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Demonstrating empathy and compassion for members is inherent in the DNA of credit unions. When it comes to collections, this has long been evident in the way credit unions help their members navigate health crises, career changes, and other unforeseen events. Still, the sudden and severe impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) compelled credit unions to adjust and accelerate changes in how they listen to and engage with their members.
Robert Kiel, vice president of loan servicing at $3.3 billion asset NASA Federal Credit Union in Upper Marlboro, Md., serves as an excellent ambassador and advocate for compassionate collections, which shows that doing the right thing for members is also the smart thing for institutions. Kiel joined Darryl Knopp of FICO Advisors and me in a recent webinar to talk about the changes he and NASA Federal made for members.
From the start of the pandemic, Kiel and his team communicated to members that the credit union is available to help, speak with members, and provide resources. Recognizing that members were being inundated with information, the NASA Federal team adjusted the mix of channels they used to communicate collections messages. “At the outset, we discontinued a lot of our automated calling, fronting all of our collection communication instead through text and email and encouraging the use of our eBranch and mobile channels,” Kiel says.
Having the omnichannel technology to efficiently and succinctly survey members was another key component in NASA Federal’s approach. Members were asked to complete a survey to be considered for further assistance. The survey asked whether members were ready to resume monthly payments. “A surprising percentage of members said yes,” Kiel says. Others were asked how soon they saw themselves being able to resume payments, enabling Kiel and his team to leverage the data for individualized skip strategies.
NASA Federal enables self-service for members and uses personalization to make them feel comfortable. Kiel and his team understood member sensitivities about having to repeatedly describe their challenges and burdens. The team and technology placed control in the hands of members, allowing them to engage on their own terms and self-cure in most instances. Financial institutions increasingly harness their data to inform member-centric communications and offers.
When asked about the net impact of NASA Federal’s compassionate collections initiatives, Kiel shares that “loyalty has deepened as members in need have been deeply appreciative of our efforts to assist them.”
Thankfully, the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel is getting brighter. Kiel expects that the lessons learned will have lasting positive effects. “What we're doing with collections and how we're approaching members will continue,” he says. “The ideas generated will play an important role in how we move our members and organization forward.”
KRIS FRANTZEN is vice president of product strategy at Temenos.