Raddon Program Manager Caroline Vahrenkamp says credit unions must offer members both convenient digital and in-person service options.

How self-service options benefit members, employees

Credit unions’ technological advancements enhance flexibility.

September 22, 2022

Today’s consumers expect self-service when and where they want it. They also want personal attention when they need it.  

Credit unions must be flexible enough to give them both. A Raddon Research Insights survey asking consumers how they prefer to bank found that 33% prefer self-service, 32% prefer employee-assisted, and 35% use both. While many consumers have shifted to online financial transactions in recent years, the coronavirus pandemic also led millennials to find significant value in personalized financial advice that can only be had in a branch or in a virtual setting. 

“We saw the percentage of consumers visiting a branch at least once a month go up,” says Raddon Program Manager Caroline Vahrenkamp, who presented Thursday at the 2022 CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council and CUNA Technology Council Conference in Las Vegas. “They’re coming back because they want to have conversations about borrowing, saving, investing. They want to have in-depth interactions, not just transactions.” 

Credit unions can free up more employees to have those conversations by taking advantage of technological advancements in service. Traditionally, the only technology available to in-branch members has been ATMs. However, the limited transactions available on ATMs mean that many people who walk into a branch to deposit checks, withdraw cash, deposit cash, speak to people, or transfer money walked right past a self-service option. 

Interactive teller machines (ITMs) expand the self-service capabilities and can make all those services happen outside the branch. ITMs, which can go in the branch, shared spaces, vestibules, or drive-thrus, integrate with the credit union’s core banking system, are scalable, allow 24/7 access, include video, and offer access to remote tellers.  

“When we work with credit unions to implement these, we see a huge reduction in branch wait time,” Fiserv Director of Product Development David Johnson says. “That’s primarily by moving those transactions outside the branch. None of this takes away members’ option to come in. The worst thing we could do is push them out. But when you do offer flexibility, many of them will choose that option. When they do, it reduces wait times.” 

‘Members want to have in-depth interactions, not just transactions.’
Caroline Vahrenkamp

Self-service options also enables credit unions to build smaller, cheaper branches that require less in-person staff members. Rather than traditional 1,500-square-foot branches with a row of tellers, credit unions are seeing more micro-branches that are 500-1,000 square feet, have two or three associates, have self-service options, and focus on advisory services. 

Furthermore, secure, standalone ITMs can be placed in new markets to offer services for people who need video or self-service interaction but don’t have the time to drive to the branch. The low-cost options enable credit unions to expand their geographic reach. 

Credit unions that implement self-service options see the roles of member-facing staff evolve. Johnson says that ITMs have led to 34% more productive tellers, as they gain more freedom to work on high-leverage issues. With quit rates at an all-time high, much of the workforce wants that added responsibility as they develop and expand their career paths. 

“Engaged workers are looking for more than just pay,” Vahrenkamp says, noting people also want perks like increased flexibility, better hours, remote work opportunities, or promotions. “People want challenges. They want opportunities.” 

In a Raddon survey of credit union leaders, respondents said the most important features of a good culture were trust, engagement, transparency, inclusion, and professional development opportunities. Implementing ITMs and self-service technologies allows employees more time for each of those. 

“The big benefit we see in this space is being able to retain staff,” Johnson says, noting that self-service capabilities must be rolled out properly to see benefits. “The worst way you could deploy the solution is just throw the technology out there. It’s important there’s a real launch and you make sure your members and staff are trained and know what’s available.”