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5 Ways to Keep it Personal in a Digital-Mostly World

Credit union teller hands a member cash

This article was originally published in CUInsight.

COVID-19 has brought undeniable clarity to the importance of good digital tools. What would we have done without them over the past months?

As members navigated the realities of closed branch lobbies and crowded drive-thrus, online and mobile banking saw big jumps. A post-pandemic survey conducted by Fidelity National Information Services (FIS) revealed over 45% of banked respondents, across all ages, had moved to new channels such as online and mobile to handle their finances. And FIS reported a 200% surge in mobile banking registrations in early April and an 85% increase in mobile banking traffic.

It seems safe to assume that digital will continue to be the channel of choice for many going forward. Some of the lobbies that reopened in the early months of summer were forced to close once again in response to high COVID levels. And evidence suggests consumers aren’t in a hurry to return to branch lobbies, even when they can—which is likely a result of healthcare concerns, appointment-scheduling capabilities, and a newfound appreciation for the ease and convenience of digital tools.

An increased sense of urgency around prioritizing the digital experience may be a good thing for credit unions. But it’s not without its challenges. Personal service has always been a credit union hallmark and a differentiator that could be compromised by reducing opportunities for human interaction. While digital can allow for a highly personalized, data-driven experience, there’s still something to be said for keeping the actual person in the picture—sometimes literally!

Members want digital but continue to value the personal touch. Here are five ways to deliver both:


1. Include photos with your online appointment scheduling tool

Online appointment scheduling saves time for your employees and members—no more phone calls or back and forth emails—and puts your members in charge of the process. And with many lobbies open by appointment only, effective online scheduling has become even more important.

The simple addition of a headshot makes the experience so much friendlier and lays the groundwork for a personal connection.

Compare the two screenshots below—one from a digitally savvy healthcare provider called Zoomcare (left) and one from a bank using a popular branch appointment scheduling tool—which one does a better job saying “personalized, friendly service” to you?

ZoomCare appointment scheduling


2. Turn your member calls into member video chats

Even if you had already discovered the power of video chat pre-pandemic, it’s safe to guess that you’ve done quite a bit more Zooming and FaceTiming this year than any other.

Video chats can be a great way for members to get help with virtually any financial issue without having to leave the security of their home. Plus, video chats can help reduce member frustration — Hubspot Research found 33% of customers are most frustrated by having to repeat themselves to multiple support reps over the phone, a problem that video chat can minimize. Video chat is especially valuable for members needing personal contact and reassurance dealing with a more complex need like a mortgage or wealth management. 

Some of our PixelSpoke clients have already incorporated video chat into their suite of digital tools, including SouthPoint Financial Credit Union, which uses VideoConnect to deliver personal connections six days a week, and Educators Credit Union, which brings expert staff to members through their Video Banking tool. We are also developing a custom virtual teller tool to better utilize branch staff in lobbies with low foot traffic.


3. Add a personal touch to live chat

Not ready to go the full-video route? Live chat can be a good alternative. It gives members who are already on your website a way to get their questions answered without switching to another channel (i.e., phone or email).

Just as incorporating headshots into appointment scheduling tools is an easy way to build a sense of human connection, a simple photo of the person the member is chatting with can help make a digital experience seem more personal.

You can also consider making your live chat proactive. If you think of your website as your digital branch, reactive chat makes staff available, but the member has to choose to engage. Proactive live chat is the digital equivalent of a greeter actively approaching a member as s/he enters the branch. If executed in a user-friendly (i.e. not annoying) way, proactive chat can better engage members and meet their needs. 


4. Use an app to connect members to a personal banker

Umpqua, an Oregon-based community bank, was ahead of the curve when it launched a hybrid digital-human platform, Go-To Banking, back in 2018. Umpqua says the app “puts a personal banker in everyone’s pocket” and the tool is available to all customers, regardless of their net worth. The app provides a list of personal bankers for the customer to choose from; each listing includes a photo and often-amusing self-description. Users connect with their banker of choice by pressing a button on the app, and most communication is via text. 

Umpqua Go-To Banker App

According to this recent article, Umpqua describes the app as a valuable way to deliver “people plus technology” and reports they saw a 30% increase in enrollment and a 20% jump in customer use in March 2020. It could be a good add for tech- and text-savvy members.


5. Take events virtual

Nothing beats the power of face-to-face annual meetings, educational seminars and more. But those meetings aren’t possible in the short term and credit unions that have made the switch to virtual options report positive results.

  • Clackamas CU is hosting virtual workshops—upcoming topics include Adulting 101, Mortgages 101 and Mortgage Myth Busters.
  • Atlantic Financial held a virtual town hall to share COVID-19 relief options and resources available to members.
  • Peninsula Credit Union has been sending out video messages from its CEO on an ongoing basis, with topics ranging from fraud to re-entry plans to thanking “financial first responders.”
  • Summit Credit Union held a virtual homebuyers’ event that had 200 sign-ups and 125 attendees and has future virtual events on its calendar.


One last thought: Follow the Platinum Rule

While the Golden Rule suggests we treat others the way we’d like to be treated, the Platinum Rule requires us to treat others the way THEY would like to be treated. Not every member needs or wants to engage with a person when they conduct a transaction. A recent blog post by our friends at Filene Research Institute stresses the importance of using remote channels in a way that lets members choose how much—or little—personal interaction they prefer. 

It all comes back to empathy — a credit union superpower that not only helps differentiate credit unions from the competition but that is even more critical during these times of growing uncertainty and inequality. A chatbot might be able to help a member find the answer to a question, but a chatbot can’t be empathetic. That’s something to keep in mind as your credit union works to strike the right balance between high-tech and high-touch.