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Service Delivery May Be Different in the Future—Ready to Transform?
Monday, June 27, 2016 6:35 AM

By Dean Borland, SCMS, CUDE, VP Product Development, Credit Union Resources

It’s no wonder that most consumers’ opinions of financial service providers are based on service and convenience. After all, financial products are inherently competitive commodities with similar function, features, and price. A checking account is a checking account, and a loan is a loan. What makes any financial institution stand out is service and convenience.

The problem with service is that its value is in the eyes of the beholder. Service is simultaneously created and consumed; it cannot be manufactured in advance or stored on a shelf for future consumption. And personal service must be customized to the immediate needs and preferences of each individual consumer.

Traditionally, credit unions relied upon personalized, face-to-face service to differentiate themselves from other financial services competitors. Credit unions care about members, and it shows. The credit union business model has always been fairly straightforward: hire pleasant people who care about other people, train them to perform their designated duties, and send them out to serve and spread good cheer among their members.

For decades, the “People Helping People” philosophy, which has been broadly translated into superior personal service, has served us well. The question is, will it continue to serve us as well in the future?

With the future in mind, Credit Union Resources sponsored a couple of recent events featuring some of our premier business partners, CO-OP Financial Services, Diebold, and Level5, to explore how credit unions might address evolving consumer preferences for financial service delivery. The conversations began as “Branch Transformation,” but the discussions evolved into an assessment of credit unions’ service delivery business model.

Before you get excited, the core philosophy is alive and well. No one even hinted at abandoning “People Helping People.” What did come into question, however, was how credit unions’ service delivery will need to evolve as we pursue consumers with preferences for mobile access and an expectation for “any time” service. Here are a few takeaways from the discussions:

Branch transformation is part of a much larger issue of service delivery. Long-term credit union success may require a comprehensive business model re-evaluation that looks at every aspect of member interactions. Think Blockbuster and NetFlix…

The branch of the future may have a smaller footprint and fewer employees than traditional branches, with routine transactions being performed via in-lobby terminals (perhaps with a video assist option) and staff providing personal assistance, consultation, and education. Think Apple Genius Bar…

Payments infrastructure is evolving to expand beyond traditional value exchange to address concerns about security. Think biometric validation and infrastructure enhancements (perhaps blockchain or some yet to be invented mechanism to help prevent data breaches)…

The 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. member service hours may be a thing of the past as more transactions move to remote (mobile) delivery and members expect/demand extended hours access to personal assistance for those times when remote delivery falters. Think extended hours (perhaps shared) contact centers with options for telephonic and electronic messaging…

Some employees will likely need to be retrained and repurposed as the business model/job duties evolve. Member-facing employees could become concierges and consultants as routine transactions increasingly migrate to automated platforms, providing new and expanded opportunities to fulfill the “People Helping People” mandate. Think Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” observations about getting people in the right seats…

Transforming in-branch service delivery is an issue that every credit union will have to consider, but branch transformation is only the tip of the service dilemma iceberg. The evolution of financial service delivery will touch every aspect of the credit union business model—products, service delivery channels, technology/data processing, facilities, hours of operation, work processes, human competencies and capacities, financial performance, and much, much more.