Improving Customer Experience Through Enhanced Digital Customer Communication Is Critical For Credit Unions
Many credit unions were not prepared for the impact of the global pandemic on the traditional way of servicing customers. As in other industries, credit unions had to act very quickly to enable employees to work from home. In addition, they had to provide services online and establish ways to communicate with members via digital channels.
Customer communication for credit unions is critical now. It’s time to consolidate the upheaval from last year and plans for this year into a defined customer communication strategy.
Credit union members were caught by surprise at the sudden removal of in-branch services and expected credit unions to enable their core banking services in the digital environment.
According to an article in Credit Union Times, “The pandemic would prove to put the credit union model under stress, unlike anything we had ever seen.”
When it came to a seamless transition from branch to digital, credit unions that had already invested in digital/cloud infrastructure certainly had a head start, but only if they had invested in all three of the critical requirements:
- Providing services to members through online channels.
- Having employees operate securely and efficiently from home.
- Communicating digitally with members in the absence of mail and branch services.
For credit unions that had not yet begun investing in cloud services or had only implemented one or two of these critical requirements, the challenge of achieving business continuity in the new landscape must have seemed insurmountable.
Investing in the digital customer experience is imperative
Even before the 2020 acceleration of digital engagement, members were exposed to various digital experiences from their other service providers. Consequently, expectations have evolved and while some will opt to return to the way things were done previously, there is a widespread belief that doing business will never be quite the same as before.
Essentially, credit unions need a new business model that not only recognizes face-to-face, personal service as a fundamental differentiator but can also replicate this online. The trick is to maintain the personalized feel when adding the convenience of online services and to leverage the wealth of valuable information that digital provides.
Furthermore, credit unions cannot continue to delay the development of a strategic plan for digital transformation. This requires not only a financial investment but also a change in thinking. Of course, being a highly regulated and rules-driven industry, there are additional challenges. For example, keeping the regulators happy with high capital retention, needs to be weighed against the importance of building a stable and scalable business that will survive in the digital future.
When it comes to powering the digital transformation that creates engaged members and improves customer experience, digital communication is a great place to start.
It’s not only more manageable and tangible, but it also provides real returns, allowing credit unions to achieve significant results ‒ both in the long and short-term.
4 Steps to take before you define your credit union’s digital customer communication strategy
Credit unions that plan to move the needle on customer communication can use these 4 steps to start the process:
Speak to your members: It may seem obvious, but the best people to define what members want, are the members themselves. Engage your members to really understand what they expect going forward.
Having been forced to use digital channels such as email, portals and apps due to the pandemic, some members may want to revert to the way things were, once branches can operate normally. But others will want to continue interacting digitally and expect their credit union to improve and grow the digital customer experience.
Define your starting point: The pandemic most likely derailed many well-laid plans for 2020 and was the reason for some short-term, crisis interventions that now need to be transitioned to future-proof systems.
A good way to start is to define your customer journeys so that you have a picture of every interaction with a member and every communication that is exchanged.
Make sure you document how data flows into and through your organization, and what gaps exist in your member data. Plan to close the gaps, so that you have the data you need to really personalize experiences.
Define your end goals: This is an opportunity to paint the big picture of how you want your credit union to look 5 years from now. Will you offer online services across the board including digital banking, real-time payments and self-service account opening?
Which channels will you use to communicate with members? What data do you need to provide the service you envisage? Once you have this picture, it is easier to map the steps required to reach your digital goals.
Consider outsourcing to a specialist: Small to medium-sized credit unions may be concerned about the cost of digital transformation. Becoming more digital doesn’t necessarily require a large capital outlay, expensive consultants and a year-long project plan.
Outsourcing to a customer communications management company with experience in providing a platform and services to credit unions is an affordable option and will speed up your time to market. Outsourcing also places the responsibility for technical support and compliance with a specialist, rather than on your inhouse teams.
For credit unions, digital transformation is a requirement for doing business in the digital future. Now is the time to ensure you have both a strategy and a map of how to get there.