SACRAMENTO, Calif. – SAFE Credit Union has made the new account process similar to online shopping. The CU’s New Account Opening Process, or NAOP, invites prospective members to select various financial products through a graphic-filled, interactive Web page display. The CU said this is a dramatic departure from the passive, static system employed by most financial institutions where new members are led through a formulaic list of questions and give answers that disappear into a computer on the other side of the desk. “It used to be that we wouldn’t even let prospective members see the computer screen; we tried to hide it from them. But we’re not hiding it anymore,” said Kathleen Harless, SAFE’s Assistant Vice President of Member Service Administration. “Now, it’s a very smooth, visual interactive presentation for a new member.” SAFE is so pleased with the new system that it has partnered with a company called Better Branches to offer the software behind this approach to other credit unions throughout the nation. No one at SAFE is worried about giving away trade secrets, though. “After all, we all have the same last name: credit union,” said SAFE President and CEO Henry Wirz. Software connected with the NAOP system also includes a lobby management tool that tracks staff time spent on opening new accounts and a variety of other tasks, such as providing notary services. There is also a way to measure customer waiting time. Because of the new emphasis on customer service, SAFE is putting its new account representatives through a two-day training that teaches them how to build the relationship with the prospective member, rather than just processing data. “I like it because it allows me to have more conversation with the member,” Service Representative Michelle Ramsey of SAFE’s Roseville branch. “It’s not so much data entry anymore.” The representatives were asked to give their advice in the creation of the system, and in making improvements.

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