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SEATTLE – When he couldn’t find out online if his credit union offered international wire transfers, Chuck Van Court knew he was on to something. The former CIO of the Federal Home Loan Bank in Seattle now is president of Fuze Digital Solutions (www.fuzeds.com), which in less than a year has signed up the first six credit union clients for its knowledge/contact management solution called Fuze MemberLink. Van Court says what he should have been able to find out online at night was simply not there and he had to wait until morning to make a call – frustrating to him and more expensive to his credit union than if the information had been available. “To ensure that this poor experience was not limited to my $300 million credit union, I looked at some of the larger credit unions and banks and found the same ineffective delivery,” he says. “I knew then that were was a definite need for our product.” Van Court and his colleagues spent more than 15,000 hours developing MemberLink, a Web-based solution that combines e-mail and contact management, knowledge sharing and self-service and assisted service. “To arrive at our core functionality, we extensively researched knowledge management, e-service and CRM/MRM offerings,” Van Court says. “We then extracted what we thought was most important from each to ensure that members could be afforded consistent and accurate service.” Being able to provide that kind of service is why All City Credit Union decided to sign on, says Scott Prior, marketing director for the $38 million, 6,500-member CU in Everett, Wash. “We believe these content and knowledge tools will help our members get answers on their time. If we had a 24-hour call center, then this wouldn’t be as important to us,” he says. The credit union also is using Fuze MemberLink to create an intranet and electronically package and present information for its board meetings. Small size also limits budgets, and Prior says he found the new company’s pricing structure “mutually agreeable” and that he expects All City’s investment “to pay for itself in short order” if the CU continues using the solution the way it plans to. Credit unions – with their emphasis on member service and consumer education – were a natural place to focus the company’s efforts, Van Court says. “We saw a lot of money being spent on online offerings and not much being spent on extending the required support and service expected for broad adoption of the channel,” he says. Efforts to meet that kind of need – including new MRM tools – also were too expensive and difficult to implement “for all but the very largest credit unions,” Van Court says. “We also saw an industry that was offering more and more products and services, yet was having a tough time educating their members and staff alike.” (That need also is addressed by MemberLink’s use of “knowledge packs,” which are modules of information about such specialized areas as personal finance (for member access) and coming soon, regulatory and compliance issues (for internal use). The company’s offerings includes a knowledge base called Fuze Q&A Suite, which is “seeded” with 300 common questions and then grows as it is used and has areas targeted separately for members and employees. Contact management, meanwhile, includes routing and monitoring tools to make sure questions are answered correctly and quickly, and for the do-it-yourselfers, sophisticated search engines make the system easy to use and robust, Van Court says. He adds that while the ability to do more traditional MRM functions will be coming soon, this is not about that kind relationship management. “There is clearly some overlap, but it primarily comes down to focus,” he says. “MRM is focused on sales and marketing, does not include a centralized knowledge base and generally only extends its support components to support staff. “Fuze MemberLink is focused on member service and support, extensively leverages a centralized knowledge base and extends a digital support channel throughout the credit union.” He adds: “We believe that the foundation for loyal and profitable members is earned through service and support and not by bombarding them with cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.” MRM solutions also can be too big for the small credit union, says Laurel Ruelos, eCommerce manager at another new Fuze Digital Solutions client, NW Federal Credit Union in Seattle ($253 million, 25,000 members). “Many of the MRM/CRM solutions we’ve seen seemed too cumbersome to install, use and learn for the time and staff that we have available to us currently,” she says. “Fuze MemberLink offered a way for us to get our foot in the door with some CRM capabilities, plus it offered us a way to respond and track our members’ electronic communications with us in a cost-effective, easy-to-integrate way,” Ruelos says. The ASP service is scalable to credit unions of any size, offered as a hosted or licensed model, with pricing based on transaction use and generally costing $200 to $7,000 a month with about $5,000 in setup fees, according to Jean Van Court, Chuck Van Court’s wife and herself the former marketing officer at the Seattle Federal Home Loan Bank. “We expect to move to a fixed monthly subscription model based on asset size once we have demonstrated the product’s value proposition,” she says. In addition to six credit unions, the company has five other customers, ranging from a county government to an international gaming firm. They all found Fuze through Internet searches, as the company focuses its efforts on credit unions, the Van Courts say. -

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