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Branch by Branch: Delivering on the credit union promise of personalized service

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Credit unions have built their collective brand promise on providing personalized member service. But putting members first looks a lot different now than it did back in past decades when tellers could greet by name all the people who walked through the front door.

Members today expect more than a familiar face from their financial services providers. They require a wider range of products and services, a full array of delivery channel options, and account access whenever and wherever they want it. At the same time, they continue to appreciate good old-fashioned personal service. This is especially true of consumers who have specifically chosen to remain with or move their business to a financial institution that claims to be different from its competitors. If a credit union promises to put members first, the front line service it provides should clearly demonstrate that commitment.

How can credit unions deliver on the expectations of members to provide this combination of modern-day banking and individualized attention to their financial needs?Several timeless aspects of one-to-one personal service, combined with technological tools for branch management, can help zero in on the types of transactions and guidance members are seeking so the financial professionals staffing each branch can anticipate and deliver on those needs.

Each member is different, and so is each branch. Branches tend to reflect the character of their surroundings and, in general, the types of members who choose those locations. A branch in a neighborhood populated primarily with families with young children serves different needs than a branch with a prime spot in a business park. And neither serves the same type of members as the office within walking distance of residential developments that cater to active seniors.

A demographic survey can sketch in the outlines of the types of services a branch can expect to be in demand in its market area. Using data from the core processing system and lobby tracker software can supply more detailed information about members’ requests for service so front line employees can be trained and scheduled to be on hand and fully prepared to deliver the services members expect when they walk through the door.

There’s nothing like being greeted by name. Members want to be treated like people, not account numbers. Lobby tracking software invites members to sign in and state their business. Access to this information up-front facilitates queuing and gives financial professionals the information they need to greet members promptly and personally.

No one wants to stand in line too long. And on the flip side, overscheduling staff results in employees standing around idly when branch usage is low and drives up costs for credit unions and their members. By monitoring branch traffic, credit unions can more effectively schedule full- and part-time employees to be on hand during periods of peak demand.

The 2017 FMSI Teller Line Study, which analyzed patterns in more than 16 million branch transactions at banks and credit unions across the country, found that mornings are generally less busy than lunch hours and afternoons. Credit unions can combine core processing data with information from lobby tracker software to conduct individual branch analyses of types and volumes of transactions to better align scheduling with members’ banking habits.

Busy people enjoy this welcome: “I’ve got everything ready for you.” For the most part, the technology supports discussed thus far to improve branch service delivery operate in the background, but one new automated tool is designed to connect directly with members. Appointment-scheduling software appeal to busy people, ensuring that their time spent in the branch will be quick and productive—no waiting when they arrive and any preparation, such as having the right forms and documents lined up, completed in advance. Appointment apps also supply useful data for branch managers to track what types of transactions and guidance members are seeking.

Service delivery is not just about service. A key aspect of the members-first promise is that credit unions exist to provide value to their member-owners, not profits to shareholders. That return to members is conveyed in the best possible loan and deposit rates and low or no fees. Staff scheduling software can help credit unions reduce idle time among branch employees and identify blocks of time where secondary duties, such as outbound sales calls, can be assigned with the aim of enhancing revenue production.

The teller line study quantifies the impact of smarter scheduling and other strategies to improve branch efficiency on teller productivity and labor costs. According to that analysis, tellers working for FMSI’s top 10 clients, based on productivity measurements, handled an average 20.3 transactions per hour, compared to the 15.6 average for all credit unions included in the study. Labor costs per transaction for top performers averaged 94 cents, compared to $1.16 for all credit unions.

Understanding members and their banking preferences—what brings them to a branch and when and where they prefer to conduct these transactions—can help credit unions personalize member interactions, reduce wait time, and schedule staff more efficiently. While technology has upped the ante on how members define high-quality service, it can also help deliver on those expectations branch by branch.

meredith-deenMeredith Deen is Director, Products and Services for FMSI | A. Kronos Company, which provide financial institutions with business intelligence and performance management systems for efficient branch staff scheduling and lobby management. She can be reached at meredithdeen@kronos.com.

 

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