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Credit Unions Archives - POPi/o

Image of smiling call center employees

Surges, Staffing, and Strategy: How Financial Institutions can Stay Ahead with Digital Communications

By | Blog, Digital Communications

The pandemic has tested all of us. We’ve all changed our lives, our ways of doing business, the dynamics of our relationships, and more. For many of us, these changes have presented new challenges that have tested our patience and forced us to make sacrifices. For some of us, the cost has been far greater than an inconvenience or a missed opportunity. 

And now, a full two years after this all began, the COVID infection rate in the US is the highest it’s ever been. In-person appointments are being cancelled, remote work is being enacted (or reenacted), and Financial Institutions (FIs) across the country are rolling out digital platforms to serve their customers outside the branch.

These are a few of the reasons why Digital Communications is more important than ever before. With POPi/o, your FI can deliver all your personalized, branch-based services through convenient digital channels, allowing your team to safely serve customers in a convenient and cost-effective way. 

Staffing Struggles

Allowing banks and credit unions to operate safely in the midst of COVID surges is only one of the ways a Digital Communications platform could help your institution navigate the current landscape. Because, along with surges, many FIs are also facing serious staffing issues. According to The Financial Brand, 80% of community banks and credit unions believe their biggest concern going into 2022 is staffing. Many branches are staffed with only one or two employees, and some are limited to drive-thru-only service.

With such limited access and so few experts to serve their customers, it’s become hard for FIs to operate efficiently. Opportunities are lost, call centers are overloaded, and product experts are underutilized. But with an effective digital platform, your FI can serve a broad customer base, even with scaled-back staffing. 

Lending officers and other experts can work remotely or from a centralized location, eliminating the need to staff branches with all your product specialists. And with the integration of an AI assistant for simple customer service inquiries, you can lessen the workload for your call centers.

Digital Strategy

An effective digital strategy can not only act as a safety net from staffing struggles and COVID surges, but can also provide added benefits and new opportunities. Centralized lending departments can be enacted to make services more efficient than ever before. Expanded service hours are made possible through serving customers outside the branch. And everything from simple interactions to detailed, branch-based processes can be driven through convenient digital channels.

In an unpredictable world, FIs still need a reliable way to service customer relationships and deliver personalized services. With a Digital Communications platform from POPi/o, your FI has all the tools it needs to stay ahead of the curve—no matter what comes your way. 

Ready to learn more? Let’s talk.

Image of Hurricane Ida flooding

Braving the Storm: How POPi/o Helped Xplore FCU Serve Members During Hurricane Ida

By | Blog, Client Experiences, Digital Communications

When Lousiana-based Xplore Federal Credit Union implemented the POPi/o platform a year ago, they didn’t know how heavily they would come to rely on it come hurricane season.

This summer, the deadly and destructive Hurricane Ida struck the struck the gulf coast, leaving many without power, food, water, and other vital resources. In the video below, Xplore President and CEO, Rafael Rondon summarizes the palpable sense of relief his credit union felt knowing they at least had POPi/o to help them continue serving members through this difficult time.

Being a Louisiana-based financial institution, Rafael and his team were no strangers to hurricanes. They had seen the damage sustained in previous hurricanes. So, when Hurricane Ida arrived, they knew they’d have to think fast to keep their members taken care of.

“Hurricane Ida hit on Monday morning,” Rafael begins, detailing the experience. “But by Friday afternoon we were up and running using POPi/o.” Watch the video below to hear more on how Xplore got up and running so quickly.

Most of what they were doing was assisting people who had evacuated the area. They were greeted with members that were grateful in the face of difficulty.

Another way POPi/o was able to help the situation was by providing the technology for Xplore’s employees to work from home during the hurricane. With POPi/o’s flexible platform, the Xplore team was still able to deliver vital services to members from outside their office.

But POPi/o also helped Xplore handle more pressing matters. Using POPi/o’s uniquely extensive capabilities, Xplore was able to provide emergency loans to members who were affected by the hurricane. In the video clip below, you can hear Rafael explain the value this service provided during his members’ immense time of need.

“Our video banking department was processing something like 120 emergency loans during those last two or three weeks of the month, after Hurricane Ida—because, you know, our members needed those emergency funds,” Rafael says, detailing the urgency of the situation they faced.

When asked if he could imagine repeating the experience without POPi/o, Rafael states plainly, “I couldn’t imagine not having POPi/o… It’s a scary thought to be honest with you.”

While members were able to receive some limited services from the credit union over their phone lines and mobile apps, only POPi/o allowed them to deliver their personalized, comprehensive services that they’re known for. To hear Rafael’s full answer, watch the video below.

And if you’re interested in learning more about POPi/o’s Digital Customer Engagement platform, talk with one of our experts.

