Members Shunning Café-Style Branches, Full Automation: Study
A new study suggests some state-of-the-art branch service trends aren't sitting well with many credit union members. Scheduling-software company TimeTrade's study indicates credit union members are more likely than bank customers to want personalized service from humans when they visit branches.
The survey of 1,064 credit union members found that credit union members, who are more likely than bank customers to visit branches, largely dislike the idea of fully automated branches and don’t really care whether those branches have “café-style” designs.
The survey also highlighted member demand for time control: 61% of the respondents said they won’t wait more than 10 minutes for help in a branch, almost three-quarters (73%) wanted branches to stay open beyond typical business hours (compared to 69% of bank customers). Virtually all respondents (91%) said they’d visit a branch at off-peak times if there were an incentive.
“The consumers’ preferences are changing in terms of what expectations are for service,” TimeTrade Vice President Lauren Mead said. “Services like Uber are really transforming expectations in terms of what consumers expect and I think, one, that reduces their patience for waiting.”
Credit union members are frequent branch users, according to the research — 43% visit a branch more than 10 times a year. Further, 62% said they like in-person branch visits, compared to 57% of bank customers.
“This provides credit unions with many chances to create a more personalized experience when members conduct business at a branch, creating opportunities to cross-sell other services and products such as loans, insurance and wealth management,” the study said.
The trick, of course, is providing that experience. The vast majority of respondents (67%) said they dislike the idea of fully automated branches (compared to 61% of bank customers). Also, most members don’t care about in-branch cafes, according to the research — only one in five credit union members said it mattered, compared to 26% of bank customers.
“When somebody comes into a branch, they really do have a purpose for the visit. Most people are really in a hurry and they don't want to spend any more time at a branch than they really have to,” Arizona Federal Credit Union Senior Director of Digital Banking Eric Givens said about the study results. Phoenix-based Arizona FCU has $1.5 billion in assets and 123,000 members.
“If somebody is taking their time to walk into a branch, if the first thing that you're going to do is just send them over to a something that's automated, it kind of defeats the purpose,” he said.
“Ideally what we want to come into a branch for is indeed those value-added services like, if they want to open up a new account or loan or realistically it comes down to the financial coaching, education, things of that matter, where just talking over the phone or looking at some language on an app isn't really going to give them the same amount of information or in the right way of receiving it,” he said.
According to the study, time control is an especially sensitive topic, particularly among millennials — a highly coveted demographic among credit unions. Sixty-eight percent of all respondents said they were willing to schedule an appointment to meet with a specialist (compared to 65% of bank customers), but the number spiked to 75% among millennials who want to talk with mortgage specialists or wealth management advisors.
“While millennials are a generation that has firmly embraced sharing models such as Airbnb and Uber, they still want to have personal, face-to-face conversations before they make major financial decisions,” the study said. “To win business from millennials — and turn them into lifelong, satisfied members — credit unions must market themselves effectively to this increasingly powerful generation. And, equally important, they must use the technologies preferred by millennials — online and mobile solutions — to bring them into the branch for the personalized conversations that drive business.”