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Virtual Branch Archives - Page 3 of 3 - POPi/o

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Easy Social Distancing Ideas When Branch Lobbies Re-open

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Digital service providers are reporting explosive increases in user data over the past two months as shelter-in-place orders have forced consumers to go digital. Attitudes toward digital have seemingly changed overnight – what was once a user experience enhancement is now literally an essential service channel.

The term disruption had run its course before COVID-19, but this largely unexpected even is just that, a major disruption for nearly every sector. Now that we’re about three months into this global pandemic, financial institutions are no longer wondering if, but how much COVID-19 will change the way they deliver products and services.

The answer could mean shuttering even more branches and once again rethinking branch strategy. Consider this: increased digital adoption won’t be the only drain on branch traffic. Experts say the stay-at-home environment could be a way of life for a long time. Certain groups of people, including retirees, those with compromised immune systems, and those fearful of infectious disease may forever avoid in-person interactions.

There’s more. Experts say social distancing could be required by authorities well beyond 2020.

As long as someone in the world has COVID-19 and there is no vaccine or herd immunity, breakouts can and will keep recurring without stringent controls, wrote MIT Technology Review Editor-in-Chief Gideon Lichfield. Even if social distancing measures are only put into place every time ICU admissions begin to spike, research models predict that strategy would still require a schedule of roughly two months under quarantine and one-off.

Harvard disease experts agree, saying that some form of intermittent social distancing may need to be in place until 2022 and possibly longer.

Social distancing is beginning to be referred to as physical distancing, which is a more accurate description. Despite being physically separated by quarantine, people have still found ways to be social. Neighbors have entertained each other around the world with balcony musical performances. Friends and family have honored graduates and birthdays with car parades. We’ve turned video conferencing into virtual happy hours that even have their own signature drink, the Quarantini.

Those under COVID-19 quarantine have shown that while they are willing to adhere to physical distancing, they still require face-to-face contact, even if it’s via video. To maintain brand loyalty, financial institutions will need to find ways to provide that level of human service. Many of them will have to find ways to make branching work despite the challenges, which will likely include the need to keep everyone at least six feet away from each other, limiting people in the branch at one time and increased personal hygiene and cleaning standards.

The solution lies in using technology in new, creative ways to provide meaningful social interaction, just as parents have created virtual graduation and birthday parties for their children. We’ve seen credit unions and banks integrate video banking like POPi/o into their branches in creative ways that provide a superior user experience while also supporting the institution’s bottom line.

For example, one financial institution completely centralized its lending operations, even going as far as to restructure branch employee incentives to guarantee their support of video banking in lending. To ensure privacy, an office in each branch was reserved exclusively for video banking sessions. This institution already had a pandemic-friendly branch strategy that minimizes employee exposure and maintains excellent physical distancing between two groups of customers: those completing transactions and borrowers.

Another video banking institution has closed its branches to walk-up traffic, performing only select services for customers by appointment only. However, it had already installed personal video teller machines outside of the lobby, providing an on-demand way to accept check and cash deposits, make cash withdrawals, and, if needed, connect to a live video teller who can perform more robust transactions and problem-solving. Time will tell if this strategy will work long term, but because video tellers had already been integrated into the branch strategy – even if only intended to extend service hours, not perform essential services during a national emergency – this financial institution didn’t skip a beat providing full branch service while being a good corporate citizen.

Are you frustrated with what seems like no-win options to adjust your branching strategy to physical distancing and other measures that will keep your employees and customers safe? Let POPi/o help you brainstorm ways your financial institution can use video banking to quickly and effectively meet the needs of your customers and your bottom line.

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How COVID-19 Could Change Banking Forever

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Throughout history, major events have created permanent, unexpected shifts in human behavior. People have been forced into lockdown to stop the spread of disease before; the long-term psychological effects of those quarantines have been studied, so we have some idea of what to expect. However, the length and global reach of this isolation are unmatched, and there is no doubt this traumatic event will produce permanent changes. 

Here are three impacts of COVID-19 and their respective long-term outcome for community banks and credit unions.

Fear of public gatherings

After this pandemic has long passed, a generational shift will produce new preferences when it comes to public gatherings and face-to-face interactions.  Following previous outbreaks in Asia, face masks became a normal and expected day-to-day accessory. With the fear of contagions and mandatory stay-at-home orders, people are becoming more comfortable replacing physical interactions with digital visits.  The long-term shift will come as many start preferring it as a way to manage lingering fears of contracting a fatal disease. Perhaps you’ve already seen this fear play out on social media in emotional debates about whether or not a COVID-19 vaccine is required before reinstating sporting events, concerts, and other large public gatherings. In particular, subsets of the general population who are concerned about germs will be more sensitive to the risks involved. 

