The following is an excerpt from Callahan's just released 2004 Credit Union Financial Yearbook. This is one of many articles in this year's IT focused special report, which discusses technology and the importance of keeping up with innovations in today's economic environment.
Mission Federal Credit Union wanted to enhance its ability to serve members while ensuring that quality service led to results. The $1.7 billion credit union recognized the growing complexity of its product lines and saw the need for staff and members to tap into information that would help them better utilize its numerous loan and deposit products. While product specialists could assist members when available, front line personnel at branches and the call center received multiple product requests throughout the day. Matching these diverse inquiries with the appropriate product was the challenge for Mission.
While focused on the need to provide accurate information and grow relationships, Mission was also looking for consistency across the organization. According to John Parsons, EVP, "We wanted members to have a singular experience when interacting with us, no matter when or where they contacted us." Institutionalizing the credit union's knowledge on its products was the key to meeting this objective.
Through its involvement in Member Gateways, a multi-credit union CUSO, Mission was introduced to Experion Systems, a company that develops online applications that provide users with recommended products based on an individual's situation. The system walks the user through a series of questions to gather the information needed to provide a knowledgeable recommendation. Tips and definitions of terms are provided throughout, thus mirroring the conversation a member would have with a product expert.
"We saw this system not only as a way to enhance our position as a trusted resource for our members, but also as a critical addition to our loan delivery systems," says Parsons. Mission developed the Lending Advisor for use with auto, real estate, credit card and student loans. "Assessing needs, educating on product details, and providing recommendations are the steps our staff should follow with any member inquiry. This tool makes the process consistent."
Mission's implementation team was cross-functional and included representatives from lending, IT and marketing. Before it launched the system, MFCU provided hands-on training to every employee in the call center and branches. The system was launched within the credit union in the third quarter of 2003 and the staff incorporated it into their workflow. In the fourth quarter, it was released to the membership via the credit union's website (www.missionfcu.org). Mission linked the Lending Advisor to its application decisioning software, allowing members to receive a recommended product and then immediately apply for the loan. MFCU has found that even if the member does not go through the entire process online, they will often bring in the information to the branch where a representative can continue the process.
Early results of the Lending Advisor have been positive although its impact is just beginning to be felt. "There has been universal acceptance and a positive reaction from both staff and members," according to Parsons. Based on the success of Lending Advisor, Mission plans on rolling out a Deposit Advisor solution soon. In Parsons opinion, "Combining a business process with a human touch just makes sense for credit unions."