Business Data Incorporated (BDI) customer relationship and sales expert, Brian Orta, discusses credit union (CU) industry learnings from the industry’s adaptations and needs exposed during the 2020 coronavirus. Orta talks with Digital Banking Podcast Host, Josh DeTar about the unique challenges and opportunities the COVID-19 pandemic has generated for Credit Unions (CUs) to innovate methods for improving their customer and employee experience.
Brian provides perspective on the shared circumstance in which all industries across the global business sector are struggling to adapt during the pandemic. He provides exciting insights into specific problems and the potential range of innovative solutions in new business practices and technology applications in service environment. He examines the kinds of advancements in technology that are necessary for realizing meaningful small increases in service value as well as more extensive upgrades in systems and practices to meet rapidly changing consumer demands.
He further comments on adaptive approaches for CU professionals and external agents networking on behalf of CU support services and product vendors, during the current health and economic crisis and beyond it, as the industry continues on in the digital era. He offers observations, ideas, and recommendations for replacing traditional ways of networking during this time.
Brian encourages thinking about the role of technology to maximize opportunities for improving efficiencies of CU operations. He explains the need for CUs to optimize treatment of customer relationships in the digital sphere. He also surprisingly considers the benefits of a refreshing return to some “old-school” ways of networking and general communications online, as feasible during the pandemic and even in pre-digital-age modes, as practical again after the pandemic.
⚡ Change doesn’t have to be transformational to make a difference for CU members and staff. “The details matter. Whether COVID has forced you to take another look from a credit perspective at what some of those pain points are, and what’s just sort of annoying. Think about how to innovate to improve the lives of your employees or your members. Because, it’s those little annoyances that, once improved, cause people to say, “Hey, that’s a lot better. I like this.” It doesn’t have to be big every time you make a change.”
⚡ Everyone is in the same boat with the business handicaps from the pandemic. It’s not that one particular industry, or one particular credit union, or one particular vendor is dealing with this challenge on their own. We’re all trying to figure it out. “We’ve been thinking about how we can replace some of the traditions for our customers or prospective customers. We’ve got to think differently.”
⚡ Credit unions are in a very pivotal time right now. “Across the industry, CUs are seeking to develop their technology, to rise to the challenges of the shift to digital. There are a thousand players springing up that do data analytics and the like. There are a lot of dots that need to be connected. It’s something we’ve got to catch up on.”
In trying to replicate the in-person encounter, what can be done to create a successful experience for CU members and employees who attend online meetings and events?
“It’s a rough world. We’ve been thinking about how we can replace some of the traditions that have become a part of every year for our customers or prospective customers. With one thing after another, it’s like “Oh, well, nope, can’t do that anymore.” We’ve got to think differently. But it’s also been really interesting. In one online meeting, we’d have 40 to 50 people on camera. We felt like we actually got to know them through that. We did do a virtual happy hour and we got to meet everybody’s dogs and kids, and it was actually really awesome. Then, I got to thinking, even if we had met in person, I never would’ve met Shelby’s new puppy.”
The industry needs technologies that enable CUs to rise to the challenges of the new era of analytics.
Credit unions major opportunity during this pandemic. But, they’re going to need fantastic technology, to bring that relationship-building user experience in branch networking activities between credit unions and members to the digital world. “There are a thousand players springing up that do data analytics and the like. There are a lot of dots that need to be connected. It’s something we’ve got to catch up on.”
Amazon and Google and Walmart, they all want into the banking space because there is such a rich set of data.
“We all hear credit unions talk about how they don’t want to be sales, sales, sales, but if a consumer needs a financial product, that’s service. So, why don’t you call it cross service. Your consumer needed access to capital, and you proactively found a solution for them. That’s not sales, that’s solving problems.”
Why has data suddenly become the new focus of customer relationship management?
“I’m really fascinated about what’s happening in the data space. I hear people in CUs say, “I wish we had that kind of data (that the biggest companies have) to know what our members are looking for in their user experience. But the truth is, we do. The credit union industry probably has more data than Amazon does on me as a consumer of retail products, which is why Apple wants to know where you bank and what you’re spending money on, and Amazon wants to know what you’re spending money on. They want to get themselves one step closer and closer to that garden of information you’re protecting? That garden is at the credit union.”
So the billion dollar question is, “What do we need to do to change distribution between credit unions and members?”
“Most of the major companies that have sprung up in the last 10 years didn’t build something, per se. What they did was change distribution. What made them billions and billions of dollars was just changing distribution.” For the credit union, whatever idea you have for innovating change, “you have to genuinely want to make the member’s life better. If this is just for making money, consumers are going to smell that out, and they’re going to go somewhere else.
Credit unions are already doing rewards on their credit cards. So, think about being able to engage with small businesses in your community. How many credit unions do you know of in the last five years that have said we’re going into business banking? How valuable for that little mom-and-pop sandwich shop to say, “We have 10,000 of our members that go to Subway three times a week?” It takes a little effort, but how profound would that be for that small business, and how endeared would that credit union be to that small business, if you were actually able to help them grow? By the way, the consumer got a better sandwich too. So, if it’s a genuine pursuit, I think there are a lot of opportunities.”
What is the significance of agile in today’s CU ecosystem?
“Fifteen years ago when, bank or credit union asked, “Can we change this? Can we change that? a lot of times the answer was, “That’s hard coded.” Could you imagine giving that answer today? You’ve gotta be agile. You’ve gotta be able to change things. API has really, really brought the industry a long way. For example, there might be a new vendor that the client’s working with, and they want to have a small plug-in to the online banking. You can say, “Yeah, not a problem. Let’s just get us on the phone together, and we’ll sort it out, we’ve got a couple ways to do it.” Consumer expectations just change so fast. Vendor platforms that get directly interacted with by consumers have got to be able to change quickly.
Why are CU systems asking for things like SDKs for their hardware platforms and other internal resources for tech development?
“By educating the credit union side to realize how expensive some of these wants or needs are, both sides get better. Some CUs can afford to do that kind of development work in-house, or with a contractor. Some outside vendors do it so well for the credit union as a third party, that the CU can just structure it as a project. Q-Tech comes to mind. Those guys can do stuff not only fast, they understand the credit union world so well, and they’re so capable, that for some CUs that can’t afford to bring the resources in-house, it’s a really, really good option, and very viable. Q-Tech has done it for hundreds, if not thousands of credit unions. They understand the context of what is supposed to happen. They don’t just read specs and build products. So, for those that can’t afford it in-house, there are some really, really cool options for project type development.
Unlike banks, which are known to be driven by ROI only, credit unions look at experience from an end-user (member’s) perspective. How does that give them a leg up?
Every single detail matters in creating flow and space, and making sure it fits your brand. “If you then, for example, do something like sending out an unprofessional statement, it just obliterates that. I respect the challenge that credit unions have in looking at so many different systems through the member’s lens, and saying, “My member’s experience matters.” Are you cutting it? Are you reaching the bar that’s set by our best partner, putting our brand’s best foot forward? I think that’s why you’re starting to see some CUs hiring user experience officers. It’s great to see the willingness within organizations to make changes and ask tough questions.”
Brian Orta’s favorite online resources
“YouTube Mike does a great job, and he’s just so engaging and friendly. I think CU Broadcast is just always, always crushing it. CU Times, obviously. American Banker has done a good job of hosting a lot of podcasts lately. It’s good for regular business world stuff. On a daily basis, I need to know what’s happened in the marketplace, at least from a summary perspective and just the general business world stuff. I’m also big into volunteering my time. So, I follow some local organizations, things happening in the community. Community is a big, big thing for me.”