Adopting new technology has a way of raising all sorts of questions, and with video teller machines, credit unions have a lot to consider. For instance, what’s the best way to debut these machines, and how should a branch be designed to encourage their use? Because capable video tellers ensure positive first impressions of the machines, what should credit unions look for in these employees? The experiences of two credit unions that use video teller machines offer both practical and creative answers so that cooperatives can reap the benefits of this technology.
When Corning Credit Union ($1.08B, Corning, NY) debuted new video teller machines at its New York headquarters two years ago, it was to an internal audience.
“We knew there might be some reservations about this type of change and wanted to really understand what the machines could do for our members before we made them public-facing,” says Megan Wilson, manager of consumer lending and member contact services for Corning Credit Union.
Corning had just a few machines which, after some internal testing, were deployed as a pilot to two branches in New York.
“We have not completely eliminated teller lines. We use the machines for supplemental services in our New York branches,” Wilson says.
The credit union also purposely chose its most experienced employees to staff the machines to ensure that things went off without a hitch.
Employees Who Connect On Screen
When Sussex County Federal Credit Union ($252.8M, Seaford, DE) introduced video tellers four years ago in all of its branches, it looked for employees who could connect with members on the video screen.
“Being able to connect means everything – whether you are on a video screen or at a traditional teller line,” says CEO Pamela Fleuette.
Sussex trains its staff for the machines differently. In addition to traditional teller training, new employees learn how to conduct themselves in a video session.
“The importance of maintaining eye contact, not moving too rapidly as you’re talking with someone, and looking straight at the camera are all emphasized,” Fleuette says.
The credit union also reviews the video tellers every month to see if they are providing consistent member service and, if not, coaches them so that they improve. Because the supplemental model didn’t work well for Sussex, it made adjustments to boost usage.
“When we first started, our teller machines were situated right next to the traditional teller counter. This dual format did not work for us so we remodeled all of our branches and removed the teller counters, replacing them with a self-service wall,” Fleuette says. The change encouraged use so that video teller transactions jumped from 20% to 60%, with each branch having only one cash recycler for members who can’t or won’t use the video machines.
An Invitation To Preview The New Machines
Not only did Corning Credit Union handpick employees for its video teller positions, it also hand-selected a small group of members to sample the new technology three weeks before the official launch.
“We sent out formal invitations and invited some of our most vocal members, our branch regulars, and even a few business members to an exclusive evening event where they could be the first to try out the new video tellers while enjoying light appetizers and conversation,” Wilson says.
The event was a huge success. Members were thrilled that they had been chosen to do something special and appreciated that the credit union valued their feedback. After these branch influencers had the opportunity to try the machines themselves, they quickly overcame any objections or reservations they had previously.
“When we did open the video tellers to the general membership, those members proved to be our biggest advocates and helped our overall adoption. They were able to say, ‘Hey, I’ve used this and it’s great,’ with some even demonstrating for other members,” Wilson says.
A Branch Designed For Video Tellers
In addition to the supplemental video teller machines used in New York, Corning recently opened a new branch in North Carolina, which was specifically designed for the video teller technology. The branch has an open floor plan with the video teller machines front and center.
“If at all possible, I’d encourage other credit unions to incorporate video tellers as they are building or remodeling branches. It’s not impossible to integrate it in an existing location, but the layout can significantly impact usage,” Wilson says.
And who staffs the video teller machines in Corning’s North Carolina branch? The handpicked employees based in New York.
“This model allows us to expand where we offer member service with less overhead and put people where they matter most. For our Leland branch in North Carolina, this means the staff in that location is not rushed because there are no teller transactions there. They have the time to help with higher-level questions and can focus on enhancing the member relationship,” Wilson says.
Corning also offers a concierge at any location with video tellers. The concierge introduces members to the video teller machines (which at first glance look like ATMs), shows them how to do a transaction or two, and answers questions.
Thanks to the video teller machines, Sussex and Corning improved teller efficiency and extended service hours. Although both credit unions have lobbies that are open during traditional hours, the machines allow the branches to open earlier and close later. For example, video teller hours at Sussex are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and only three video tellers are needed to staff four branches versus the eight (two per branch) that would have been required for a traditional teller line.
“The efficiencies have been truly amazing,” Fleuette says. “We’ve gotten rid of so much of the idle time we’d had in the past with tellers being active maybe 30% of the day. Now our member service reps are busy throughout the day and never have to worry about managing a cash drawer or jumping behind the teller line – they can truly focus on the member.”