Guest editorial by Caroline Platkiewicz, Senior Insights Manager at Engageware
What’s Happening in the Industry
Despite growing investment in digital channels and offerings, credit union members often still struggle to find answers to their basic banking questions and needs. Three current macroeconomic trends are creating an environment where member engagement is going to be more important than ever before.
These trends consist of consumer skepticism, the digital divide between consumer expectations and adoption of digital banking tools, and the great resignation leading to widespread staffing shortages. All three are important when considering and determining what adjustments need to be made to member engagement strategies in the coming year.
There is no denying that recent national and global events have contributed greatly to the general public’s psyche. Individuals have grown increasingly skeptical. Credibility, expertise, and validation are highly sought after across industries, and especially financial services. As a result, it is imperative that credit unions eliminate any level of anxiety or confusionin the member journey that could contribute to an individual’s current level of stress, whether through a digital or employee-assisted channel.
Consumer expectations have also drastically changed in the past year, and personal use of digital has amplified significantly in tandem with an increasingly remote environment. However, despite the need for and investment in expanded digital capabilities, digital adoption lags. Members may want to adopt a new technology but are hesitant or don’t have the appropriate level of onboarding support, so services like online banking and bill pay remain underutilized.
In addition to more digital expectations and cynicism, staffing shortages and inhouse obstacles present even more challenges. Yet, member expectations remain unchanged despite internal challenges. They still want their financial needs addressed, access to a well-trained and knowledgeable staff and proactive recommendations. During this transitional time, credit unions must consider how to empower their staff to best serve their members, and how to do so without additional strain to their limited workforce.
How Credit Unions Can Adjust and Overcome
To reduce the impact of these trends, credit unions must shift their focus to member engagement, rather than simply member experience. The difference? Member experience can be summed up as how members perceive distinct interactions with their credit union, which can simply be a moment in time or the memory of an exchange or particular transaction. Therefore, it is imperative that credit unions prioritize member engagement, which Microsoft in their 2019 blog, Defining customer experience and customer engagement, defines as the ongoing, value-driven, emotional relationship between the member and their institution. It is not a memory of one particular moment or experience, but rather a sum of all moments, transactions and interactions.
With that in mind, credit unions today must consider what can be done to invest in employees and what goes on behind the scenes to make sure that they can deliver strong member engagement from inside the institution. Cultivating strong member engagement enables credit unions to build trust that can help dispel some of the skepticism and distrust.
A concern for many credit unions is ensuring adoption before making investments in digital technology. Attention should initially be placed on member needs and where digital-first technology can be implemented, but all too often it is not seen to fruition, leaving technology underutilized. However, digital adoption can be increased by providing digital self-service capabilities, guided tutorials and consistent, accurate, up-to-date answers being presented to their members across all channels. This helps them better understand the technology as well as its benefits. Additionally, developing new employee training programs will enable the staff to become the experts for members’ questions. This is crucial for frontline workers, and credit unions should prioritize this moving forward.
For operations to run more effectively, implementing a knowledge management system enables members to easily self-serve as well as employees. The benefits are twofold: less employee-assisted interactions are needed which frees up staff to spend more time elsewhere, and employees are better suited to perform their job having access to the most updated information. Consolidating an institution’s functional knowledge and keeping it up to date in a central knowledge base or repository where all employees have access is vital. This allows employees to be more confident and internal efficiencies to be improved, which in turn increases self-service and reduces handle times. An easy approach to begin this process is by documenting policies and processes that can be quickly picked up and executed by anyone, and then moving to the more complex procedures.
Additionally, another solution to better member engagement is optimizing staffing with appointment scheduling. Intelligent appointment scheduling allows members to connect with the right person at the organization when they have a complex inquiry that cannot be self-served. The result is more high-value interactions, which saves time and effort for both parties involved.
The Way Forward
These trends do not stop here. As member expectations rise, the economy and labor market continue to shift in the months ahead. As an industry, we must be ready when they do, and adapt to move forward. The best way is to put oneself in the shoes of a member, prioritizing overall engagement rather than temporary experiences. Once there, it will illuminate where credit unions should consider investing resources in their member engagement strategy.
Caroline Platkiewicz, is Senior Insights Manager at Engageware (formerly TimeTrade SilverCloud), the provider of industry-leading technology and expert know-how to help organizations better engage their customers. Trusted by more than 400 financial institutions, Engageware’s self-service, appointment scheduling, and knowledge management solutions – combined and integrated with market-leading partners – make it easy for members to answer their questions quickly, connect to the right resource