Affinity Federal Credit Union in Grand Rapids

Putting People First With Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union

By | Blog, Video Banking

Affinity Federal Credit Union in Grand Rapids

One of the most fascinating things about Minnesota is the infrastructure. It’s a state that was built to thrive in the cold. In the major city of Minneapolis, for example, there are nearly 10 miles of enclosed pedestrian footbridges. Referred to as the Minneapolis Skyway System, the elevated bridges and tunnels connect 80 full city blocks, giving people access to numerous downtown destinations, free of exposure to the often frigid weather.

This type of industrious, connective thinking and planning seems to be built in to the mindset of many Minnesotans. They understand the importance of staying connected despite circumstances and environmental factors. For that reason, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Minnesota is a place where video banking has not only been adopted, but embraced.

“We felt like it just really opened up the capabilities for our membership.”

If you went to Minnesota and visited one of Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union’s 28 locations, you’d find a robust yet humble financial institution. Their locations are concentrated in the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas, but their footprint has increased in recent years. They’ve grown to serve smaller, more disparate communities in the far reaches of the state. 

Likewise, their assets have grown as well. At over $3 billion—and having grown from $2.4 billion just in the last year—Affinity Plus manages a significant amount of assets. But as a not-for-profit, member-owned cooperative, Affinity Plus isn’t only focused on their asset size. Their main focus is serving their 220,000 members. In their own words, they’re committed to “improving the lives of [their] members through meaningful banking, exceptional experiences, and trusted relationships.”

With the shuttering of branches during the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering on these key goals became difficult for Affinity Plus. But like a bridge built to connect people in a blizzard, the Minnesota credit union decided to use the adversity as an opportunity to improve their member experience. It was time for them to make the jump to video banking.

“We’ve been able to do everything that we do in a branch through video banking.”

“We started looking at it pre-pandemic,” said Jenny Nubeck, director of the Affinity Plus digital branch. “We felt like it just really opened up the capabilities for our membership.” Corey Rupp, Senior Vice President of Lending, shared the sentiment. He said the pandemic hastened their launch of video banking channels, but that it wasn’t the sole motivator leading up to it. Affinity Plus was already looking for ways to better serve their members and keep them connected—no matter where they were.

When asked how willing their members were to try the new service, Nubuck said she was surprised. Adoption of the video banking channels was higher than she’d expected. “It’s surprisingly simple,” she stated. “Based on everything we’re hearing from members, they’re like, ‘Ok, don’t let this service go away.’”

According to Rupp, the willingness to adopt is tied not only to the platform’s ease of use, but also to its versatility and functionality. “We’ve been able to do everything that we do in a branch through video banking,” Rupp said. “It’s been a great experience.”

“POPi/o has allowed Affinity Plus to see members again.”

Samantha Prudhon Falkowski, a member advisor at Affinity Plus, also commented on POPi/o’s functionality. Falkowski says she generates three to four loans per week through the video banking channel. And more importantly, she takes the video calls as a chance to discuss and compare options with members. By conversing face-to-face, Falkowski can get a sense of what the member is looking for, allowing her to best advise them. “The majority of calls that I’m seeing through video banking are people who want to have that in-depth conversation about ‘What’s the best recommendation?” 

By taking video calls and fielding members’ questions, Falkowski gets to restore the personal connection she shared with members before the pandemic. As she puts it, “POPi/o has allowed Affinity Plus to see members again—to see them in their own spaces, and to help them with their banking needs.”

To learn more about the adoption of video banking by Affinity Plus, watch the video case study.

CUbroadcast – POPi/o Customer Data Reveals Benefits of Virtual

By | POPi/o in the News | No Comments

This year, more than ever, the virtual branch has been discussed quite a bit — for obvious reasons surrounding the pandemic. It’s topic that’s increasing more and more for credit unions, as they discover new ways to serve their members in our current, touchless environment.

For a deeper dive on the virtual branch and its benefits to credit unions moving forward, we invited Jed Taylor, POPi/o President & COO, and Tim Pranger, POPi/o Director of Strategy & Solution Consulting, on the show. Jed and Tim talked about the rapid changes POPi/o saw during those first months of the pandemic — which resulted in its surge of client activity looking for digital answers.

They also discussed POPi/o’s customer data showing results of virtual branch benefits:

  • Members always have access to product experts for meaningful and profitable financial solutions
  • Never be over/understaffed in branches
  • Improve both customer and employee satisfaction

Do you have questions? Talk to a video banking expert.

Educators Credit Union Branch

Careful and Steady Wins the Tech Urgency Race

By | Blog, Video Banking | No Comments

Financial institutions have had to pivot quickly this year when it comes to delivering products and services, launching new delivery channels adding to and modifying using existing ones. Even those banks and credit unions confident in their digital delivery strategies were caught off guard by the dual challenges of operating remotely and switching to entirely digital interactions.

