Member Experience Drives Digital Dealings At Bay Federal

The California cooperative is four years into a digital evolution that relies heavily on member feedback.


Top-Level Takeaways

  • Bay Federal replaced an array of ancillary software with a single platform in 2015 and gauges member reaction to new digital experiences via daily surveys.
  • The credit union upgrades technology when necessary but avoids change for the sake of change.


Data as of 12.31.19

HQ: Capitola, CA
MEMBERS: 78,163
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 14.0%
ROA: 0.85%

Bay Federal Credit Union ($1.1B, Capitola, CA) is four years into a new digital presence that it continually upgrades by listening to the Voice of the Member.

That’s the name of the program the Silicon Valley cooperative uses to gauge how members feel about their cooperative’s website and mobile apps.

Chief experience officer Ryan Cash says the new platform “rose from the ashes” of its old system in an effort called Project Phoenix, which replaced separate software deployments for money movement, account aggregation, and budgeting tools.

Cash joined the credit union not long after the new platform went live. He’s been overseeing the member experience since as Bay Federal grows functionality and adoption.

Digital transactions now outnumber branch transactions, and mobile usage has quadrupled since the October 2015 launch. Currently, nearly three-fourths of Bay Federal’s 40,000 active online bankers use the mobile apps available in Apple or Google versions.

They don’t care what’s going on behind the scene with all your systems. They just want it all to work and be easy.

Ryan Cash, Chief Experience Officer, Bay FCU

“We think that’s really good engagement,” Cash says. 

For their part, members have given the credit union’s apps high scores. On the Apple App Store, which the credit union tracks closely, members have given the app a rating of 4.8.

“We’re literally over the hill, maybe 25 miles away, from the Apple campus,” Cash says. “That app accounts for 90% of our mobile use.” 

That’s the kind of score the big bank competitors earn for their apps, Cash says. That feedback comes unsolicited, but the credit union also proactively seeks input from end users.

The Voice Of The Member

The credit union’s Voice of the Member program revolves around touchpoint surveys that go out every day to a statistically significant portion of members who had a key interaction with the credit union the past 24 hours. Questions, which focus on ease of use, are intended to generate actionable data that Bay Federal can use to understand how members feel about what they’re experiencing through all the delivery channels.

Ryan Cash, Chief Experience Officer, Bay FCU

“We try to do two things with that information,” Cash says. “First, if there’s an issue with an individual member, we seek them out and address the problem. If we’re getting consistently negative feedback about something, we use that information to make design changes.”  As examples, Cash cited wording that members might find too complicated or digital functions deemed difficult to complete.

The Bay Federal CXO adds that one of the most persistent sources of frustration for members is the hundreds of possible combinations of security and other settings for the multiple web browsers members use for banking.

Working with its platform provider — NCR Digital Insight — Bay Federal placed a digital button on its website that automatically checks whether the user’s settings are optimized for online banking. That helps members facilitate a fix, whether they do it online themselves or call into the credit union’s contact center for additional guidance.

So, What Now?

Bay Federal is continuing to develop its member experience. Right now, that includes preparing to launch a smartwatch app in the next month. It also is working to integrate card management features into the mobile app. 

“We have limited experience at this point with that kind of integration,” Cash says. “This is one the first times we’re really going beyond the standard products decks with our supplier. We’re hopeful about this new direction.”

Cash says data flows seamlessly and in real time between its core processor and its digital functions, including mobile and online chat, but work also remains to be done on creating a unified CRM approach.

“We have different CRM systems that give us various versions of the contact record,” the CXO says. “We need something more unified. We’re working on that now and would like use that to go beyond the nuts and bolts into all our interactions with members and deepen how they experience different channels.”

Let Their Fingers Do The Talking

A senior systems administrator at Bay Federal takes care of internal needs while the credit union’s technology supplier does the heavy lifting in designing and deploying the changes in the digital platform.

4 Tips For Member Experience Digital Happiness

Ryan Cash, chief experience officer at Bay Federal, offers insight into how to manage digital technology from the perspective of the end user.

  • Listen to members. You have the ability to track and measure their actions. Let what members are saying and doing guide the credit union.
  • Listen, plan, and create. Make sure the credit union has the vision to create the experience it’s trying to cultivate for members.
  • Be methodical yet flexible. From a project standpoint, don’t try to fit a round peg into a square hole just because that’s how you thought it should go.
  • Listen to others, too. Your vendor partner can do a lot of good things for the credit union. That’s why you selected them in the first place.

Such changes have been many and are driven both by member feedback and technological improvements. Biometrics is a good example of that. Bay Federal first offered retinal scans, which quickly gave way to touch and then facial recognition, “the moment it was offered on iPhone,” Cash says.

That said, Bay Federal doesn’t leap to offer every new feature that comes along. 

“We live and breathe this stuff and can get fixated on, say, a new button that comes along that our current platform doesn’t have,” Cash says. “But, our surveys and app scores are positive and our enrollment is growing, so there’s nothing that say our members need or want it. That’s when it’s important to pause and consider how much that change is needed.”

Cash has seen what happens when other financial institutions jump on features users aren’t crazy about, such as adding budgeting tools to transaction details. In that case, the app scores of the financial institution dropped because it was undermining the user experience, Cash says.

The Bay Federal CXO credits his technology provider both for driving and accommodating changes in his shop’s digital offerings, but stresses that the member remains in the driver’s seat. He’s got a tip for how to keep that in mind.

“Look at it from the member’s point of view,” he says. “They don’t care what’s going on behind the scene with all your systems. They just want it all to work and be easy.”

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