changing their life. If it’s not as convenient as the services members have come to expect from us in the past, it’s not going to be successful. E-culture allows us to be in more places at more times. Specifically, credit unions have historically been a convenient workplace alternative to other financial charters. E-culture once again brings that benefit to the forefront. For credit union members, a solid work-banking offering is much more important than home banking.

The service culture we understand so well must be inherent in everything we do, including e-commerce. We’re not changing our world to an e-word, but using our current strengths to adapt our current world to “e”.

 

 

 

Jan. 13, 2003


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