How Credit Unions Capitalized on Covid to Boost Their Member Experience

Leor Melamedov

Credit unions, unlike national and multinational banks, are laser-focused on one central goal: To provide their members with a winning member experience. A typical credit union customer has a strong relationship with their banker, perhaps based on years of in-person interactions. So it would be natural to think that the coronavirus and mandatory digital interactions have undermined this unique strength.

Yet in many cases, the accelerated digital transformation brought about by the coronavirus did just the opposite. Many credit unions managed to harness digital banking technology to enhance, not detract from the member experience. By removing friction, shrinking turnaround times, eliminating frustration, freeing up CU time, and keeping members safe, digitization has proven to be indispensable to the member experience during the pandemic and beyond.

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How The Coronavirus Improved the CU Member Experience

Credit unions are not typically at the forefront of the digital transformation revolution. But much like a soldier who doesn’t know what he’s made of until he on the battlefield, the coronavirus pushed credit unions outside of their comfort zone to innovate. 55% of banking customers say they are planning on using their bank branch less often in the future, and it wouldn’t be shocking to assume credit union members are also feeling reticent about going into branches.

But it’s not just safety that’s keeping customers away from the branch. Mandatory lockdowns forced credit unions to come up with ways of serving members remotely without sacrificing the human element. And members like it. They want more of it. Credit unions have come to realize that there is no contradiction between investing more in remote banking and creating a world-class member experience. In fact, the two goals can be mutually supportive.

Here are five ways the best credit unions have improved the member experience during the coronavirus period:

1. Removing Friction

Credit unions have long prioritized frictionless member onboarding and servicing. But this has primarily meant a greater willingness to go a little outside of NCUA regulatory guidelines or go the extra mile for a long-term member. The coronavirus has created more opportunities for credit unions to standardize and automate procedures to remove friction.

In particular, automated digital workflows can allow credit unions to build processes that reflect compliance and business requirements. At various stages of the workflow, rules trigger the sending of requests for eSignatures, smart eForms, document collection, digital payments, and ID verification. Agents no longer need to remember exactly which supporting documents are needed for which activity or member — the workflow simply triggers each step based on inputted information.

Now that agents are no longer preoccupied with trying to decipher NCUA regulations, requesting the right KYC documents, and chasing members for paperwork, they can spend more time connecting with the customers on an emotional level and providing value-added advisory services. When friction is eliminated, delight is possible.

2. Shrinking Turnaround Times

Credit unions that deployed PPP loans had to get desperately needed funds into the hands of SMBs, fast. Manual processes weren’t sufficient to keep up with the influx of loan requests during this period of economic crisis. With so many members in need, many credit unions rose to the occasion. They switched to easy-to-complete eForms, allowing businesses to submit loan applications remotely and quickly. Now that PPP loan forgiveness is underway, these same credit unions are making it easy for members to get their loans forgiven in record time.

The procedures, technology, and mindset that allowed credit unions to serve members quickly during their time of need will have a lasting impact. Just like a soldier doesn’t soon forget how to shoot even when off the battlefield, credit unions will have developed the know-how for quick loan and servicing process.

3. Eliminating Frustration

Before the coronavirus hit, member-centric credit unions were excellent at getting rid of any roadblocks to service that stood in their members’ or potential members’ way. But remote banking threw unexpected curveballs their way, making it harder for credit unions to offer frictionless experiences. But the best credit unions understood that members should never have to jump through hoops to open an account or receive services — even when everyone is fully remote.

Credit unions have managed to prevent member frustration during the “new normal” by:

  • Continuing to expand special services and discounts
  • Integrating digital member-facing technology with the core system
  • Enabling easy remote account opening by quickly approving membership for customers who meet certain criteria based on digitally shared documents
  • Auto-populating lending and servicing forms so that members aren’t forced to repeat information
  • Using conditional logic rules to cross-sell beneficial products or services to members (e.g., if a member applies for a personal loan, then mortgage refinancing is offered)
  • Ensuring live agents are easy to reach, by phone or text message, to guide members through banking tasks or account opening
  • Providing self-service options for members who prefer to complete a task independently

4. Freeing up CU Time

Credit unions that lean more on digitization and less on manual processes free up valuable time that can be spent on higher-value activities. Instead of clerks chasing members for signatures and forms, they can focus on cross-selling, promoting loyalty programs, and simply being there for members. Advisors can focus on what they do best — advise — without getting bogged down in bureaucracy. And executives can focus on strategic initiatives instead of trying to decipher opaque and siloed workflows.

5. Keeping Everyone Safe

The original reason for switching to remote and digital CU interactions — the coronavirus — is unfortunately still relevant as cases are ballooning in the U.S. Technological innovation can allow members to conduct banking activities either from the branch or in the safety of their home. Credit unions that adopted intuitive banking technology have seen appreciation even from their senior citizen CU members, who are more open to digital banking now that it’s a matter of health.

The Credit Union Member Experience: Redefined

The coronavirus has undoubtedly redefined the traditional credit union member experience, and in many ways for the better through digitization.

Instead of compromising credit unions’ famously personal member experience, digitization automates and streamlines the bureaucratic aspects of banking, like collecting KYC documents. This gives customers a more predictable and consistent level of service, while freeing up agents’ time for advising and the kind of friendly chit-chat that puts credit unions in a league of their own.

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