Digital Technology Won’t Replace the Member Relationship

Digital Technology Won’t Replace the Member Relationship

Digital Technology Won’t Replace the Member Relationship
Digital Technology

But it will enhance your member interactions, enabling more personalized, meaningful experiences. 

 Dr.-Kathy-Snider
By Dr. Kathy Snider, SVP, Group Leader, Engage Products at CO-OP

Although member interactions are becoming increasingly digital, that doesn’t mean relationships need to suffer. Credit unions should invest in digital technology to offer faster, more streamlined service interactions, but also design it to ensure they offer a consistent experience across all channels of engagement – both virtual and in-person. 

There’s a perception that once you go digital you lose the relationship. But the reality is that it’s a huge opportunity to deepen member engagement through the astute use of these tools and capabilities. Think about the apps that you’ve used on your phone and why you gravitate to them. It’s not a human talking to a computer. It’s a human who just happens to come in through that channel who still desires a personalized, meaningful experience. 

Branches are still important as cash transactions aren’t going away, and members still desire face-to-face interactions. Services like Shared Branching offer the best of both worlds – a secure way to maintain a strong nationwide physical presence to meet your members’ in-person banking needs in combination with a focus on expanding your digital capabilities. 

COVID-19 Changed Everything 

At the height of the pandemic, consumer banking behaviors changed drastically. Branch visits dropped significantly, and ATM volumes fell as retail storefronts closed, people quarantined at home, and having cash in-pocket became less important. 

On the other hand, credit union call center volume picked up significantly once the CARES Act stimulus checks began to hit members’ accounts. For example, on April 15, 2020, the CO-OP Contact Center took a record 28,000 calls, a 133% increase over the same date the year prior. 

Digital banking and mobile app adoption and usage also increased significantly, as many members tried services like mobile check deposit, in-app balance transfers and inquiries, and contactless payments for the first time. 

The Digital Revolution Is Here to Stay   

Despite the “black swan” aspect of 2020’s pandemic, consumers have embraced the convenience and safety of digital banking, and their expectations have permanently changed in its wake. 

This trend is likely to stick for the long-term. Members have gotten used to conducting their banking digitally, and are learning that they can still stay connected to their credit union and perform the same transactions, in less time, with less hassle and with fewer safety concerns than transacting in person. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean the branch will disappear. Rather, Shared Branching and the brick-and-mortar credit union office of the future will be used primarily for more complex transactions and consultative needs. According to the CU Payments Outlook research conducted by EY and commissioned by CO-OP, an overwhelming majority of credit union members and prospects surveyed (98%) find importance in having the ability to access a branch to solve a problem, and value having access to a branch in the future to obtain financial advice (96%). 

This shows that the way branches operate will have to change as credit unions pursue new business models that are centered around a comprehensive digital strategy. Existing collaborative services like shared branching may even increase in value as credit unions look to create efficiencies and reduce operating costs. It is quite expensive to open new branches, and having a network with a footprint of 5,700 locations across the country available to your members when they need it, is still very, very important. 

Focus on Active Member Relationships 

Regardless, credit unions will need to adjust to new ways of engaging with their members in a digital environment. Most importantly, to meet members’ needs, you must remove friction from the transaction. According to EY and CO-OP’s findings, 94% of Fintech users consider “seamless integration” as very important, yet only 45% can currently see all their financial activity in one place. To provide members with next-level integration and convenience, you must be able to anticipate their needs, by recognizing their unique life stages and lifestyles.    

How? By placing payments at the center of the active member relationship and accessing and analyzing the rich troves of transactional and behavioral data credit unions have at their disposal. Begin by offering compelling digital payment solutions like contactless cards, digital card issuance, and CO-OP Lifestyle Loyalty rewards complete with interactive website capabilities. Then ensure your members keep your credit union at the center of their financial lives through digital banking services like mobile apps, bill pay, P2P payments, and self-guided card controls and alerts.  

The credit union of tomorrow will combine the personal relationships cooperatives have always been known for, with a comprehensive suite of digital and branch-based products and services, all delivered safely and securely. 

Consider your credit union’s various channels as just an extension of the relationship between you and your member. Whether digital or in-person, they represent how you build trust, meet their needs, personalize service, and understand who your members are. 

CO-OP’s Engage solutions can help credit unions win this battle for primary financial relationships while ensuring their members maintain access to outstanding service through the channel of their choosing. Learn more about how to connect with your members directly by leveraging CO-OP’s physical and digital solutions including mobile innovations, branch self-service, personalized communications, and live support.