Banking technologies are continuing to evolve and their influence on the way financial institutions do business is skyrocketing. Not so long ago, direct deposit, audio voice response and online bill payment were the next big thing in financial services, but now they rarely turn heads.
Today, technology trends are following consumers’ growing desire to bank when and where they want, led by more than 75 million Gen Y customers. Members want mobile banking with deposit capability, and access to smart ATMs and self-service kiosks, inaddition to online and traditional delivery channels. And they expect their credit unions to keep pace.
That’s a good thing because satisfying members’ demand clearly benefits credit unions. Credit unions of all sizes are replacing or augmenting traditional teller windows with self-service kiosks and remote teller systems, some with video access. They’re seeing improved efficiencies and lower operating costs – along with the twin member benefits of greater convenience and less wait time. For most, the shift toward self-service devices and applications is no longer a question of if, but when.
Yet, most people still want some form of face-to-face interaction, along with easy access. Even Gen Y prefers F2F for advice, financial planning or other money matters they’re unsure about, according to a 2010 Oracle study. For credit unions, that presents an opportunity and a challenge. How do you get on board with convenient, cost-saving technology while keeping the relationship-building service that has long been your credit union’s hallmark?
Because credit unions are known for their commitment to member service, which repeatedly tops bank rankings in annual satisfaction surveys, some members may initially see the self-service shift as a loss in the personal service they expect. Indeed, following the introduction of self-service centers in their branches, some credit unions have seen frustrated members take their business to a branch without services such as remote teller systems or, worse, leave the credit union altogether. For most of us, change isn’t easy. Patience and member education will be key as in-person touch points transition from servicing members’ basic financial transactions to being reserved for more complex financial needs.
Here are some ideas to help soften the transition to self service:
Provide an onsite Member Advocate. Assign a Member Advocate to the branch lobby to demonstrate the new self-service area, help members adjust to its functions and answer questions. Also, post easy-to-follow directions to help members using a kiosk on their own.
Communicate often. Begin informing members of upcoming changes during the planning phase so they get used to the idea, and keep lines of communication open during and after launching remote or self-service areas. Most people are reasonable when they understand why changes are being made. Let them know what is happening, how it will affect them, the timeline for implementation, and the benefits it brings them. Remind them that, as owners, they have a stake in enhancing their credit union’s services, and keeping its costs down while staying competitive. And if employees move from the front-line to other positions in the credit union, let members know. Your members want to know their favorite teller is still around.
Build consistency. Today, smart financial institutions are taking a lesson from retailers as they’re working to improve the customer experience across all delivery channels. That means having a consistent brand image, whether members interact with your credit union in person, at a desktop, via mobile device, in a kiosk or by remote face to face. Make sure the look and feel is consistent across your delivery channels. By following an integrated, e-marketing strategy, you can enhance member connections and foster strong relationships.
Encourage feedback. Provide multiple outlets for members to share their views and concerns about your new self-service approach. Email a survey, place a suggestion box in the lobby or set up a voicemail line. And make sure employees receive coaching to help calm members who may be upset by changes. You may not like all the comments, but it’s therapeutic for members to know their voices are heard. It also provides a mini attitude survey, providing valuable information to help you communicate better on other topics, and validation for your relationship-building efforts.
New technology can enhance member relationships, but it can be tough on them, too. Member-minded credit unions work to blend self-service technologies with personal service. The evidence shows that members want and need personal interactions for more complex activities like investment advice or financial planning. But as they see the benefits of self-service, most will choose its convenience and anytime access, and they’ll appreciate your efforts to improve their customer experience.