Is Your Largest Branch Open for Business?

Credit union members live in a fast-paced, need-it-now world. They expect their financial institutions to be fast and responsive, too.




Credit union members in the 21st century live in a fast-paced, need-it-now world — and they expect their financial institutions to be fast and responsive, too. While many credit unions have begun using some online channels, these efforts may not meet members' needs today.

But there's good news: Armed with a well-planned eStrategy and improved digital capabilities, the tools are available to meet your on-the-go members' expectations. It starts with the virtual branch.

Think "Virtual"
Online, electronic, remote, mobile, virtual, shared, network...these words are everywhere. Yet, you may not associate them with the largest, most cost-effective branch in your credit union's network: your virtual branch. What you may not realize is that your largest branch could be closed or too inefficient for your members to use.

Credit unions are known for their commitment to member service. But as members' mindsets change, we must rethink traditional ways of doing business. Why? A strong online strategy benefits members through greater convenience and simplicity, and lower costs. 

Digital communication channels and technology have truly leveled the playing field. With the right eStrategy, a $100 million credit union can provide the same services online as a Fortune 500 bank. You no longer need a branch on every corner to be a significant player in your market; instead, leverage technology to provide the ultimate in 24/7 customer service and profitable growth. Even with only one physical branch, credit unions can effectively handle their members' transactions through strong networks of ATMs and smart kiosks, shared-branching, and remote deposit and imaging programs.

Put eStrategy to Work
First, consider how to make all of your financial services available remotely. Upgrade websites to offer information, education and online service delivery; and provide e-banking programs that enable quick access to transactions, account monitoring, and key documents. Add to that mobile capabilities for transactions, account alerts and promotions. Look at incorporating email, text and voice messaging as key communications channels. And along with the above capabilities, include delivery channels through call-center operations and automated voice response.

Now it's time to develop "e" strategies. Too often, a credit union's virtual branch includes ad hoc programs launched at different times that can't talk to each other or use the valuable "locked" customer information stored away. There's a better way. Focus on increasing service quality and member convenience with programs that use current technologies to allow for targeted opportunities, less dependency on branch networks and two-way, personalized communication.

Here are some ideas to help you get started:

1. Determine your goals and direction.
What do you want to accomplish with your eStrategy? Membership growth or more profitable business from current members? Elimination of paper systems or fewer branches? Identify the primary purpose behind your strategy and develop a plan to address these goals.

2. Put the right tools in place.
Smartphones and tablets are changing the rules. If your website's content is static or can't be used on new devices, online forms are PDF downloads, or marketing messages are blast-emailed to members, it's time to upgrade. Replace online functions that don't support today's financial services technology and engagement marketing.

3. Set a corporate goal to update contact points.
To retain members today you need to reach them when and where they want. Build accurate lists of email addresses, cell phone numbers for voice and text, and home phone numbers. Then assign someone to keep these lists current. Remember, email and mobile are faster, cheaper and often more convenient for members.

4. Create an "e" place at your credit union.
Consider creating a C-level eCommerce position with the expertise and authority to grow business, develop eStrategies, and align efforts with company-wide plans. Also look into separating some traditional marketing functions from e-marketing functions. The thought processes behind the two often different; so while both are important, they require distinct techniques and technologies.

5. Engage members and build relationships.
Let technology, your data and an enhanced communication network take over to provide consistent, managed contact at every level where members want to conduct business.

Don't Let Your Online Branch Fall Short
Is trying to compete by adding branches diminishing profitability? Are your online technologies and communications out of sync? If your virtual branch doesn't measure up, members will find one that does.

A methodical, integrated eStrategy can put your credit union on the right side of today's digital divide. DigitalMailer is inviting credit union Executives to join its eStrategy Consortium to help guide the industry into the digital future. Call us today at 866.994.4900 ext. 102 and learn about our exclusive eStrategy Benchmark Report and how to create a successful eStrategy.

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