During the pandemic, the outbound calling team at Affinity FCU took on financial wellbeing among at-risk members.
The five-person team contacts members who report financial stress on Affinity FCU’s bi-weekly pulse surveys.
Affinity Federal Credit Union ($3.6B, Basking Ridge, NJ) has had an outbound calling team for more than a decade, but the now five-person team has taken several forms during that time.
The team, which is housed within the contact center, was a transaction hub before evolving into a digital branch. In that form, employees strived to have in-depth interactions with members, onboarding them to the credit union and deepening the new relationship.
When the pandemic hit, the role of these employees shifted again. Now the team proactively calls members who report experiencing financial hardship. Such conversations can be difficult to navigate at any time; the pandemic pushing these interactions to the telephone has added another layer of complexity. However, every member of the outbound team has at least five years of experience and the skills to engage members across mediums.
“They are the cream of the crop. They are empathetic, they have high emotional IQs, and they are good listeners. They know how to dig into a person’s financial life without being too invasive.”
“They are the cream of the crop,” says Grant Gallagher, financial wellbeing and external affairs manager at Affinity FCU. “They are empathetic, they have high emotional IQs, and they are good listeners. They know how to dig into a person’s financial life without being too invasive. Most importantly, they know how to move conversations forward.”
Affinity is one of several credit unions that participate in Gallup’s Financial Wellbeing (FWB) initiative and has trained front-line employees, including its outbound calling team, to understand principles of wellbeing and how to integrate those into every member interaction. The credit union worked with Gallup to create a bi-weekly survey that gauges the engagement and financial wellbeing of the cooperative’s members. Even at the beginning of the pandemic, survey results indicated members needed financial assistance. Members reported having trouble paying bills, not having money to buy food, and living out of cars.
“We saw we had a growing population of members that were suffering,” Gallagher says. “There was a desperation to their comments. We realized we had to do something.”
Conversations between the outbound calling team and the credit union’s most financially vulnerable members have led to payment holds, skip-a-pays, debt consolidations, and even refinances.
“Based on what they say and what we see, we are looking at every angle to help them,” Gallagher says.
Affinity FCU has reoriented the focus of its member feedback survey from moment-in-time satisfaction to member engagement centered around moments of truth. Learn more in “Help Members Soar, Not Simply Survive.”
Support from senior leadership and the contact center director has given the team wide autonomy to seize opportunities when they arise. For example, Affinity launched a member relief fund through its foundation in January 2021 that allows the outbound calling team to offer targeted assistance. So far, the fund has granted more than $20,000.
“It’s a small amount of money that can have a really big impact,” Gallagher says.
Most of the members with whom the outbound team interacts don’t know the credit union offers such solutions, but they welcome the financial respite as they work to recover from pandemic-related shutdowns.
As vaccination numbers in the United States continue to grow, states and local jurisdictions are relaxing restrictions. People will soon return to work and hardships of the pandemic variety will decrease. Until then, the outbound calling team at Affinity is testing the bounds of what it can do.
CU QUICK FACTS
HQ: Basking Ridge, NJ
DATA AS OF 03.31.21
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 13.1%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: -1.2%
The team doesn’t have hard and fast goals, and Affinity doesn’t track the results from conversations in any of its traditional feedback channels. In fact, leaders expect outbound calls like these to proceed more slowly so employees can have fuller, deeper, more meaningful conversations with members.
“The goal is quality over quantity,” Gallagher says.
Instead, Affinity gauges success by monitoring its big-picture wellbeing metrics. Ultimately, the outbound calling team evolved to meet a need. And until that need is gone, the team won’t go anywhere.
“Based on what we have seen, we’ll continue to get in touch with our members and work to make their lives better,” Gallagher says. “This team needs to exist.”
Want more credit union strategies? Sign up for the CreditUnions.com free newsletter.