In lieu of traditional teller lines, Coastal Federal Credit Union ($2.28B, Raleigh, NC) uses a video teller model and has personal teller machines for members to use in all of its branches from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. The tellers themselves are centrally located in one of two credit union facilities and must be both friendly and tech savvy to make personal connections with members remotely. Here, Willard Ross, Coastal’s senior vice president and chief retail officer, discusses how the credit union uses technology to hire and train employees for these key member service positions.
Can you tell me about the hiring process for your video teller positions?
We’ve changed the hiring process quite a bit over time. In the early years, we would literally test candidates on video, but we found that wasn’t as useful as we thought it might be. Instead of a screen test, we’ve honed behavioral questions to help us gauge whether someone is service-oriented. It’s more important for us to know if the candidate is natural at building rapport and has that innate friendliness that our members expect from the credit union.
Being warm and friendly is especially critical when the teller’s face appears on the small screen. That first impression is more focused when it’s on camera and there is nothing else for the member to look at — this is still new to folks who are used to seeing traditional teller lines elsewhere. Coastal remains a pioneer in our market as no one else has this video teller model.
What else do you look for in a video teller?
We’re also looking for tellers with enough experience that they are comfortable in making decisions on their own. For example, they understand fraud risks and know what to look for and how to make a good decision on when to waive check holds. We train all of our employees on these topics, of course, but if someone comes in with experience, they are more likely to feel comfortable making decisions without having to ask a supervisor. This makes them more valuable to us and allows them to deliver service to the member faster.
Are there technical skills you are looking for as well?
Yes, we want to make sure our video tellers are comfortable using the latest technology as they are going to rely heavily on technology to do their job. One of the questions we ask in the interview is, “What is your favorite piece of technology that you own and use regularly, and why?”
This is a good indicator of their level of comfort with technology. If they are big users of Skype or Facetime to video chat with their family and friends, then they are probably going to be comfortable with our video capabilities as well.
Another important aspect of the job is that we do not have traditional teller hours; we’re 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week so it’s important to make sure video tellers have some flexibility in their schedule and can work some weekend shifts. When we initially converted from traditional teller lines, we had some folks over time that didn’t want to work non-traditional hours.
How do you help new tellers feel comfortable on camera?
After new tellers go through member service and our systems and procedures training, they are paired with a mentor. There is some time on video included in their training as well so they have time to adjust to it, but the mentor model really helps. The mentor is a more experienced video teller who sits close by for the new employee’s first 30 days to help give them tips and help them get through any initial jitters. The new teller is able to watch the more experienced teller, pick up best practices, and ask questions without having to approach a manager for help. The mentor is able to provide immediate feedback and is just plain helpful versus a manager reviewing a new employee’s performance.
What have you changed or tweaked about the remote teller structure since implementing?
Early on we were using temp agencies to hire new tellers, and we did find some good employees that way but not enough experienced tellers. So we decided to go to a direct hire process. Now that we’re not using staffing agencies as much, we’re able to hire talent away from other financial institutions in the market. There is a big advantage for the teller, namely they never have to worry about being robbed again. This can be huge for someone who has worked on a traditional teller line and has been in a robbery situation in the past.
What other advice do you have for credit unions considering a video teller model?
The biggest challenge is the staffing. You want to have the wait time you want (from the time the member pushes the button to when the teller appears) while minimizing idle time. In a traditional branch model, there are staffing models and software you can use to help achieve this, but in a centralized teller model with hours as broad as ours, it can be more difficult. The dynamics also change over time. For example, after we expanded our hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to the current 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., we saw that members who had been visiting us during lunch breaks changed their behavior.
Managing the staffing to achieve that perfect balance and deliver the member service levels you want takes time and attention. Call center models are closer than traditional branch models, but even those need some tweaks so you have to tune in to your own members’ patterns and adjust accordingly.