The effect on FIs: Traffic at branches has been decreasing for years; however, fear combined with increased digital channel adoption will send this trend into overdrive. After all, it’s mostly older consumers who still use branches, and this age group will be understandably shaken by losing friends to COVID-19. However, older generations also value face-to-face service and prefer doing business with specific employees. Not only will video banking fill that service gap for this market, but adoption will also be easier than ever because so many grandparents have been using video to communicate with family during the quarantine. 

We’ve said for years that consumers want to choose how they engage with their FI. If they can do it all digitally, more power to them. But in tumultuous times like now, people need more help from real people. Maybe they can’t pay their existing monthly loan payment due to reduced hours. Do they refinance the existing loan? Roll it into a HELOC? Find another solution? To solve this problem, they need a financial counselor, and that’s something credit unions and community banks can and should offer. Video banking supports that consultative relationship while still protecting the consumer and employees.

Economic shifts

I’m confident that the stock market and U.S. economy will survive and continue to lead the world; however, segments of the economy already affected by quarantine orders may not completely recover. Small restaurants, travel industries, commercial real estate, and auto industries are all likely to face a protracted slowdown. 

The effect on FIs: Financial institutions that serve these industries will suffer resultant impacts on their businesses as well.  Although markets shift and change every day, this change is so drastic and unexpected, we may see some financial institutions fail or merge for survival similar to the mortgage meltdown in the late 2000s.  Those looking to thrive must find ways to economically provide their services. Again, we see video banking as a possible solution for cost-conscious service delivery. 

Work from home

Now that a majority of U.S. workers are gaining remote work experience, a return to the office will be a tough sell. Let’s start with the dress code: sales figures from Walmart that report the chain selling out of tops but not pants. Americans have happily embraced new workplace standards that only require professionalism from the waist up and allow for interruptions from children during meetings.

The effect on FIs: Like everyone else in America, financial services employees will want to continue to work from home. Working from home and the schedule flexibility it will bring could create the need for, and ability to offer, longer service hours. While that might be possible from a technology standpoint, security will be an issue for FIs, because video conferencing apps like Zoom they weren’t built to handle secure financial information and workflows. We’ve helped our customers use the POPi/o platform to not only serve customers securely but also support employees who must now work from home and handle sensitive consumer information. 

Change isn’t easy for anyone.  Big external events (like a global pandemic) create new circumstances and could be the stimulus for permanent change.  Good luck to you and your financial institution as you navigate the new normal post-Covid-19.

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Video Banking Protects Employees and Consumers

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POPi/o Covid-19 Response

As I write this, the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. has risen to 6,574, and that number is sure to rise by the time you are reading this. Every state in the union has announced positive cases of Covid-19 and most have declared mandatory shelter in place orders. The financial markets have continued to tumble throughout the month of March and the Federal Reserve Board announced its first emergency rate cut since the 2008 financial crisis.

The fatality rate for Covid-19 isn’t as high as other viruses, but what seems to make Covid-19 frightening is how contagious it seems to be. Evidence that Covid-19 is more contagious than estimated lies in the numbers: the virus has reached 210 countries on six continents in a matter of weeks, and many of the infected report no contact with anyone known to be exposed to the virus.

At a time like this, how does a Financial Institution protect their staff and consumers? Most FI’s are choosing to close branches. During the month of March, I talked to hundreds of FI’s. In those meetings, I learned that most branch lobbies remained open on March 16th, but by the end of that week and early into the following week, the majority of branch lobbies had closed or restricted their access.

With this restricted access to physical locations, how can FI’s maintain business continuity? Amid the fear, there is some positive news: today’s technology allows financial institutions to provide essential services much easier than during previous pandemics. During the SARS outbreak of 2002, when most financial institutions last updated their business continuity plans, customers utilized call centers, ATMs and online banking services. These days, technology has enabled several additional tools such as mobile banking, mobile check deposit, video teller machines (ITMs), and video banking tools.

This transition to new technologies is happening already. Within 10 days of Covid-19 hitting the U.S. shores, our video banking company, POPi/o, saw video call volume jump 50%. We also saw a rapid shift from our in-branch video call volume to mobile and web video calls. Other financial services providers report digital channel traffic over the last few months to be equal to traffic during all of 2019. We expect traffic to continue growing.

