Now is a good time to be a credit union. The Credit Union National Association is reporting credit unions have gained 700,000 customers and $4.5 billion in deposits over the last month, most of that coming as a result of widespread anger at big banks and galvanized by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
To be clear, credit unions have been marketing the story of big banks vs. credit unions for years. The difference now is that the message has finally met its moment. In the current environment, consumers are examining their options in a way credit unions have been dreaming about for decades.
The question now is how to capitalize on this moment and keep those members for the long run. It’s an opportunity credit unions shouldn’t waste. The sun is shining; it’s time to make hay.
Of course, the big banks have been making hay for years. They’ve been able to make huge investments in technology. The resulting product – a superior online and mobile banking experience – has immense appeal to large numbers of consumers and is seldom matched by credit unions.
Credit unions have always traded on their commitment to customer service and the communities they serve, a strategy which is serving them well now.
But newly acquired Millennials, not to mention later generations, have been raised on a steady diet of advanced technology and online interconnectivity. They will consider dropping their new credit union like an older generation iPhone the moment they realize they may have to send you a fax just to start a loan application or change an address.
The first thing every credit union should consider is also one of the quickest and most cost-effective approaches to satisfying these new consumer expectations: refresh your look online.
Many credit union websites still look like they were designed in 1995. Complicated-looking, text-heavy sites with endless menus are harder to use than modern sites.
But more importantly, they send a clear message: we are behind the times and are harder to work with than that huge bank you just left. This is precisely the image that credit unions must overcome in order to hold on to all those new accounts.
Refreshing your look doesn’t have to involve an overhaul of entrenched systems and applications. You don’t have to do a massive legacy upgrade or execute some enormous software transition. It is about re-organizing the front-end user experience so that information is arranged clearly and intuitively.
In fact, with very little change to the actual functionality of your online offering you can significantly overhaul how it feels to an online customer. And that’s important.
The second thing credit unions must consider is modernizing some core services. Take vehicle loans. Many consumers are happy to go to credit unions for a vehicle loan. But too many credit union websites still force users to download and print a PDF just to start the application process.
You might as well insist that your members dial a rotary telephone. It flies in the face of their expectations – and presents an inconvenience to those who are used to easier processes.
The same goes for certificates, mortgage loans, and other products. Now is the time to invest in making these processes as smooth and intuitive as possible.
Again, credit unions need not skin the whole cat all at once. They should pick and choose the applications that give them the biggest bang for their buck rather than try to shift their entire software infrastructure.
Not only will biting off a chunk at a time save money, but it will deliver value to new members when it matters: now.
With $4.5 billion in new deposits, this is no time to be resting on laurels or relying on the current zeitgeist to last forever. It won’t.
Now is the time to invest in keeping customers and building new loyalties. Narrow the technology gap with big banks and your new members should have no reason to go back to them.
Bank of America and other big banks are plotting how win back those 700,000 customers as I write, plus more.
Brad Powell is president/CEO of Axiaware in Vienna, Va.