Andy Crisenberry, SVP of eLending Solutions at real estate lending fintech Black Knight, said his firm scrambled to provide support for its remote online notarization product after COVID-19 shuttered its clients’ real estate lending offices.

“This is a great technology solution that really helps with the challenges of COVID-19, but unless your business is ready to deploy, use and support RON, you won’t be very successful,” Crisenberry told HousingWire.

All new technology produces unexpected friction. In a normal year, launches are carefully planned and include feedback that identifies friction. Yes, COVID-19 drastically increased the urgency with which firms needed to launch technology or find new ways to use existing technology. However, increasing consumer expectations for intuitive, real-time digital service had already been pushing CX modernization forward faster than expected in all sectors well in advance of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Take, for example, the $2.5 billion Educators Credit Union in Racine, Wis. Like many community FIs, Educators had already determined smaller branches, supported by video access to centralized product specialists, was the most effective strategy to serve its market. It planned an in-branch video banking launch offering auto lending, mortgage and investment services that included training, testing and weeding out of all known friction points. On March 5, the credit union excitedly opened its first modern branch featuring video banking.

Less than two weeks later, COVID-19 closed every branch lobby in the credit union’s network. Existing online and mobile banking products handled essential transactions well on a dime, but new service friction points quickly popped up, including a hasty transition for employees to work from home.

Around this time, POPi/o reached out to Educators and asked if they would like to launch video banking digitally, through the credit union’s website. Within days, the executive team approved the initiative.

While this decision seems like a no brainer, consider that it required Educators to execute a 180-degree shift in video banking strategy. Staffing and workflows had to shift; the technology would now be used to provide branch services like cashless transactions and new accounts, not specialized lending and investments. Second, staff would have to be trained remotely and access new technology from their homes. Third, because Coronavirus had blocked access to lobby branch service, time was of the essence.

The solution to this challenge was a balance of speed and CX in the form of a measured, step-by-step rollout. To begin, Educators reviewed what it did know: how to train employees on using the technology and how to provide effective service on camera. It also had staff with video experience in its existing interactive teller machine service department, a valuable resource for the video skill set.

Within 60 days, the credit union had a team trained, staged, connected and ready to serve members via video banking. Educators was ready for the next step, a soft launch. On May 19, WeCU video banking branch was open for business. The launch was purposely limited, offering video banking via a widget button on the credit union’s website only a couple of days a week. Because there was no advertising, adoption numbers were small; on the first day, only 16 video calls were completed. However, this soft launch allowed the credit union to collect ample feedback from members and employees, and then take the time to address friction before taking the next step.

After one week, WeCU was promoted on the credit union’s website and social media accounts. Traffic climbed quickly and by the end of May, in just four total days of service, Educators had completed 193 video sessions.

Feedback and adjustments weren’t just limited to friction. From the first day, members raved about being able to see credit union employees face-to-face while in lockdown. Educators capitalized on the benefit of personalization and added the video banking representative’s branch location or department to the welcome screen.

Step by step, Educators collected feedback, made adjustments, increased service hours and carefully managed channel growth. Changes during the summer included increasing service hours to Monday through Saturday, providing staff with professional lighting, staging, and more on-camera training.

Educators launched its mobile app on August 12. After a couple of weeks to work out any bugs, a marketing campaign followed. By the end of October, ECU handled 5,278 sessions.

What began as an operational pivot during the Coronavirus pandemic has developed into a popular service delivery channel that members will continue utilizing after branches resume regular service. ECU didn’t change its original video banking strategy; it expanded it. The credit union will continue to offer video banking through digital channels, while also executing its original plan to provide specialized lending and investment services in branch from centrally located staff.

The future still isn’t clear when it comes to how COVID-19 has permanently changed consumer habits, but ECU has all its delivery bases covered with the ability to provide a branch experience in person or digitally through a virtual branch. This allows the credit union to focus on the future instead of worrying about it. ECU can instead focus on enhancing video banking to improve CX and achieve new member and loan growth goals.

Like other financial institutions, the Coronavirus shutdown turned ECU’s service delivery strategy on its head. Despite the urgency of the situation, credit union leaders calmly rolled out video banking using a carefully measured approach. The result was a new delivery channel that will pay dividends for ECU and its members long after its branch network reopens.

Interested in a deeper dive into Educators’ remarkable business pivot? Click here to download ECU’s case study and learn more about the unique way POPi/o approaches your growth and service goals.

To learn how POPi/o Video Banking can help your financial institutions maintain relevance and personal service, request a FREE demo.