During this pandemic, consumers need access to your FI resources more now than ever. Whether they need to discuss loan modifications or to apply for the government’s payroll protection program, consumer needs are just as high as their anxieties. Video Banking tools can assist financial institutions when they are forced to close branches, or when consumers are unable to leave their homes. FI’s can now deliver teller services from Interactive Teller Machines and with POPi/o Video Banking offer in-depth banking consultations and account services. Today’s Video banking is far more robust than basic communication via phone or video conferencing and allows for new accounts, loan origination, funding new accounts, exchanging documents, signing applications, and any number of account servicing needs.

Before today’s recent events, many of our credit union and bank clients have found POPi/o video banking to be useful in assisting customers who are homebound due to age, illness or disability. Others used it to assist professionals in medical, military or other circumstances that didn’t allow for quick trips to a branch. Now we see personal branch services being delivered to consumers in self-isolation, oftentimes with the staff member safely working from home.

If your credit union or bank is reviewing their business continuity plan and looking for additional ways to provide essential services using digital channels, request a demonstration or give us a call. We’d be glad to discuss how video banking can become an integral part of pandemic mitigation that protects your staff and consumers. Until then, stay safe, and healthy.

Blue holiday infographic of staff saying thank you to customers with gift

We’re Grateful for Video Banking’s Unexpected Gifts

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The Holidays are a time to reflect upon the past year and focus on gratitude and service. Gratitude can take many forms, such as feeling grateful for financial success, heartwarming gifts, the important people in your life, and even the wisdom you’ve gained from life’s ups and downs of the past year.  As we dig even deeper into gratitude we begin to feel grateful for the things we take for granted, like our health, mobility, food, clean drinking water and even our freedom.

Freedom isn’t just political; it means different things to different people.

Blue holiday infographic of staff saying thank you to customers with gift

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than one in four adults in the United States live with some type of disability. The most common disability is a lack of mobility, which makes the freedom of being able to walk severely difficult or impossible for nearly 14% of Americans.

Many of us take for granted the freedom of being able to handle day-to-day tasks on our own without relying on help from someone else.

When we first started exploring video banking and the impact it would have on people’s lives, we always focused on convenience and how to get services directly to a consumer without friction. Never once did we think it could help so many gain freedom in the way they banked.

But we are incredibly grateful it did.

For example, Idaho Central Credit Union a $4.8 billion credit union headquartered in Chubbuck, Idaho, was able to use video banking to serve a quadriplegic member face-to-face that was an hour away from any branch location. The ability to see and talk to his loan officer allowed him to feel like a piece of independence was given back to him. Service provides assistance to those in need, even when you’re not aware of it, and we are grateful video banking was able to help this happen.

Cobalt Credit Union, a $1 billion institution in Council Bluffs, Iowa, shared a different kind of assistance success story. This member, who is deaf, wasn’t able to access the credit union’s call center and if they needed assistance beyond what was available online or through the mobile banking app, they had to visit a branch in person. With Cobalt’s new video banking channel, however, the member was able to both see the representative on screen and use the app’s chat feature to clarify their banking needs. Now, this member can enjoy full service, at-home banking. We are grateful video banking was able to change how this member interacted and accomplished their banking needs.

Pioneer Federal Credit Union, a $500 million institution located in Mountain Home, Idaho, was able to serve a member who was severely injured in a rodeo accident and had to adjust to depending upon others to assist with their financial transactions and business. We hear a lot about accessibility when it comes to your financial institution’s digital channels, but providing accessibility to your people can mean the world to those in need. We are grateful Pioneer was able to go above and beyond with video to help serve this member and countless others who have let Pioneer know that this engagement channel “has given them their freedom back.”

There are countless more stories of how video banking has supported financial freedom and accessibility. We’ve heard about pilots making video banking calls from the tarmac, consumers accessing financial assistance via video from overseas, parents receiving face-to-face service without having to drag kids along to the branch, and working class Americans who were finally able to connect and accomplish their financial needs.

We didn’t anticipate video banking would change lives. But this Holiday season, as we reflect upon the past year, we are beyond grateful that it did.

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Four New Service Standards to Keep Your Eye On in 2020

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We all know what the Amazon effect is, right? That’s when your consumers expect you to offer digital service and delivery on par with the $178B retail and tech giant.

That’s why it’s crucial you make the most of every single penny allotted to your 2020 tech budget. It’s not enough to compare your service to the other community FI across town. You need to measure up to the general service standard consumers expect across all industries.

According to consumer service experts, here are four service standards American consumers will expect from all retail firms in 2020.

