Intelligent Design Applied: Creating the Ultimate Digital Branch

Part 2 of 3-part series

Many credit unions pride themselves on the level of service they provide to members. It’s their point of differentiation. While in the branch most credit unions have member service down to a science, treating members well digitally can be a complex challenge. And with the vast majority of financial transactions moving through digital channels today, this is a challenge that must be addressed.

“To compete in the financial industry today and in the future, it is absolutely essential for credit unions to understand how to serve members well digitally,” said Jon Bartek, sales director of digital banking for CO-OP Financial Services. “And members have very high expectations of digital, a fact that is not lost on your competition.”

Big Banks are Going Digital

Bartek notes that large, global banks today are being rated much higher by customers for their service than in years past, based purely on their ability to deliver a superior digital experience.

According to Stephen Bohanon, founder and chief strategy and sales officer for Alkami Technology, Inc., the success banks are enjoying today is not happening by chance.

“Big banks are focusing their investments on digital banking today, spending millions of dollars a year to build platforms that engage customers, reinforce their brands, and sell products,” he said. “They are delivering real-time, seamless integration across products and devices, implementing platforms designed to grow and evolve with them, and deploying digital marketing elements throughout the experience with clear calls to action that make it easy for members to access products and services.”

Bartek emphasizes that, while consumer demand is fueling this move toward digital, a compelling business case is also driving the trend.

“Consider that the average digital transaction today costs a financial institution 20 cents, and the same transaction costs almost four dollars in the branch,” he said. “So the benefits of investing in digital go straight to your bottom line. And with 95 percent of the market accessible to credit unions through digital channels, it only makes sense to create a digital experience for members that is second to none.”

Managing Digital as a Branch

Bohanon notes that, while credit unions by and large are aware of digital’s pivotal role in their future growth and success, they don’t always give the channel the time and attention it deserves.

“Many credit unions call their digital banking solution a ‘digital branch,’ but they don’t support it like a branch,” he said. “Many times the platform is managed by the IT department and not by the retail group. Consider also that, for physical branches, credit unions examine all kinds of metrics to ensure they are treating members well. They ensure that employees know the members’ names, that the branch is clean and not too hot or cold, that the décor is inviting and modern. And they track foot traffic, wait times and cross-selling success – all to ensure a superior branch experience for members.”

Bohanon adds that the same type of analysis should be applied to the digital branch. “Credit unions need to make sure a member can do everything digitally that can be done in the branch,” he said. “Members should be able to easily apply for a credit card or loan – or close an account. Credit unions should also examine whether members are introduced to new products in the right context, and whether the experience is always easy, intuitive and seamless regardless of the product or device involved. And they need to have the technology in place to understand member needs and preferences well.”

Bohanon notes that one common mistake credit unions make is to advertise all of their products on the home page. “Most of your members go directly from the home page to your digital banking system,” he said. “In your physical branch, they walk in the door for service and you do a good job of cross-selling to them. However, for the most part members are not cruising your website unless they need something specific. So you have to maintain a strong marketing presence in the digital banking application itself.”

Bartek added, “When credit unions start viewing the digital branch as a physical branch, many of these issues take care of themselves. They know how members are responding to digital advertisements, and if the experience is simple and engaging – or if members are in a hurry to log out. Remember that your greatest and most frequent opportunity to interact with a member is through the digital channel. And while they are in there, it is your challenge – and opportunity – to serve them well.”

For expert insights on how to take digital banking to the next level, read “Modernizing Your Digital Banking System: A Blueprint for Success,” a free white paper available exclusively from CO-OP Financial Services.

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Other Articles in this Series:

Part 1 – Digital Banking and Bill Pay: Your Number One Branch of the Future

Part 3 – Going Mobile: Perfecting Digital Banking for a Nation of Multi-Screeners

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