Humanizing Service in the Age of Technology

Personalize the banking experience to enhance member relationships.

March 7, 2013

In today’s technology-infused banking world, are member service relationships taking a back seat to faceless, self-service technologies?

Let’s hope not. As much as technology can minimize human interactions, it can also help credit unions strengthen member relationships. And those relationships are critical to your success.

Years ago, business was all about relationships. It was about knowing the customer. You could visit your local bakery or tailor, for instance, and the owner knew you by name. He remembered your preferences. He valued your relationship and made you feel welcome. All without the benefit of advanced technology.

For credit unions, that same feeling of welcoming—of knowing your members—is essential to building strong, lasting relationships. When your members enter a branch or interact with your self-service channels, they need to feel safe, secure, informed and in control.

They desire personalized service. They want to feel that sense of community. This should be second nature to credit unions, as opportunities to enhance relationships abound. Branches can have warm, inviting atmospheres.

Tellers can know your members—whether through frequent personal interactions or via behind-the-scenes technology that gives them specific details about members. Similar technology can welcome members at the ATM, online and mobile channels to demonstrate that the credit union knows them personally.

All of these elements—and more—can help you humanize service, even when that service comes from a nonhuman interface. That’s how you nurture deep relationships with members. It’s how you enhance loyalty. And it’s how you drive increased sales.

So let’s examine a few ways you can use technology to humanize service at your credit union.

Re-humanize the teller experience

Face-to-face teller/member interactions should epitomize the personal, human experience members expect at credit unions.

Yet, routine transactions can quickly become mundane—and impersonal. For deposits and withdrawals, tellers need to focus a majority of their attention on the transaction. They must input information, verify deposit amounts, and count and re-count cash.

This attentiveness to the transaction draws tellers’ attention away from members. While the experience involves human interaction, it can be barely personal.

Ironically, technology offers the potential to re-humanize the teller experience. Notably, teller automation solutions, such as cash dispensers and recyclers, automate the counting, sorting and dispensing of cash, as well as streamline balancing. With machines handling much of the work, tellers have more time to interact with members.

Even a few extra seconds of uninterrupted conversation can lead to deeper insight about a member’s financial goals, introducing the opportunity to pitch credit union services. Sales opportunities aside, that extra, undivided attention can go a long way toward strengthening relationships and member loyalty.

Humanize self-service interactions

On the surface, interfacing with ATMs and online and mobile banking platforms appears to be highly impersonal. There’s no familiar face greeting the member. There’s no conversation. No rapport. Yet, the self-service banking experience can still be personal.

Humanization is about more than the ATM or online interface simply knowing a member’s name or remembering his transaction preferences. It’s about enabling members to complete efficient, reliable transactions that emulate the teller experience.

For example, ATM deposit automation technology allows a member to complete cash and check deposits in much the same way a teller does. And when it comes to resolving issues, such as temporarily increasing an ATM withdrawal limit, two-way video at the ATM can connect members directly with live credit union representatives. Customized ATMs can even offer the ability to print checks at the terminal.

Essentially, the experience you offer your members is the “face” of your credit union. In each of the above cases, members are interacting with a machine, yet they are able to perform tasks that were once relegated to the branch. Similar experiences extend to online and mobile channels, where members can easily make remote deposits, check account balances and transfer funds.

Enable personalization with data

Humanizing member experiences is also about personalization. It’s about making the banking experience relevant to each member.

To personalize banking, credit unions can push targeted marketing offers to individuals via the ATM, online or mobile channels. Data aggregation coupled with marketing software enables credit unions to automatically direct mortgage refinancing offers to homeowners, for example, or car loan pitches to college-age members.

This can even happen in the branch, where tellers can receive on-screen prompts to share a relevant offer with members. Because the offers are personalized and relevant, members realize the credit union knows them personally and has their best interests in mind.

To accomplish this level of personalization, credit unions need to have access to the right data, be able to analyze it and then put it back to use with proactive offers. That means collecting data points from a member’s every interaction with the credit union.

This data becomes a personal profile the credit union can use to enhance service anytime an individual interfaces with the institution, no matter the channel.

Embrace technology

As today’s advanced technologies progressively reduce personal interaction in service relationships, it’s important to remember the human element of service. Your members are sure to expand their use of online, mobile, ATM and other low-cost, self-service solutions.

Yet, even via those automated, mechanized channels, you can make members feel welcome, human and known. They’ll feel more at home with your institution, and you’ll reap the rewards of strong member relationships.

Building better relationships

When it comes to building better relationships with your members, ask the following of your credit union’s operations:






FRANK A. NATOLI, JR. is the executive vice president/chief innovation officer at Diebold Inc