Improve Omnichannel Service

Members expect consistent, high-quality service across all channels.

February 1, 2015

Members expect consistent and quality service from your CU online, at the branch, and through their mobile devices.

Every credit union says it wants to deliver the best service for members. But does that mean you’re delivering a consistent and quality experience through every channel? Increasingly, that’s what members expect.

Omnichannel banking is an approach in which members gain access to a seamless and consistent service experience through your branch, online, and mobile channels. And at its core is convenience, says Walter Cunningham, senior vice president and chief retail officer at $8.4 billion asset Golden 1 Credit Union in Sacramento, Calif.

Every financial institution faces the challenge of blending digital and traditional channels, like the physical branch, he says. A member might want to start a loan application on the credit union’s website, for example, but finish it in the branch, or vice versa.

SIDEBAR: Digitize All Channels

With convenience top of mind, “it makes sense to provide anytime, anywhere access to our members’ accounts. We want to build relationships with our members, and digital channels afford us the opportunity to extend that relationship,” Cunningham says.

When a credit union invests in Omnichannel banking, it provides myriad benefits to the member and to the credit union, says Chris Fleischer, market research manager at D+H.

“Consistency is one benefit for the members, by being able to manage their own relationship with the credit union across all channels,” Fleischer says. “Consistency is also a benefit to the credit union, by having a 360-degree view of the member relationship regardless of where that member interacts with you.”

Butch Leonard son, retired senior vice president and CIO of information technology at $12.6 billion asset BECU in Tukwila, Wash., believes digital technology will allow credit unions to thrive.

“Historically, the No. 1 criticism of credit unions was a lack of convenient branches when compared with large banks. And I think really good digital channels ameliorate that weakness. Digital channels can amend the need to have a branch on every corner,” says Leonard son.

Members’ preferred channels

The online channel now is the preferred channel for 66% of American consumers, says Mark Sievewright, Fiserv’s president of credit union solutions.

“Five years ago that number was 36%,” he says. “Twenty years ago, we thought that branch and phone services were about all financial consumers would need. And today, of course, those represent the minority of interactions people have with their financial institutions.”

Mobile will likely follow the same path as online banking, he adds.

While virtually all (97%) credit unions offer online banking, according to CUNA’s 2014 Technology Spending Survey, nearly 60% of credit unions offer mobile banking. Another 26% plan to do so in the next two years. But that doesn’t mean that branches are irrelevant.

In an age in which online and mobile banking appear to be king, the branch still holds court as a necessity to credit union members—though its role clearly is changing (CU Mag 9/14, p. 20).

“It’s very important that members interact with their credit unions in a personal, direct way,” Sieve wright explains. “The good news is that we’ll continue to see branch-based interactions move away from just transactions—such as depositing a check or withdrawing cash—to interactions that center more on sales, service, and problem-solving.”

Improving member engagement

Industry experts offer the following advice on how credit unions can improve their digital channels, increase engagement with members, and, in the process, stay relevant:

Delight the member. “The cost of technology is so low now that I think any credit union can compete. And so, frankly, I just don’t see any reason not to invest in digital channels,” Leonardson says. “I think it’s a part of our job to delight the member. It’s in our DNA. It’s perfectly normal for us to keep pushing out new services to our members.”

Test extensively. Executing omnichannel banking methods can be understandably daunting, but with some planning, the process can be much smoother, says Tom Genessy, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Golden 1 Credit Union. “As we introduce new technologies and platforms, we do extensive testing both internally and with our providers. When possible, we conduct a pilot to make sure the channel will work as intended.”

Walk in members’ shoes. Genessy describes a “technology wonderland” located at his credit union: “In our technology development area, it looks almost like Best Buy—a wall stocked with a variety of devices our employees use for testing when members report something that might not be working. In many cases, we’re able to use that same device and can replicate situations and make corrections based on member feedback.”

• Work backward. “Never start with the software,” Leonardson says. “Don’t go to the toy store first. A lot of companies start with the shiny new stuff, but they don’t have a true north. Start with your members, start with a dream, and then work backward to the software.”

Communicate problems. As standard as technology is in our world today, glitches and bugs can be just as plentiful, no matter who’s rolling out the technology. “Surprises come up. We work quickly to communicate to our members—that’s most important,” Genessy points out. “We also communicate to our employees about how to resolve the issues or work around them, and then we work diligently with our providers to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.”

Communicate changes. “If we’re updating a platform, whether it’s mobile or online, we give our members as much advance notice as possible and explain the benefits of the upgrade,” Genessy says.

Developing Omni channel employees

Credit union employees also can thrive in an Omnichannel service environment.

“Technology is allowing credit union employees to be much better informed to serve their members,” says Sieve wright. “If you have better informed member facing employees serving happy members, that’s a strong combination.”

A new generation of employees has entered today’s credit unions, Golden 1’s Cunningham says. “A lot of these new employees are what we refer to as ‘digital natives.’ They’re coming in with the expectation that technology is not only a way of communicating, but a way to help build partnerships.”

In addition to providing speed, convenience, and a well-rounded credit union experience to a member, digital channels are changing lives in other ways as well.

“There’s a tremendous amount of technology being deployed today that can transform current businesses, resulting in increased revenue, increased efficiencies, improved customer experience, and reduced risk,” says Jason Bettinger, practice director, financial services, Americas business transformation group at Cisco Systems.

“Through a credit union’s digital channels, members will gain more control over when they do business and where they do business,” he says.

Sieve wright sees digital channels as a time-saver. “Saving time on administrative processes so you can spend more time running your business will be very beneficial.”

A constant evolution

Online and mobile banking are also channels to help members manage their personal finances. That’s one BECU strategy, says Leonardson.

“We’re going through a redesign right now,” he explains.

“The next generation of our digital channels will have a lot more ‘personal financial management tools’ where members can select various features and notifications, and they’ll choose how they want to manage their accounts.”

Sievewright predicts banking will increasingly move to mobile devices and apps. “I was asked at a credit union convention recently what I thought were the three most important technology investments for credit unions today. My answer—somewhat tongue-in-cheek—was ‘mobile, mobile, mobile.’ And the reason I said that was because we fully expect during the next five years that mobile transactions and interactions will increase,” he says.

Bettinger believes that trips to branches will become more infrequent. “Expertise within the credit union will be virtualized, allowing members face-to-face access to the most appropriate credit union resource from anywhere at any time,” he says. And based upon his market research, Fleischer sees positive advancements in the arena of seamless digital channels.

“As with many trends in the industry, omnichannel banking is a constant evolution, not a destination,” he says. “In five years, omnichannel banking will have progressed with better use of analytics, tighter integration of channels, more features and functions accessible across channels—but also with a bright future of more opportunities to better manage member relationships.”

If you don’t offer mobile banking, text alerts, or at the very least, online banking, the time is now to start doing your homework, these digital experts say. Source your technology providers. Hire a whip-smart team of tech experts. And most important, survey your members and learn about their digital needs.