African American parents with children on their backs taking a walk

Consumer-centric attitude

We’ve all heard the statistics about how it costs five times more to acquire a new consumer than it does to keep an existing one. So if consumers expect Amazonian digital service and experts call for a possible recession in 2020, you’d better believe successful firms will put more emphasis on retaining consumers next year than acquiring new ones.

Those digital channels that make product and service delivery so efficient can be your best friend and worst enemy when it comes to word-of-mouth referrals. How often do you see posts on social media from friends who are delighted with a product or company? Probably just as often as you see posts from those who are furious with poor service and exacting revenge.

Word of mouth has expanded exponentially from yesterday’s one-on-one friendly chats. Your consumers can share their service experience with hundreds or thousands of people (or millions, if it goes viral) just by pressing enter. It only takes one bad experience to wipe out the gains from an entire marketing campaign, which is a sobering thought during budget season.

You absolutely must prioritize providing your existing consumers with the very best service you can provide, whether it’s face-to-face or through digital channels.

Personalized service

If you’re in marketing, you’ve probably already heard of “a market of one.” Your consumers expect you to know which products and services they’re interested in and which ones they aren’t. How in the world can they expect such a thing? Because these days, most people – especially young adults – have a general understanding of big data and how it can be used to personalize the consumer experience. They know that as their financial institution, you have a lot of data at your disposal.

The days of “do you want fries with that” sales pitches are over. Studies have shown that young adults aren’t weirded out seeing auto loan ads pop up in their social media newsfeeds after researching new cars online. In fact, they expect it. They aren’t going to waste their time searching for financial services when your competitors make it so easy they don’t have to.

And even if your credit union or community bank provides a better deal, your consumers will never know about it.

Life moves quickly these days, and consumers don’t have much tolerance for organizations that waste their time. A 2020 budget priority should be providing personalized service that leverages consumer data across multiple touch points that include your website, call center, branches and mobile app.

Secure concierge

Speaking of not wasting consumers’ time, another service expectation in 2020 will be the ability to perform tasks on behalf of consumers. Don’t tell a consumer to go do something when your call center rep or even your systems could do it for them. For example, don’t ask a borrower for a copy of their paystub to verify income if you have been receiving their direct deposit for two years.

Consumers don’t care that your core system lacks functionality or your service reps aren’t authorized to perform the task they need. They just want you to help them be more efficient with their time, and they’ll go somewhere else if you can’t deliver.

Here’s an important part of concierge service that could give your community financial institution an edge over fintechs and big banks: yes, consumers want you to perform tasks for them, but not at the expense of data security. Make sure your systems and workflows are secure so you’re not the subject of the next data breach story in the news.

One and done

Centralizing your operations is a big trend these days, but if you make your consumers wander through the maze of your organization chart to find the right person to solve their problem, you’ll lose them. In fact, consumers today expect firms to resolve questions and issues with just one point of contact and in real time.

That’s one reason why chatbots have been more popular than expected. Spending a few seconds answering some questions that route the caller to the right place is much better than sitting on hold, waiting for help … only to find out they need to be transferred to another department.

While chatbots work well for simple questions and call routing, they don’t replace consumer service with a live person who can provide reassurance and problem solving skills. The key to a successful centralized operations team is both technology and face-to-face consumer service representatives who resolve issues efficiently and effectively.

Service standards are a very important part of your 2020 budget planning, but they aren’t everything. To learn more about the economy, a new operational trend, and how the continued challenge to remain relevant will impact your financial institution, your consumers and your 2020 budget, click here to download our new white paper, “3 trends that will drive your 2020 budget.”

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Is your Financial Institution loved?

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When community financial institutions compare themselves to big banks, they usually talk about great service.

“Our consumers love us,” they say.

But do they? Do they really?

Data has helped FIs more accurately measure performance boosting factors like market sensitivity to rates and fees, look-to-book ratios and digital marketing rate of return. Data has also helped improve the accuracy of net promoter scores and consumer satisfaction. This data might show that your financial institution is performing better than your competition; and yet, you’re still not meeting your organizational goals.

It seems like something is missing. That something is love.

Illustration of woman sitting on couch looking at smartphone with hearts floating upwards

Back before technology quantified everything, financial institutions relied upon old fashioned human indicators to measure how much their consumers loved them. Things like word-of-mouth referrals and branch traffic may sound quaint today, but they represent one thing that’s missing in our digital, data-driven world: human interaction.

Research says today’s consumer wants 24/7 digital access, automatic loan decisioning, the latest P2P payments service, and of course, the best products and most competitive rates.

But do they? Do they really?

