Seven Ways Credit Unions Can Take the Lead in Digital Customer Service

For credit unions and small banks, keeping pace with the digital banking offerings from national banks can seem like an intractable challenge. Many of these massive institutions have invested billions in digital tech, offering massive websites and multi-featured apps. Some invest more in tech innovation than some credit unions generate in total revenue.


In such a lopsided situation, how can credit union Davids compete with big bank Goliaths? Here are seven key strategies for delivering digital experiences that are as good as, if not better than, those of the major national banks.


1) Don't assume your better-funded competitors are doing everything right: Many national banks provide strong customer service experience, but not every function they offer actually helps people. Ask your customers what they most want, and focus on meeting those needs. Look at your contact center call statistics to understand the most common customer challenges and find the best ways to address them. In CX, ‘smart’ can beat ‘expensive.’ 


2) Stop playing catch up: Customer expectations are constantly changing, and something that pleased customers a few years ago may seem archaic today. Don't waste time chasing the digital banking and customer service experiences large banks have created. Instead, focus on what your customers want today. 


3) Adopt agile processes and technology: Many companies have developed resources like customer portals that offer solutions for the most common customer challenges but don’t solve mid- and long-tail challenges. Finding fast and cost-effective ways to address all challenges customers may reasonably be expected to face is critical. If you don't, customers will keep relying on traditional service channels and may resent not having an easy digital option. 


4) Lean into the core credit union strength of personal service: One of the key reasons credit unions have been successful for so long is that they offer outstanding personal service. The rise of digital has profoundly changed how people interact with financial institutions. Customers are entering branches far less frequently, so they don’t benefit from the personal touch as often. To compensate, ensure great digital experiences fill in the gaps and put personalization at the center of your digital customer service strategy. Use your customer data to tailor experiences to individual customers. Customers hate having to repeat themselves — it makes them feel uncared for. They’ll appreciate pre-filled forms that use information your credit union already has. 


5) Focus on speed and simplicity: While the large banks have created solutions that can solve many problems, this can make their sites, apps, and other assets daunting. If you can solve customer needs faster, they will prefer your approach. Rather than focusing on a single digital “destination” that meets all needs, focus on the path of least resistance for individual use cases. This will ultimately yield the best solution for customers with that specific need, and speedy resolution drives customer satisfaction. 


6) Solve problems before they arise: Signals in your customer data can anticipate customer needs. Proactive care enables even small financial institutions to deliver the personalized experiences customers want. Using data triggers, credit unions can push alerts and tools for customer resolution before problems arise. Combining an alert with a resolution tool is a great way to maximize value. It’s great to warn a customer in time to avoid a late payment, but it's even more powerful if the warning comes with a link enabling the customer to pay immediately.


7) Choose the right tech for the challenge: Many companies are charging headfirst into applying new technology like generative AI and large language processing to transform every aspect of customer service. However, proven technology solutions are often faster and easier for customers to use than more advanced technologies. Think about the simplest way to address the customer's challenge and leverage the technology that delivers that simple approach most efficiently. For example, if a customer simply needs to change her address, a simple form will be much faster and easier to use — not to mention less expensive — than an elaborate chatbot. 


It's never easy to bring down Goliath, but focusing on the right strategies makes it possible. While massive tech teams and deep pockets are big advantages for large banks, your credit union also has unique strengths, including the most important strength of all: a passion for treating every individual well. Digital is just one more way to show it. 


About Author:
After serving as an engineer and professional services manager at Cosmocom and Enghouse Interactive, Dr. Ori Faran in 2012 founded Callvu to help companies build easy-to-use digital experiences that automate customer service through seamless self-serve and agent-led interactions. He continues to serve Callvu as CEO. (For a time he ran the company under the name 'FICX,' but he brought back the original name.) In 2023 Dr. Faran earned a Ph.D. in Management and Business Administration from the Swiss Management Center, formerly known as SMC University. 

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