A Strategy To Combat COVID-19 In 5 Weeks Or Less

When the novel coronavirus forced the lobby closure of Discovery FCU’s lone branch, the Pennsylvania credit union fought back with the rapid deployment of an appointment scheduling and lobby management system.

 
 

When COVID-19 forced the closure of branch lobbies across the country, Discovery Federal Credit Union ($161.1M, Wyomissing, PA) was already exploring online appointment scheduling and lobby management capabilities in the hopes such a system would provide a deeper understanding of why members visit a branch as well shed light on wait times, appointment length, and more.

CU QUICK FACTS

Discovery FCU
Data as of 09.30.20

HQ: Wyomissing, PA
ASSETS: $1.5B
MEMBERS: 8,624
BRANCHES: 1
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 11.3%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 7.1%
ROA: 0.21%

“We’re in the midst of transitioning to a member experience culture with a digital-first mindset,” says Tara McQuillen, Discovery’s chief experience officer. “We believed the lobby management system would be a good start to better understanding the branch experience.”

The credit union fast-tracked the project after the coronavirus hit and launched its system in late July. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, Discovery FCU uses the system to limit the number of people in its lobbies and make future appointments if a lobby reaches maximum capacity.

Here, McQuillen talks about why the credit union adopted appointment scheduling, the nuts and bolts of how the system works, and unintended benefits in the age of the coronavirus.

Why did Discovery FCU decide to offer appointment scheduling? What benefits were you trying to capture?

Tara McQuillen, Chief Experience Officer, Discovery FCU

Tara McQuillen: We wanted to offer our members the ability to interact with the credit union using their preferred channel at the time that is most convenient for them. We also wanted to gain a better understanding of why members were visiting our branch and requiring a longer sit-down appointment that couldn’t be resolved with their first point of contact.

When our lobby shut down and we were planning to reopen, we made the online appointment scheduling and lobby management project a top priority not only because of the benefits just described but also because it would give us better control of limiting the number of people in our lobby and making future appointments if our lobby reached maximum capacity.

Talk more about your system. Did you build it in-house or partner with a vendor? What’s it like from the members’ point of view? 

TM: We selected Coconut as our vendor. Members can schedule an appointment online, call the credit union to schedule an appointment, or schedule an appointment in our lobby using our self-serve kiosk.

They can select a location — we only have one branch, so they only have once choice — choose whether they want to meet in-person or by telephone — we’re currently researching video options to implement — and select to meet with anyone available or a particular employee. They pick the date and time, enter a few personal details — name, phone, e-mail — and the appointment is booked.

How do you keep track of appointments?

TM: Employees’ Outlook calendars and our lobby management portal are automatically updated to reflect appointments, and we send customized text or e-mail appointment reminders to the member.

When the member arrives for their appointment, they check in using our self-serve kiosk by simply inputting their name and telephone number or e-mail address. We also send a text message on the day of their appointment with an option to check-in using their mobile device, making the check-in completely touchless.

We can allow members to wait for their appointment in their car. When a member service representative or loan officer is available to meet with them, we send a text message or e-mail to the member.

Tara McQuillen, Chief Experience Officer, Discovery FCU

Employees receive a desktop notification when the member checks in. They may opt to receive an e-mail or text message notification, too. When the meeting ends, the employee adds notes to the meeting and logs the end time.

How do you determine the meeting length and control wait times?

TM: During the set-up, we determined how long each appointment would be and established buffer times between each appointment. The system uses AI logic to determine when appointments can be made and adjusts the schedule accordingly. Thus far, we have not had any appointments overlap. If we did, we could adjust the predetermined appointment and buffer times.

Do you allow walk-ins?

TM: We do allow walk ins. Members can select to “join the line” using the self-serve kiosk.

How does that work?

TM: If all the member service representatives or loan officers are serving other members at the time, the software will use the predetermined appointment times and buffer logic to display an estimated wait time. If the member can wait, they can select to join the line. The employees who are logged into the lobby management portal will receive a walk-in notification and the appointment type they selected. Once an employee becomes available, they will serve the member.

See it in action! Visit discoveryfcu.org/appointment to see Discovery’s appointment scheduling tool firsthand.

Who manages the system?

TM: Our branch manager and director of lending oversee the day-to-day management and usage.

How did you roll out the new system internally?

TM: First, Coconut conducted virtual training for our employees based on their role and usage of the system. Once everyone was trained, we did a one-week internal soft launch. Our employees set their own appointments using the system and our call center and tellers also scheduled appointments for employees. This worked well and helped everyone get familiar with the system.

How did you roll out the new service to members?

TM: We sent an e-blast and used social media. But, what works best is incorporating “Make an Appointment” buttons and options throughout the website. Our call center reps and tellers also set appointments for members. They were not able to do this in the past, and they appreciate the opportunity to do this during their initial contact with the member instead of handing them off to someone else. Our members appreciate it, too.

How fast did you roll out appointment scheduling and lobby management?

TM: Because of COVID-19, we set up the program and soft launched within five weeks.

How has this tool helped you serve members during the pandemic?

TM: We have the ability to limit the number of people in our lobby and manage the number of people in our offices and lobby at any given time. Also, we can allow members to wait for their appointment in their car. When a member service representative or loan officer is available to meet with them, we send a text message or e-mail to the member.

What functionalities do you like best about this technology?

TM: I like the reporting and analytical tools. We have a detailed view of why members are visiting the credit union in person. We also receive data analytics on wait times, appointment times, and more per appointment, per employee, and per branch to determine efficiencies and process improvements.

What are some other benefits you’ve noted?

TM: We have been up and running with the program for three months and everything is running smoothly. Empowering employees to make appointments for members — whether they are talking to them at the teller line or on the phone —  is definitely a positive benefit. It allows the employee to help the member then and there without transferring them to someone else or making them wait until they can get an answer.

What advice do you have for credit unions considering adding this as an offering?

TM:We had a positive experience with the set up, roll out, and implementation of our online appointment scheduling and lobby management program. We had buy-in from all managers involved, and even though we had a rapid deployment, we took time to ensure staff members were trained on how to use the program, were comfortable with the program, and knew about the benefits and positive outcomes of the program.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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