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  • Writer's pictureRoy Urrico

2023 Tekkie Award for AI/ML: Pinal County Federal Credit Union

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

By Roy Urrico

The $295-million Casa Grande, Ariz.-based Pinal County Federal Credit Union (PCFCU) is the winner of the 2023 Tekkie Award for Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning.

Competing with national banking organizations with their depth of services is challenging for many community-based financial institutions. However, Pinal County Federal Credit Union, which built its reputation on developing personal relationships between its associates and its more than 26,000 members, needed to effectively meet the increasing consumer demand for better digital banking experiences.

The credit union chose to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technology to level the playing field to some extent. To address the challenge, PCFCU, partnered with San Francisco-based Agent IQ, which provides personalized digital platforms enhanced with AI capabilities, to develop a member-centric engagement model.

“Pinal County Federal Credit Union has a diverse membership and many live and work in rural areas of Pinal County. Because of our long-standing history with the communities in which we serve, we have been really successful in building great rapport with our members,” said Tiffany Tipton, Vice President of Organization Development, at PCFCU. “As the marketplace has demanded a more digital banking experience, Pinal County Federal Credit Union decided to partner with Agent IQ.

Tipton added, “By utilizing our dedicated team members (the same folks members already have a relationship with from their in-branch experiences) to assist them with their needs but on a digital channel, we have been able to successfully deepen the relationships we have with members. In the process members increased their overall satisfaction with the credit union, without compromising the relationship they have grown to love.”

Giving Members a Choice

Tiffany Tipton, vice president, organization oevelopment, PCFCU.

“Since our partnership began in 2020, PCFCU has been able to utilize Agent IQ’s technology on multiple fronts,” explained Tipton. “A personalized app experience, anonymous chats directed from our website and SMS texting are now used daily across our organization to provide members a choice with how they choose to communicate with us.”

PCFCU’s new digital service was launched in approximately six weeks to rapidly deploy three member-facing services:

1. A web chat on public-facing websites.

2. The PCFCU Connect mobile app.

3. The AI-powered self-service enablement for web chat.

PCFCU members can choose their own dedicated team member to handle questions that may arise, as well as retain the ability to access self-service options. “The credit union can engage and initiate conversations with members to carefully make recommendations that will exceed member expectations and achieve member loyalty,” said Tipton.

The technology also allows the credit union to “tag” conversations and measure what frequently discussed topics are occurring to create better strategic alignment with member requests.

Augmenting Not Replacing Relationship Banking

Powered by Agent IQ, the PCFCU Connect project allowed the credit union to engage and communicate with members via a secure, user-friendly and AI-augmented chat platform. Explained Tipton, the solution provides a real-time digital connection between members and associates, empowering members to select and engage with a preferred personal associate for all their financial needs across any digital channel.

Agent IQ is designed to recognize that AI/ML can supplement modern relationship banking, not replace it. The project with PCFCU allowed for greater transparency between members and employees in a secure manner without issues like location, timing and interruptions.

Tapping configurable built-in AI, PCFCU is supplementing the role of the associate with more efficient real-time insights into what topics are of most interest to members while automating mundane tasks to provide proactive assistance. The tool allows PCFCU associates to better connect, engage, and support members, and offer 24/7-member support from anywhere – enhancing the lives of both the associate and the member.

By equipping PCFCU with the tools to respond to simple requests and analyze user conversations, the credit union can now offer its members the most updated and personalized communications to create a more fulfilling banking experience.

Additionally, the credit union allows what it considers its strongest asset – their trusted team –digital access to prospects and members anytime and anywhere. By doing so, PCFCU not only positioned itself with a unique market opportunity, but now better understands unmet member needs and desires. PCFCU has successfully increased member satisfaction and deepened their relationships and average product holdings.

Member Reaction

Within weeks of deployment in 2020, said Tipton, PCFCU saw approximately one-third of all web chat engagements resolved without employee involvement and an increase in member satisfaction. In addition, 70% of all conversations now occur on the app.

Members can access the self-service app or ask for support or advice at any time, which according to the credit union, is proving to be a huge drawing factor for the service. Meanwhile, the asynchronous nature of the service benefits PCFCU by allowing dedicated team members to respond at their convenience thus providing more thoughtful and helpful recommendations.

As a result, the most frequently discussed topics in the app include auto loans (18%), credit cards (11%), home loans (7%) and personal loans (6%). On average, Agent IQ’s complete community of trusted partners report they complete 75% of self-service interactions without the need for a human, and 30% report call center volume reduction in just six weeks.

How It Works

The Agent IQ’s platform offers the best user experience for PCFCU members by seamlessly integrating human responsiveness with the speed and efficiency of computer intelligence. The system stores previous conversations and shares them with internal subject matter experts to provide context to a member’s situation without the need for repetition.

The platform also offers video and co-browsing options to further enhance and support member interactions. To eliminate active waiting, members can send a message requesting a personal advisor and receive a notification once an associate responds.

Other fundamental features include: persistent conversations, smart routing, securely shared files and documents, the ability to invite subject matter experts, conversation insights, video chat, co-browsing, AI support, and the PCFCU Connect mobile app.

In reacting to winning a Tekkie award, Tipton said, “We are excited to be considered and to receive such positive recognition as the Tekkie award. Our credit union strives to remain competitive with digital channels and appreciate the time that was taken to review our submission. Thank you!”


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