The new realities of life up front
Member-facing staff face new challenges—and opportunities, panelists say.
While the life of frontline employees continues to evolve as self-service technology redefines the retail delivery experience, member-facing staff still have a key role in delivering the credit union’s value proposition, according to panelists hosting a session during the during the 2021 CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council and CUNA Technology Council Virtual Conference.
The physical branch itself has been transformed, with a smaller footprint and delivery usually driven by a combination of self-service terminals and front-line staff, while member-facing transactions are often more complex.
“I think there’s no question that our frontline teams are in state of evolution, and that will continue to be the case ” says Jennifer Kimmel, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at $1.4 billion asset TruWest Credit Union, Tempe, Ariz. “Branches are evolving into advisory centers where frontline are not only financial professionals but financial educators, providing awareness and education at a greater level than they ever did before.”
Kimmell says that in her early days as a member service representative (MSRs) she would make transactions and open checking accounts and hand the “hard stuff” to a loan officer or a more experienced employee. Increasingly, that’s no longer the case as branches are physically designed for MSRs to take their discussions with members beyond the transactional into more relationship-based interactions.
“I remember when I was a drive-thru teller and my biggest concern was I was stocked up on lollipops and dog treats to create a great member experience,” Kimmell says. “Today we’re asking MSRs an MSR be gearing up with the latest information on a browser update or rates on home equity line.
Jason Rogers, senior vice president of member service at $13 billion asset Mountain America Credit Union, Sandy, Utah, says the time of the average branch transaction at his credit union has increased to about 5 minutes from 3 minutes in the past several years.
Rogers says with the never-ending flow of new retail technology and increasing member expectations it’s easy for credit unions to try to be everything to everyone. “If we’re trying to be everything that the big financial institutions are, we just don’t have the resources and the ability to do that all at once,” Rogers says. “Instead, look at your strengths and weaknesses and determine your purpose and what you want to focus on and find how you can be really good at that.”
At the same time credit unions can leverage the latest technology to their advantage while working within their strategic model, according Rogers.
“With all of the data and technology at hand we have such an opportunity to enhance the personalization of each visit we have with our members,” he says.
And in fulfilling those opportunities, Rogers says branches and frontline staff will remain key elements in the credit union delivery strategy.
“I believe branches are still a great place for lives to be changed,” Rogers says. “When people come into branches, it’s a great opportunity to have conversations with them about where they are financially in their lives, where they hope to go, and what their goals are.”