Credit unions have embraced interactive teller machine (ITM) technology for several years, allowing them to extend branch hours and add remote locations.
The move to ITMs starts by identifying the need, according to panelists at the 2021 CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council and CUNA Technology Council Virtual Conference.
“We wanted to move to more self-service but also improve the efficiency of our teller line,” says Adrienne Allgire, vice president of operations at $4.6 billion asset SECU in Linthicum, Md., which has drive-thru and walk-up ITMs across its branch network. “We are an all-in model, meaning we don’t have traditional tellers in any of our 23 branches.”
Instead, SECU relies on employees to recreate the face-to-face atmosphere through the screen in an attempt to cut down on in-branch lines.
Panelists said the average ITM transaction time takes about three minutes. Success starts with credit unions putting the right employees behind those screens.
“These are the stars of the show,” says Ashley Call, virtual teller department manager at $1.5 billion asset Cyprus Federal Credit Union in West Jordan, Utah. “They make our members happy every day, so they’re the most important piece to this. You want people who shine internally and outwardly. You want people can make members feel like they’re face-to-face.”
Hands-on training is crucial, says Maggie Roberts, vice president of operations at $385.6 million asset Tampa Bay Federal Credit Union.
SECU, which has 78 ITMS, has a lab employees can use for training.
Credit unions also have to prepare their members. Mindy DeSherlia, vice president of remote delivery services at $776.3 million asset Envision Credit Union in Tallahassee, Fla., says the credit union added ITMs one drive-thru at a time, a process that took about two weeks at each branch.
“We had a training machine we put in the lobby,” she says. “We had someone walk members through how it would be when we installed the drive-thru ITMs. For the first two weeks, we had a full team of concierges in the drive-thru walking each person through how to use the machine.”
Members take to ITMs quickly after learning how to use them, DeSherlia says.
The panelists say the transition to ITMs requires a significant amount of communication to prepare members for the change. There will be some hurdles, including crumbled bills not being accepted by the machine or coins sometimes jamming up the system.
SECU eliminated coins at its ITMs after finding only 3% of transactions involved coins.
But there will still be challenges and growing pains, leading Robarts to stress the importance of developing partnerships with cash and maintenance vendors for when the machines jam or shut down.
“Vendors will help you look good, bad, or otherwise when you don’t have control over all of those pieces,” says Zach Eychaner, senior vice president of remote services & technology at $817.5 million asset 4Front Credit Union in Traverse City, Mich.
“The biggest thing for us is making sure we listen to our members and employees,” Call says. “Adapt and respond so everyone has a great experience.”