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How Credit Unions Can Deliver Digital-First, Omnichannel Customer Experience

Why Credit Unions Need to go Digital

Whenever customers, who are old enough to remember, walk into a credit union, they are likely to be reminded of these lines in the Cheers theme song, “Where everybody knows your name and were always glad you came”!

Credit unions have long been competing on lower interest rates on loans and higher interest rates on deposits, but only up to a point—these institutions are not-for-profit, not non-profit. So they have been relying on personalized, high-touch customer service to stand out from banks.

However, today’s credit unions are under siege from not only banks but also other kinds of financial services competitors such as online banks and diversified financial services companies.

Their CSAT has dropped, with banks besting them for the second year in a row with a score of 78 in the annual University of Michigan ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) consumer survey (on a 0-100 scale with 100 being the highest score).

To make matters worse, as consumers go digital, many credit unions are falling behind in their ability to reach and retain them, having relied on physical branches to do so in the past.

How Credit Unions Can Deliver Excellent Digital Customer Service

How can they not only survive—but thrive—in the digital era? Here are 7 steps that can help them get there.

1. Go deep with digital engagement

A big reason why banks have been ascending in CSAT is their digital and mobile customer service and engagement capabilities, which are especially appealing to millennials and Gen Z customers.

If credit unions want to reach and retain today’s consumer, they need to excel in digital member engagement, not just check the box.

They should implement solutions with deep digital capabilities, covering established and emerging channels such as self-service, chat, messaging, cobrowsing, social, mobile, with a view to digitalizing as much of the customer lifecycle as possible—acquisition, onboarding, servicing, guiding, and upselling. After all, today’s customer likes to be “contained” in digital channels to the degree possible.

For example, contact center agents can use cobrowse to help members securely fill out webforms while chatting or talking to them. Cobrowsing is a powerful multimodal engagement method that can reduce, even eliminate, the need for next-gen customers to visit a branch. In fact, cobrowse-aided form-filling has helped our clients increase customer onboarding by up to 200%! Likewise, digital-rich tools can improve customer service through proactive and reactive messaging, whether it be SMS, Facebook Messenger, or Apple Business Chat.

2. But go omnichannel

While consumers continue to go digital-first, phone and brick-and-mortar interactions are here to stay, especially for complex queries.

According to a recent PwC consumer survey, 65% of consumers still think that having a local branch is important in selecting a bank or credit union. Moreover, more than 50% of consumers would prefer to open an account or get a loan at a physical branch.

All that said, credit unions mustn’t ignore the digital tsunami sweeping across demographics and across the member lifecycle. The answer lies in adopting an omnichannel or “phygital” member engagement strategy! With a unified customer engagement solution, based on an omnichannel platform, credit unions can leverage context, knowledge, process knowhow, and resources across digital, contact center, and brick-and-mortar channels to orchestrate seamless customer journeys.

3. Don’t forget about the agent desktop

Credit unions often forget that today’s millennial and Gen Z agent in the contact center is also digital. They are used to digital life tools and expect their work tools to have the same ease of use and digital richness.

However, many credit unions still have the 90s-style phone-first agent desktop tools for contact center agents and branch advisers.

No wonder 84% of agents across industries say that their tools do not help them handle service issues when the customer is on the line, according to a recent Gartner study.

The solution is to go with a modern, digital-first, omnichannel desktop. Another option is to adopt the pace-layered customer engagement model advocated by Gartner. The pace-layered application approach treats customer engagement applications as fast-mode layers of innovation and differentiation that sit on top of systems of record such as CRM, transactional systems, and content management systems, which do not change as often. For example, the eGain Duo™ feature allows agents to have context from systems of record on one monitor and engagement capabilities on another monitor, while allowing real-time, two-way communication between the two layers.

4. Leverage AI for conversational guidance

When it comes to driving from Place A to Place B, paper maps have fast become a relic. Many of today’s drivers may have never even seen maps and probably cannot imagine driving a car without the step-by-step guidance provided by a GPS.

This analogy applies to customer service as well. Today’s digital agents don’t like to read and interpret documents to find the answer. Moreover, next-gen agents have a short attention span–while millennials have a short attention span of 12 seconds, Gen Z has a “gnat” span of 8 seconds (Source: Sparks & Honey)! In fact, Gen Z does not like formal training either—65% of them like to just learn on their jobs, according to research by Capita.

They bring these traits and preferences to the workplace, where customer service leaders are still relying on traditional methods to onboard agents.

Many credit unions are also looking to merge with others to form a critical mass for their very survival. This makes the jobs of member service agents even more challenging as they will often need to support a broader array of products and services. To top it all, there is the issue of compliance, in content, access, workflow, conversations, communications, privacy, and security. As an example, TILA (the Truth in Lending Act) and UDAAP (unfair, deceptive, or abusive acts or practices) regulation mandates that agents inform customers about not only interest rates but also late fees and loan terms at specific points in the loan approval process, while staying away from deceptive or misleading practices. A GPS analogy for compliance would be to keep on the right of the double yellow lines on roads in the US.

The answer lies in AI-infused knowledge, which, when done right, can be a GPS for customer service, providing step-by-step directions on what to say and do, adapting to the conversation in progress, while complying with regulations. AI knowledge can guide next-gen agents to answers or through a problem resolution or advisory process in an era of complex regulations and compliance requirements. Sophisticated AI systems even offer multiple routes to answer—less explicit routes for experienced agents and more obvious routes for novice agents.

5. Get personal with digital, too

Credit unions can replicate the personal touch of their brick-and-mortar customer service at digital touchpoints with extreme personalization. With an omnichannel engagement solution, personalization can be done across touchpoints through consistent answers, promotional offers, advice, and even conversational guidance, based on groups in the field of membership, and the real-time and historical context of member transactions and interactions, leveraging AI techniques such as reasoning, machine learning, and analytics.

6. Optimize with connected analytics

Analyze your customer’s omnichannel journeys to identify points of friction and the use and effectiveness of knowledge and offers. Optimize contact center operations with real-time and historical analytics. Go with proven vendors who offer best-practice dashboards, metrics, and reporting out of the box that connect the insights to make them actionable. For example, such analytics can make the connection between an ineffective knowledge base article and escalation from self-service to a human agent for certain queries or topics.

7. Derisk to sustain momentum

Per McKinsey’s latest research, an overwhelming 91% of over 1,500 respondents said their organizations’ digital transformation initiatives have not successfully improved their performance or equipped them to sustain changes in the long term.

How do you get into the 9% of success? The answer lies in these best practices:

  • Partner with an experienced vendor that not only offers rich capabilities but also domain expertise, based on a track record of success over the years.
  • Challenge vendors to offer a truly risk-free consumption model. For instance, eGain offers a model called “Innovation in 30 days” where credit unions or any other business or government entity can try out our solution for free in a production pilot with best-practice guidance and no obligation to buy. Many blue-chip organizations have taken advantage of this approach not only to start an initiative but expand it with new capabilities over time. One could call it risk-free agile!
  • Start small, show value, and build on it through risk-free consumption to keep up the momentum rather than trying to boil the ocean right off the bat.

Final Word

Credit unions can engage and grow next-gen customers with digital-first, omnichannel engagement that is guided by AI, knowledge, and analytics. They can also maintain their competitive edge in retail customer service by leveraging contact center and digital tools at their branches.

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