[Originally Published in Credit Union Business News]
The financial industry has seen ups and downs for centuries. It’s actually the norm as currencies fluctuate, mortgage rates jump and plummet, and people change how they invest. We’ve all seen boom markets and severe downturns, but none of us have ever seen anything remotely like the current pandemic. It has changed everything for the credit union industry, from back-end technologies to customer experience. Unfortunately, in most cases, consumer interactions have suffered because the in-person experience is so different than it was even a few months ago. The good news is that new technologies are helping credit unions improve service and create better experiences for their members.
It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and that is especially true right now. Things that all of us have always taken for granted are now against the law or are strongly discouraged, as we collectively figure out ways to stay safe, keep our lives as normal as possible, and maintain a working economy. It’s not an easy juggling act for any business, but it’s especially difficult for credit unions because they can no longer provide a traditional user experience.
One area where credit unions are radically improving their service is in their online interfaces. There is a wide range of standards for web interface, but over the last six months, many credit unions have invested heavily in creating much better user experiences. Sometimes this is as simple as increasing the dollar value of checks that members can deposit. This may sound trivial, but for customers who are used to depositing checks physically, low daily limits can make it difficult for them to manage their finances. Other improvements include mortgage calculators and faster reporting times.
Another improvement that many credit unions have made is in scheduling phone sessions with employees. If you think about it, many people come into branches because they have complex questions that require deep expertise. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to allow walk-ins because of COVID-related restrictions on in-person meetings. Secure communications platforms have proven to be a major asset for credit unions that want to maintain a high level of touch and support in the absence of physical meetings.
Of course, face-to-face interactions are sometimes necessary. These can be as simple as people depositing checks because they don’t feel comfortable using ATMs or tools that allow them to make deposits directly from their phones, or as complicated as renegotiating a mortgage. Whatever the reason, credit unions don’t have the luxury of simply canceling all in-person interactions. At the same time, they can’t have physical ones because of social distancing protocols and regulations.
This is where virtual queuing is making a major difference, not only for credit unions but for businesses in almost every vertical. In simple terms, technology platforms allow people to enter a line without physically leaving their homes until it is their turn for service. This eliminates the need for physical waiting in common areas such as lobbies and reduces the spread of the coronavirus. This is especially important as we head into the fall, when many medical professionals expect a second wave of the disease to hit North America. In this situation, minimizing lines isn’t simply a convenience: it is a necessity that will protect public health and save lives.
There is no magic button that is going to make the coronavirus go away, nor is there a killer app that will make everything easier. The bottom line is that the “new normal” is a scary and confusing place where even something as oculus as a handshake could have serious health repercussions for life. In that context, technology has the opportunity to make things smoother and better for credit unions and their members.
Kevin Grauman is the President and CEO of Qless, a line management system used by retail, education and government industries. He is no stranger to the world of startups, with a proven track record as a successful U.S.-based executive leader and entrepreneur. Kevin has been recognized as one of the “100 Superstars of HR Outsourcing in the USA” by HRO Today Magazine.