Credit union front and back-office staff members have plenty of differences. They spend their days doing different tasks, may come from different backgrounds, approach their work in different ways and are likely to exhibit different personalities. But in order for a CU to succeed, it’s crucial that both sides get along.
Communication takes place on a daily basis between front and back offices, with staff members sharing critical information such as policies and procedures, marketing campaigns and member issues, noted Jennifer Roberts, the director of product management for Harland Financial Solutions, a Lake Mary, Fla.-based provider of technology for financial institutions.
The Northglenn, Colo.-based, $67 million Horizons North Credit Union operates out of just one branch and handles accounting, finance, IT and human resources (which also completes marketing tasks) from its back office, senior vice president and chief financial officer Diane Tracy said. CU front offices, on the other hand, consist of staff that interacts directly with members, such as tellers and loan officers.
"You really can’t have one without the other, as both depend on each other for support," Roberts said. "They share the same policies and procedures so the back office can effectively support the front line."
So when can poor communication pose problems for CUs, and how can communication be improved? Roberts and Tracy shared the most common issues and their best tips for effective communication.
Lack of timely communication flow. Information may not travel from the back office to the front office, or vice versa, in a timely manner, which can prevent staff from effectively responding to members’ needs, Roberts said. "As is common in any business, lack of communication can be an issue," she said. Tracy added that in a recent employee satisfaction survey, lack of communication was one of the most consistent comments.
A small staff. "Being short staffed can pose challenges, as not only will the credit union be ill-equipped to return phone calls to members, but it also could impact the timeliness of the sharing of information between the front office and back office," Roberts said.
Employee errors. Front- and back-office staff members have varying skill levels, and a lack of knowledge can lead to errors. "If a new teller posts a deposit to the wrong member account, the back-office staff is then faced with having to deal with that error," Roberts said.
Inaccurate or a lack of details. When a front office inaccurately records information about a member issue, the member may be forced to retell the same story if he or she is transferred to the back office to solve the issue, which can lead to decreased member satisfaction, Roberts said.
Here are some tips on how to improve communication:
• Filter information through front- and back-office staff in a timely manner.
• Be consistent with everyone communicating the same information to members.
• Train your employees to reduce errors.
• Implement accurate contact history tracking.
• Use an effective core system to automate and streamline business processes.
• Meet regularly to discuss ongoing projects.
• Encourage staff to hold accounts at the CU.
• Choose communication methods that work.
• Remind back-office staff that they’re providing service.