Counting Coins: Municipal Credit Union Finds Automation Adds Up in Cash
NEW YORK -- While her credit union's new change counting machines might not be decorated with dancing pennies, they do the job well, and they provide a return on investment that can't be measured in cash.
"Our members love them, and it doesn't get any better than that," Carole Porter, senior vice president of retail banking operations, said of the new QuickChange machines that Municipal Credit Union has deployed at some of its branches around the Big Apple.
The machines come from De La Rue, the vendor of coin-counting and cash-dispensing machines that first sold some of its new bill-dispensing equipment to the $1.4 billion credit union.
Those Benchmark Series 7 machines, which sit between tellers or near member service representatives in the 13-branch credit union's express offices, make possible another hard-to-measure member service benefit--maintaining eye contact with the member at the window.
"The tellers can look at the member instead of look down to count cash," Porter said. "That's something we value...the interpersonal transaction we want our members to have with us when they come here."
"We also want the lines to move. We have a lot of city and state workers and health care professionals as members and the lines can get very long. Having the cash dispensed automatically and accurately makes for a better experience for our members and for our employees," Porter said.
De La Rue, a London-based firm with 6,000 employees in 31 countries, is well aware of both the psychological and financial ramifications of such service, said Joe Gnorski, director of marketing with the company's U.S. operations.
He said consumers typically think of coins as change in a drawer, found money, and are pleasantly surprised how much is there when they cash it in at a self-service coin machine. (The average such transaction is for about $117, Gnorski said.)
Having the counters in the branches and dispensing a receipt that the member takes to a window to cash in also creates the opportunity to convert that positive feeling into perhaps a new account or service, or at least a fresh deposit.
"It's a somewhat psychologically positive experience, and you want it to be associated with your institution," Gnorski said. "And while we don't have the bright green dancing penny on it, they are designed to be easy enough to use for a 7- or 8-year-old and are ADA compliant and look like they belong in a bank or credit union setting."
The penny reference, of course, is to the ubiquitous Coinstar machines stationed in grocery stores that charge 8% or more for counting the change. "Banks and credit unions are looking for something else in that transaction, not so much the money they make on it," Gnorski said. "They're looking to create an interaction with the consumer that can turn into something else."
Their value as a marketing tool has helped De La Rue sell more than 1,500 of the QuickChange machines since their introduction in 2005. A more mature product line, more than 24,000 of its cash dispenses are now in use, including basic cash counters and dispensers and more sophisticated cash recyclers. The company has about 1,600 financial institution clients, more than 600 of them credit unions.
The machines help crucial front-line staff by "effectively automating the transaction part of the interaction so they can concentrate on the members," Gnorski said.
"Now credit unions can hire people like they do at Build-a-Bear and American Girl doll stores and Starbucks," he said.
"These are places that have built a business on how you work with the customer. It allows them to do all kinds of things to improve the experience with the customer and the member that you can't do when you're dealing with handling cash and all the security and counting that goes with it."