Establish Your Credit Union as a Financial First Responder

How credit unions can create financial security for members in an uncertain economy

Credit unions want to assure their members that their financial future is safe with them despite the current pandemic and quickly changing economy. But as nearly all physical credit union branches are closing, staff are literally being forced to work in new ways, dealing with legacy systems and processes that limit their ability to respond quickly and in a personalized, but also humanized way.

Examples of failed member experiences highlight the challenges. In one instance, a member drove nearly 30 miles to access an ATM, only to find it was unavailable. The member didn’t check social media — the only method of communication used for the ATM closure — before jumping in the car. Credit unions that are unable to communicate effectively with members in times of crisis risk damaging the trust they’ve established with members.

In uncertain times, credit unions that are able to successfully combine modern technology with human connection will thrive. This article details the importance of member experience as part of your crisis response plan, alongside key ways credit unions can show up as financial first responders, better serve their members, and ultimately provide financial security amidst this crisis.

Crisis Response Implications for Member Experience

The good news: Many credit unions are prepared for pandemics, with detailed business continuity plans (BCPs) in place. An Ariznet survey of financial service providers 25% of financial services firms implemented exiting BCPs, 38% modified existing plans and the remaining 33% created new plans specific to the coronavirus. (Only 4% didn’t leverage some sort of BCP.) 

However, the execution of the plan has left some member experiences lacking. Individual survey responses highlight how the scale of the coronavirus has created unique challenges.  

“Activation of multiple backup sites and compartmentalization of teams has resulted in a significant drop in efficiency,” said one financial services executive.

“Although our firm had a business continuity plan in place, the plan did not cover a pandemic like this and we were not prepared to handle the extra volume of remote users,” said another survey respondent.

How does this impact member experience? Increased silos between teams may mean members have to wait days for information they used to receive in hours. Decreased efficiency for call center staff means long call times, which would be a critical point of concern when branches are closed and call centers become the primary point of contact for members.

We believe the credit union focus on member service will buoy them in these unprecedented times. But they shouldn’t have to do it alone. Credit unions that successfully partner with modern technology providers will be able to respond quickly in a crisis, and execute confidence-building communications that members deserve. Here are 2 critical ways technology can empower financial first responders in times of crisis.

Quick, Clear, and Consistent Communications

Communications are a key component of any BCP. In crisis, it’s increasingly critical that credit unions deploy omnichannel messaging quickly to ensure members get the right message on the right channel at the right time.

Recently, it became clear that technology was actually making some things worse.

  • How quickly are you able to pause business-as-usual marketing emails? 
  • How do you ensure campaign deployment includes all of your critical communication channels (as in our ATM closure example above)?
  • How are driving confidence when your email opening is “Dear valued customer,”?

Incorrectly implemented, technology can take what was once a very personal relationship between a consumer and a financial institution to a transactional relationship. Technology — such as a member experience platform — should empower you to provide consistent, relevant, and service-focused content to the right member, at the right time, on the right channel. In doing so, you will put member fears and uncertainty to rest and drive confidence in your credit union.

For example, one step of a crisis communication plan could include a campaign around assurance for members. In a series of communication, your credit union could address safety protocol and communicate the things you’re already doing to protect members (and their investments) as part of your BCP. Here are some topics we’ve seen credit unions communicating to their members as part of their baseline communication plan.

  • Branch cleanings/closures.
  • Drive up access hours.
  • Remote staffing & compliance updates.
  • How to use interactive teller machines.
  • Increased call-center staffing hours.
  • What the CARES Act means for members.

Outstanding Online Member Service

Social distancing and shelter in place orders mean consumers are changing how they interface with credit unions, often seeking to use tools such as telephone calls, online banking, and even video. Credit unions that focus on member service through online methods can continue to drive member confidence.

Optimize Existing Services

Many credit unions already have a wide array of digital tools for members, but should be prepared for an influx of usage. Consider how you can optimize and scale that experience. Additionally, what member actions or triggers could your credit union use to proactively communicate with members? If a member has multiple service center calls, it might be worth a 1:1 phone call from their regular credit union member representative.

As contrary as it might sound, credit unions often see membership growth during and after a recession. Now is a good time to evaluate your onboarding experience and make sure it’s right-sized for new members during this unprecedented time.  

Educate Around Available Tools

Credit unions might also focus on education and digital tool onboarding as new members begin to use these services. You could create a short campaign on digital tools that includes a tutorial on how to download and use your mobile app, for example. Or you could develop a multi-channel journey for members who haven’t adopted e-statements. These are easy ways credit unions can serve members from afar to ensure they feel financially secure and taken care of during this uncertain time.

Communicate New Services

Credit unions are leading the way in terms of disaster-related services available to members. Some things, like scam-awareness tips or skip-a-pay features, are existing and ongoing — but members might not be aware of them. New features like late fee waivers or financial hardship applications are emerging in response to the crisis. The NCUA has guidance for COVID-19 actions credit unions can take, and announced Emergency Response grants and loans for credit unions on April 1. Here’s a sampling of some of the top credit union responses, according to America’s Credit Unions:

  • Nearly 95% of credit unions surveyed are offering loan modifications.
  • More than 85% are waiving fees.
  • 80% have created new loan products to meet members’ pressing needs.

Again, proactively communicating around these relevant services and how members qualify and apply will put member concerns at bay. 

Be Your Members’ Financial First Responder

Members are looking to you, their primary financial institution, for guidance and assurance that their financial lives are being looked out for during this time of uncertainty. Successful credit unions take advantage of all of the member data and communication channels they have to best tailor a message to educate members on your credit union offerings and how you’ll continue to care for them and their financial health. Credit unions that provide outstanding member service in times of crisis establish themselves as a financial first responder, which results in financial security and reassurance for members and the credit union.

As credit unions look to serve their members during this time, we know it’s even more important that the focus is on a humanized, empathic message that they are known for. Doing so with speed amidst this financial uncertainty, alongside providing helpful products and services, are key to serving members well today and into the future.