By Roy Urrico
Finopotamus aims to highlight white papers, surveys, analyses and reports that provide a glimpse as to what is taking place and/or impacting credit unions and other organizations in the financial services industry.
While 49% of banking professionals indicate that digital is the top priority channel for customer engagement in 2022, nearly 40% said serving all channels (digital, branch, and contact center) are equally important. That is among the findings in Engageware’s Customer Engagement in Banking Report: The Path Forward for 2022.
Tewksbury, Mass.-based Engageware, which provides technology and expert know-how to help organizations better engage customers, set out to examine how credit union and banking executives are leveraging digital channels to drive growth, efficiencies and customer engagement.
The report, which surveyed 92 banking professionals in a variety of roles at credit unions (67.4%) and community banks (31.5%) between August 19 and September 2, 2021, revealed some strategic customer engagement priorities for this year:
Consumers will remain skeptical. Consumer trust levels have decreased, and skepticism will likely continue to grow this year. To gain consumer confidence, institutions must demonstrate credibility and expertise by relaying information accurately and consistently across all channels. Supporting employees with easily accessible information and centralized resources is paramount to providing a positive, consistent customer experience both in-person and online.
Consumer expectations and digital capabilities will continue to diverge. Financial institutions must address rapidly transforming consumer expectations, including the demand for a more personalized and customized digital user experience.
Staffing, and subsequently, customer service challenges will persist. Financial institutions remain concerned about employee turnover, lack of training, low morale and onboarding employees with the right skillsets. Understaffing and training issues are not going unnoticed by customers, leading to frustrations with service levels.
“It is one of the most challenging times in recent history for financial institutions. They are grappling with unprecedented numbers of questions and concerns about how to best leverage digital and employee-assisted channels to drive growth, improve operational efficiencies and expand customer engagement in 2022,” said Engageware President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Clark. He added, “This report not only sheds light on mid-tier financial institutions’ primary concerns, but also provides specific strategies credit unions and banks can implement to more effectively engage with customers based on best practices from Engageware’s hundreds of financial services customers.”
Keys To Credit Union Engagement
Clark provided three key report take-aways for credit unions.
1. Thirty-five percent of banking consumers nationwide say it is not easy to find simple answers on their financial institution’s mobile app or website. Live chat is not the solution to addressing member questions digitally.
2. The digital channel is getting a lot of attention and investment, but it is critical that credit unions not overlook their contact centers and branches because there are “a good number” of members who still want to communicate and bank within those channels, according to Clark.
3. Credit unions need to provide support resources to help members successfully adopt new technologies. “No matter how slick the user experience, a digital solution will not necessarily be right for every customer — or easily adoptable. They may not have the desire to navigate the online banking experience — or the savviness to use self-service tools successfully,” said Clark. Customers may have higher standards for a seamless digital experience, but it is important to remember that members will need a level of support to successfully adopt new technologies.
Providing a Better Member Digital Experience
Clark suggested credit unions can provide a better digital member experience. “Seventy percent of banking consumers want to self-serve but only 9% can find what they need through the digital channel alone,” according to a 2021 Gartner study of banking consumers. “It’s critical that credit unions make it easy for members to find answers to their most common answers through all the various digital interfaces, like search on its website and within mobile banking apps.”
Clark proposed it is really about providing clear, concise, accurate answers that enable members to self-serve. “This has a dual effect on both the member experience as well as reducing the workload on employees. It is a win-win situation.”
If answers to a members’ problems are inaccessible through self-service, then allow them to schedule an appointment with the right person at a convenient time, added Clark. “This direct connection avoids giving members the runaround (i.e., forcing them to call into a generic call center, directed to a branch, then redirected to a specialist). Getting the runaround is the number one reason why members will leave a financial institution.”
Meeting Staff and Member Needs
“Credit unions employees are expected to know ‘everything;’ to have the answers to hundreds of questions – and that is simply not possible,” Clark observed. To work around that, employees need to rely on documentation and often employees struggle to both find and easily follow policies, procedures, and product information when a member is in front of them. Clark held the root cause of this problem is not just poor search technology; it is also a knowledge management problem. The information employees must utilize often does not exist in workable format.
Clark pointed out if credit unions spent more time on their knowledge management problem, they would create 30% or more employee efficiency improvements across their entire organization. “For every 100 employees you have, that equates to gaining the time of 30 full-time employees.”
Clark itemized some solutions to successful knowledge management:
· A centralized process for reviewing and updating content versus the decentralized, unmanaged approach taken in most credit unions today.
· Breaking content down into bite-sized chunks. For reference, a typical account opening process has dozens of steps, often presented in one long, multi-page document. This is hard for employees to find and follow. Credit unions need to invest in processes and solutions that present such information in a more easily accessible and manageable format to enable the employee to provide the service members seek quickly and efficiently.
· All policy, procedure, product information should ideally involve a single knowledgebase that employees can easily find and follow.
Clark also offered a word of caution: “Redesigning your intranet will not fix the problem. Credit unions must fix their content.”
Improving the Member Engagement Strategy
Clark recommended one way to improve connecting with members is listening to them. How do they really want to engage? “Consumers today want to have a relationship with their primary financial institution of choice. They want proactive help, advice and consultation on financial decisions. Over half of banking consumers nationwide say their financial institution staff does not make proactive recommendations.” Clark added members want help without a runaround or forced through a pre-programmed chatbot, “How are you enabling that?”
Clark suggested starting by providing members (as well as employees) with the ability to provide feedback in real time on support content, in surveys before and after appointments, for in branch experiences, and on every interaction with staff to pinpoint where both the self-service and employee-assisted interactions need improvement.
Said Clark, “There are systems and processes to efficiently prioritize and manage the feedback; it is easier than you may be thinking. Prioritization is key – you are not going to fix everything at once.”
Member Engagement Priorities
Clark said there is a difference between member experience and member engagement. “Member experience is the perception of an individual interaction or separate interactions the member has with a credit union. It can be an experience navigating the website, an experience with your call center, or their experience withdrawing money from your ATM.”
On the other hand, Clark noted, “Member engagement is broader – it is the totality of ways your institution and the member engage to establish and grow a relationship. It is important to make this distinction because focusing on a single experience or channel can cause us to miss the bigger picture.”
Members have multiple ways to communicate with credit unions, and multiple channels through which to do so, including self-service digital modes, in-person conversations, or communication through a contact center.
In addition, member expectations changed rapidly over the last two years. “There is no one silver bullet technological solution that will solve the challenges credit unions are facing today. Be wary of solutions that promise to do that.”