By W.B. King
Among the host of lessons learned from the pandemic was the need for a streamlined self-service platform that allows members and employees to conduct banking transactions without interruption. The Delray Beach, Fla.-based iTHINK Financial Credit Union was not only prepared for COVID-19, but exceeded member and employee expectations.
“Employees and members appreciated a COVID-friendly service method. It showed our employees and our members we understand business and life didn’t stop with the pandemic; we just needed to be a bit more careful,” said iTHINK Financial’s Digital Branch Manager Keisha Chapman. “The employees felt this was a good solution because it actually allowed them to continue working.”
Prior to the pandemic, and in an effort to provide a 360-degree member experience from the front office to the back office, iTHINK Financial, supporting 95,000-plus members, enhanced its digital branch strategy by implementing TimeTrade and SilverCloud solutions.
Chapman explained that iTHINK Financial has been a client of SilverCloud LLC and TimeTrade Systems since 2018 and 2020, respectively. And in early 2021, TimeTrade, a provider of enterprise scheduling software, acquired SilverCloud, a provider of customer experience and knowledge management software.
“SilverCloud has always been a good partner. From implementation to content/system management, they are awesome to work with. TimeTrade has made the business between iTHINK and SilverCloud expand more as we look to implement and create a more holistic membership experience,” explained Chapman.
“This includes more self-service tools and enhanced reporting tools, which will help us measure performance across all channels, as well as track how we measure up against other financial institutions,” she added.
Combatting COVID with Exceptional Service
In 2020, iTHINK Financial expanded its customer self-service capabilities to add chatbot and guided tutorials. Chapman noted that the chatbot tool provides members with an interactive way to ask questions and search for answers from the credit union’s self-service knowledgebase. The guided tutorials, she added, accelerated adoption of mobile and online banking features and online account openings.
“The custom recordings walk members through step-by-step interactive guides, common support and technology question and processes, such as how to register for online banking,” she said.
In May 2020, iTHINK Financial also launched its “Essential Banking Package,” which provides remote and in-branch appointment scheduling for rapid COVID-19 response.
“This allows members to schedule meetings with branch service specialists at a convenient time via their preferred channel,” said Chapman. The credit union expanded its appointment scheduling capabilities further in August 2020 to Enterprise, which includes robust functionality and features.
These proactive efforts made quite a difference. In 2020, the customer self-service solution, for example, facilitated over 130,000 member interactions, amounting to more than 11,000 hours in member support activity, noted Chapman. She added that the online appointment scheduling tool allowed members to schedule convenient appointments, avoiding frustrating postponement and rescheduling of meetings.
“Since introducing online appointment scheduling for its member base in May 2020, iTHINK Financial has accommodated and intelligently staffed employees for nearly 25,000 appointments with members and prospects,” she said.
While he was careful not to overgeneralize, TimeTrade SilverCloud’s CEO Bill Clark said that the credit union industry’s “special sauce” has long been differentiating from other financial institutions by being member-based and service oriented. The Tewksbury, Mass. - based company counts more than 250 credit unions as clients.
Prior to the pandemic, he noted that there was a “digital transformation” wave within the industry with some credit unions proactively assessing tech stacks, while others looked at it as a possible fad. The balance, he said, were in the middle keeping an eye on the trend. But once the quarantine was ordered, it was no longer a discussion about “should we look at new technology,” but “we have to look” at new tech, and fast.
“iTHINK was thinking about digital transformation before the pandemic. iTHINK really understands its member base working closely with them doing a lot of analysis of consumer behavior within the institution,” said Clark. “There are always early adopters like iTHINK and that makes it safe for the early majority to follow.”
Clark said that since the pandemic, more organizations are willing to explore self-service digital transformation solutions.
“It’s because they are seeing the benefits, and it has addressed some of the fears,” said Clark. “It’s not going to overwhelm your IT staff; it’s not going to befuddle your members — it’s actually going to help you with both effectiveness and efficiency.”
Looking Past the Pandemic
In Chapman’s view, having TimeTrade SilverCloud’s customer self-service, appointment scheduling and employee knowledge management solutions during the pandemic was “extremely important for maintaining service excellence” with the credit union’s current and prospective membership.
“It helped keep our frontline workers safe and confident in continuing to work in the branch. This allowed the credit union to continue doing business. Without TimeTrade and SilverCloud, we could have lost the chance to serve our members,” said Chapman. “With TimeTrade, we are able to track engagement outside of teller transactions and this helps us understand how other products and services are preforming with our members.”
As she looks back over the last year or so, Chapman noted that she learned a few lessons about implementation. She noted, for example, she would have allowed SilverCloud to have a “stronger role” in training and employee communications.