In last month’s Cooperative Trust column, Erin Steffen’s message was clear: Don’t be afraid to up sell your products to members, and start considering technology channels as critical components of your service. [See CU Times, April 4, page 17.]

Credit unions have established credibility in the financial services marketplace because of our white glove treatment for members in the past. And we certainly don’t want to forfeit that. However, what Steffen and the body of research on which she stands, is suggesting is that members’ notions of what constitutes white glove service are changing. For instance, where up selling used to be seen by a majority as suspicious, consumers are now more likely to appreciate having valuable product offers explained to them.

Up selling is something that credit unions can begin to easily and organically work into their sales and service cultures without huge capital investments. But what I am more often asked, from the perspective of my role in IT, is “What one technology should I invest in for 2012?” My usual answer is “It depends.” The first consideration, of course, is what technology your credit union already has in place and how your members rate the value of those products and channels. The second consideration is your membership profile, the people who will use your technology offerings. Business intelligence and analytic tools can help you determine current member usage habits for your technology channels, and surveys are important for identifying the new technologies your members want.

However, a growing body of research from reputable sources like Filene Research Institute and Novantas, reveals some general trends on credit unions and their competitors. For the average credit union, your technology strategy should aim at keeping pace with other credit unions and community banks while perhaps identifying one or two strengths, or cutting-edge offers, to differentiate your institution. Money spent on technology will not be a one-time investment.

Novantas and Filene have noted that the most successful financial institutions have accepted good enough customer satisfaction ratings for in-branch and call center service so they can invest more heavily in the convenience and functionality of their product and service delivery. The reason is that modern consumers are self-service and convenience oriented. To improve across-the-board service, credit unions need to be able to provide both emotional value and functional value in equal measure.

Evaluating the effectiveness of your credit union’s home page is of utmost importance. It is the first thing many new members will see and where current members start in signing on to online banking. It is also the single most frequent touch point you have to reinforce your brand with existing members.

Next, consider how your credit union can convert its vanilla online banking offer into a virtual branch. Online banking still hasn’t been surpassed by mobile banking as the preferred channel, so begin to improve on your standard offerings, like bill pay and paperless statements, with services like personal financial management and peer to peer  payments.

Finally, while mobile banking still hasn’t surpassed online banking, it is growing at a more rapid pace then online banking did when it was first released. Mobile banking is becoming a must have for many consumers, and as of the end of 2012 it will likely be a standard offering for most credit unions. If your credit union doesn’t yet offer mobile banking, begin evaluating it now.

The Cooperative Trust is a grassroots organization composed of several hundred young credit union professionals. Its activities include meetings, mentorships online collaboration and development projects. Opinions expressed are the personal views of the author.

Matt Weidler is an asset analyst at Evangelical Christian Credit Union, Brea, Calif.

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