Credit union members today are often interacting with more technology at home than at the branch, due to the mobile explosion and increased ability to connect to anyone nearly anywhere. Now that members have more choices when it comes to how they prefer to bank, their behavior is beginning to shift towards the flexibility offered through technology. This shift is causing all institutions to re-evaluate the way they operate and deliver products and services.
Taking a deeper look into the credit union industry today, it is obvious that changes are necessary to meet the needs and expectations of members. Many credit unions have adopted a multichannel approach, which is an improvement from disconnected delivery channels of the past, but it is no longer sufficient to address new consumer demands.
There is now a scramble to shift this multichannel strategy to one that is better defined as omnichannel.
The idea of an omnichannel approach to banking is simply the evolution of multichannel. With omnichannel banking, members choose how they want to bank, be that at their local branch, another branch, online or by speaking to someone at a contact center from home or from their mobile devices. Credit unions must be able to ensure a seamless, consistent experience for the member, which can present quite a challenge. However, as seen today by retail financial institutions across the United States and abroad, when successfully adopted and integrated, the omnichannel approach is capable of providing unprecedented levels of member satisfaction and loyalty.
It is essential to a credit union’s future to understand what the exact needs of its members are and how to meet those needs.
Recent research by Cisco’s Internet business solutions group has shown that personalized, higher quality interactions through video capabilities and advice-centered omnichannel experiences can meet many of members’ greatest needs. Essentially, consumers want easily accessible interactions, whether it is through a physical branch, online or a mobile application. Flexibility, financial advice and both virtual and physical channel banking services are ushering in a new era of omnichannel banking that provides members with services in a manner most convenient and personalized to fit their needs.
It is important to understand that while members desire options and flexibility made possible through an increase in online and mobile channel use, members are not completely prepared to switch to an all virtual banking experience. Cisco’s research found that nearly 22% of retail financial services customers worldwide would switch institutions if their preferred institution closed their local branch.
Credit union branches will need to transition their branch model to be technology friendly for credit union associates and members alike while developing accommodations to meet the needs of those seeking financial advice. It is fair to say that the omnichannel branch may take on a number of different forms, and retail financial institutions are already testing and implementing concepts like an advisory branch, streamlined branch, flexible branch and community branch.
One might ask, “How do we begin to prioritize and consider the numerous technologies that could potentially change the historic retail financial services model?” It can be a daunting exercise, but the best place to start is with your corporate imperatives and priorities.
Secondly, understand the imperatives of the individual lines of business that map back to those corporate imperatives. Lastly, identify the use cases that will best address those line of business imperatives, and you will be ready to think about technology. It is crucial that the desired capabilities linked to line of business imperatives are understood and prioritized before considering your technology options.
Implementing technology solutions in phases often helps the credit union and members more easily adapt to the changes. The first phase in implementing a new technology should be limited both in the technology being evaluated and the success criteria that are established. The goal during this first phase should be to determine member and employee acceptance and response to the new technology.
The phases that follow should show that new technologies can be integrated and that there is undeniable value for both the members and the credit union. Pending the success of this phase, broader line of business adoption, greater scale and more automated reporting on the usage and benefits being delivered by the new technology would follow. During the final rollout stage, all applicable channels and lines of business are enabled, and the focus turns to continued communication of the new capabilities–both internally and externally.
Implementing an omnichannel strategy gives members numerous choices when it comes to everyday banking and creates a truly member-centric experience. As trends continue to show, consumer demands have become more extensive and diverse. Through careful evaluation and prioritization, credit unions can leverage new technology and solutions that both align with corporate imperatives and culture, and exceed ever-increasing member expectations. For credit unions that commit to a strategy quickly and concentrate intensely on success criteria, there will be great rewards, both for the credit union and its members.
Jason Bettinger is vertical lead, retail banking at Cisco Financial Services.
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