Grow Your Credit Union or Fall Behind The Pack? It All Depends on Digital-First Member Services

This article originally appeared in Credit Union Magazine: Fall 2022. Read it here.

Credit unions have often been reluctant to adopt new technologies, even when they promise strong business benefits. The ATM in the 70s, for example, gave credit unions the ability to dispense cash after hours, yet few were early adopters. It wasn’t until the 80s, after larger institutions had proven their value, that most credit unions began to offer ATM services. 

More recently, we saw the emergence of mobile check deposit applications. Despite a clear benefit to members, many credit unions were slow to offer the digital convenience of simply snapping a photo to deposit a check. Once again, most credit unions let larger institutions battletest this new app and demonstrate the benefits. By studying both best practices and lessons learned from other organizations, many credit unions were able to optimize a new technology and avoid pitfalls.  

While the ‘wait-and-see’ approach has been a smart strategy for many credit unions in the past, as the pace of technology accelerates, the window to adopt new solutions before falling behind competitors is quickly narrowing. Many credit unions took more than a decade to finally offer ATMs and years to embrace mobile check deposit features. But digital transformation does not allow this luxury of time.

The paradigm is shifting toward digital service, allowing members to engage credit unions online from the screen of their choice and via their preferred digital channel. Digital-first members demand a fully digital solution that allows them to quickly get their account balance and also apply for a loan or refinance a mortgage online. Digital Customer Service (DCS) is enabling the digital transformation of member services to be fully online and easy to use. 

While most credit unions have some digital capabilities—such as a chat option on their website—many are unable to provide a seamless digital experience across the entire engagement. Consider how members in a chat session are often told to make a phone call to speak to a representative, breaking the digital connection and forcing them to start the engagement over from the start. Reverifying their identity, re-explaining what they are trying to do and then getting routed to the right representative, often only to re-explain the situation all over for a third time.

DCS keeps members OnScreen, allowing a representative to transfer from chat to video, for example. Better yet, with collaboration tools such as CoBrowsing, that rep can actively guide members to the resources they need and even help them fill out an application to accelerate the loan cycle. 

In fact, hundreds of credit unions have already adopted DCS and are seeing huge results. The digital-first platform is fueling member growth for many and most are seeing a large uptick in loan applications and conversions. Most importantly, they are seeing big improvements in member satisfaction metrics, building longtime loyalty. 

What’s different about DCS technology adoption is that leading credit unions are not waiting for larger institutions to test and prove the value. In fact, credit unions are leading the charge when it comes to DCS and the drive to continuously improve the member experience. This is creating an even more competitive environment among credit unions, with those offering digital-first services starting to quickly outpace credit unions holding off on DCS. 

Where ‘wait-and-see’ was once a safe strategy, it has become a liability in today’s high-paced digital world where members continue to expect the convenience of online services while at the same time enabling high-touch member experiences. Digital Customer Service is the cornerstone for delivering that, keeping pace as the digital landscape shifts and allowing credit unions to differentiate themselves based on member experiences. This is key since today, they are almost always digital! 

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