A recent J.D. Power Retail Banking study revealed something very interesting: the thing consumers said they want most from their financial institution is advice. Of those surveyed, an overwhelming 78% said they wanted financial advice, but only 28% said they received it. You might think you’re providing advice on your website when you explain your products and services, or in blog posts that teach financial literacy skills. But that’s not advice. Advice requires a two-way conversation that values listening as much as selling.

How survey participants said they received advice supports this fact. Of those who told J.D. Power they received advice, only 33% who received it via email said it met their needs. Compare that to the 58% who loved the advice they received face-to-face. Now here’s where it gets tricky: nearly 60% said they want to receive that face-to-face advice through their financial institution’s mobile app.

“The key takeaway from this study is that there is a huge opportunity to leverage a combination of in-person and digital interactions to provide advice and guidance that assist customers in their financial journey,” said Paul McAdam, J.D. Power senior director of banking practice.

We believe when a financial institution uses technology to make its consumers feel loved, it’s the best of both worlds. And we think your bottom line will show it.

Woman agent at financial institution with other employees in background

Video Conferencing vs. Video Banking

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Can’t we just use Skype?

What’s the difference between video conferencing and video banking? Can’t you just use Skype, FaceTime or Zoom to talk to consumers with less overhead?

If you’re in charge of operations and want to add video banking to your FI’s digital channels, you might get these questions from your boss, executive team or board. There are very distinct differences between video conferencing and video banking, and in order to deliver the experience your consumers expect and maintain your service standards, you definitely need to offer video banking.

However, if you’re not prepared for the question and caught off guard you might struggle to explain the differences, so here’s a quick rundown of the facts.

Woman agent at financial institution with other employees in background

Video Conferencing

Video communication apps allow two people in different locations to communicate face to face. As 3G and 4G technology availability has made connection faster and cheaper, video chat has become very popular across generations. Video conferencing is more than a Skype chat with Grandma. It also provides the ability to share educational information and provide a platform for business negotiations.

That’s one of the big differences between video conferencing and video banking – the former enables communication between businesses and is not addressing the consumer side of collaboration. Additionally, most video conferencing platforms require both parties to set a date and time to communicate, which creates service friction. How many times have you been the only one to show up for a video conference? It’s incredibly frustrating; imagine experiencing that as a consumer.

Video chat apps aren’t secure enough for banking transactions. You’ve probably heard the recent news about the iPhone FaceTime bug that allows users to eavesdrop on others before they even accept the call. The last thing your FI needs is bad publicity suggesting you don’t properly safeguard financial information because you used FaceTime to conduct financial transactions.

Finally, video conferencing’s main purpose is cost savings. It means you don’t have to fly your vendor or your remote team members into the main office for an in-person meeting. Free or low-cost video conferencing services might be cheaper than video banking, but when it comes to digital channels, cost savings isn’t the only factor to consider. Convenience, consumer experience, compliance, and workflow must be included in your due diligence.

Video Banking

Video banking, on the other hand, does more than allow face-to-face digital communication. It recreates an entire branch experience, with tellers, consumer service representatives, loan officers, and financial advisors.

That’s the biggest difference between the two channels – video banking was custom built to meet the needs of banking consumer needs and work with banking workflows. Unlike video conferencing, video banking usually includes the following features:

  • Document collection
  • Document signature
  • Screen sharing
  • Presentations
  • URL sharing
  • Standardized business workflows
  • Branch, web, and mobile deployments

A robust video banking app brings all of your products and services together, which increases your staff efficiency and racks up sales.

Unlike video conferencing, which requires everyone to show up at a specific date and time, video banking can be built into your call center queue. That makes it on demand for consumers, the way retail channels should be.

Video banking also allows you to record the call, produce logs and metrics to track performance and provide data to prove compliance. That’s important: video banking apps are compliant with security regulations that safeguard financial data. WebEx and FaceTime are great services, but they aren’t going to impress your executive team.

Financial regulators are expected to scrutinize technology even more in 2019, according to a recent American Banker article. It reported that because Democrats have regained control of the House, and Republicans only hold a slim majority in the Senate, banking regulation is expected to tighten. Additionally, banking regulators are still under pressure to protect consumers from data breaches. You should expect your examiner to review all of your fintech vendors and digital channels, searching for weak links. Now is not the time to skimp on security!

Finally, consumers value experience more than ever. In fact, surveys keep revealing that younger consumers are willing to pay more for a loan if the lender provides a superior digital experience. Even Grandma, who already knows how to use video chat technology, appreciates the convenience video banking provides – many banks and credit unions have found that video banking adoption rates across all generations have been higher than expected.

The differences between video conferencing and video banking are clear. Start providing better experiences, that will make your financial institution one your consumers love.