Getting Back to the Basics in a Digital World

The foundation for all successful credit unions is outstanding member service and support. However, in today's digital world most credit unions have focused their Web channel on extending products and services, but not much attention has been placed on developing and refining online support. Let’s further explore the components of an effective digital support channel and discuss how the benefits of developing this Web channel extend far beyond improved member service and support and actually can make your Web site a profit center.


The foundation for all successful credit unions is outstanding member service and support. However, in today's digital world most credit unions have focused their Web channel on extending products and services, but not much attention has been placed on developing and refining online support. Let’s further explore the components of an effective digital support channel and discuss how the benefits of developing this Web channel extend far beyond improved member service and support and actually can make your Web site a profit center.

Each of your delivery channels provides your members with a method of doing business with you and offers a unique set of perceived benefits, many of which are centered around convenience. In all cases, members will only use a channel if they perceive the benefits to be the best alternative for meeting their individual needs. Your branch, phone, ATM and Web channels all extend unique benefits to your members, and all share two primary delivery components:

  • Completing a transaction

  • Getting information relevant for doing business with you

Completing a transaction includes things like opening an account, getting a loan, depositing checks and changing a home address. Transactions result in a change within your business relationship with that particular member.

Information puts your members in control of their financial well being and business relationship with you. Among other things, it allows them to understand what products and services you offer, how to use these offerings and provides them with the information necessary to determine what products and services are best for their particular circumstances. To be useful, this information must be easily accessible, timely, understandable and presented in the proper context for members to effectively use in making decisions and in using your offerings.

Since everyone wants to be in control of their finances while minimizing the time spent conducting business with their credit union, giving members quick and easy access to information they care about to help them make informed decisions is critical to the success of your credit union. Online member service and support provides the key ingredient to providing members with the information they need, when they need it and in the proper context to allow them to quickly and easily make informed decisions and to use your products and services.

A digital support channel (DSC) -- discussed in more detail in my recently published articles in the CU Times and CU Journal and recapped here -- involves a suite of web-based software tools focused on facilitating and tracking information flow between your credit union, your staff and your members, which subsequently improves member service and support; all the while a DSC logs activity for use in providing more personalized service and in permission-based targeted marketing activities. The ubiquitous nature of the Internet provides the perfect delivery for the anytime, anywhere nature of a DSC.

Another important benefit of a DSC is that it brings together member interactions from all support channels to ensure consistency and accuracy across all your delivery channels. A digital support channel can be delivered by developing it yourself, integrating several vendor products or by using a product suite such as the one offered by our company, called Fuze MemberLink.

When creating a DSC, it is critical to extend it to your members outside the ''walls'' of online banking. Why?

  • 65% to 90% of your members don't use online banking.

  • The majority of your members are already comfortable doing research and emailing on the Internet and a DSC provides them with a comfortable migration path to using your digital channel.

  • Three primary factors influence consumer adoption of technology: 1. The perceived risk of using the technology; 2. The perceived value derived from the technology, and, 3. The perceived difficulty in using the technology. Since members generally perceive the risk of completing transactions online as high, a DSC outside of your online banking services provides your members with a low-risk and high-value reason to use your digital channel.

As an example, Brian Warfel, Senior Vice President of Power 1 credit union states:
''We have enjoyed tremendous success in accelerating adoption of our eStatements offering once we stopped requiring members to first have an online banking account. eStatements provides our members with yet another method to get comfortable with our online channel before jumping into what is perceived as ''the deep end of the pool'' with online banking.''

  • Your Web site can provide an excellent vehicle to broaden your members' view of your credit union’s financial capabilities, and by delivering greater value through your Web site, you will get more members to use it.

  • It’s a whole lot easier to get your members to migrate to your online banking services once they get acquainted with your digital channel and, with one click, can view material explaining the benefits, ease of use and security of online banking.

There are several compelling reasons to create a digital support channel:

For your Members:

  • Safer and more convenient: No lines, no traffic and no risk of personal harm.

  • Accessible any time: Ability to get information and ask questions 7x24 from virtually any location that is most convenient for the consumer.

  • Private and secure: Ability to ask questions AND get answers securely online, providing much more privacy than allowed using the phone, which is important since a significant amount of inquiries are made from a non-private workplace setting.

  • Anonymous: Ability to quickly and easily complete research on various personal finance issues in the comfort of the consumer's home without facing the potential anxiety and embarrassment caused by the fear of asking a dumb question.

  • Recorded: Interactions to resolve an inquiry involving multiple staff and/or channels are recorded and viewable, eliminating the need for members to repeat themselves.

  • Non-Threatening: Most people dislike conflict and generally will avoid it at all costs, yet asking questions or providing feedback online is insulated and enables consumers to say things that they otherwise might not. Fuze (through our MemberLink solution) consistently witnesses consumers giving companies a chance to make amends to what they believe to be unsatisfactory service and support, rather than just taking their business somewhere else.

  • Fast: Most younger or more technically savvy consumers expect to have the flexibility and speed afforded by the online experience.

For your Credit Union:

  • Reduces training costs and ensures consistency across all channels: A DSC allows you to naturally capture your best staff's knowledge in a digital form that can be leveraged across all channels and among staff and members.

  • Less expensive: Helping members in-person or over the phone is expensive. Getting members to help themselves or request support online is much more cost effective -- estimated to be $4.00 for email and 4 cents for self service by Barton Goldenberg, president of ISM. Furthermore, Frost & Sullivan Research estimates the cost to have an employee answer a question at between $8 and $30. A large contributor to this cost structures is that most financial institutions staff their contact centers to have no more than a 2% call abandonment rate during peak periods. Assuming consumers expect a response online within 4-6 hours (as stated by Jupiter Media Matrix), your staffing levels to accommodate peak periods with 4 hours to respond is much less than what is required to respond within the 2 minutes consumers are generally willing to wait on hold! Click here for more on this topic.

  • Improves your understanding of your members' needs: Unlike your other support channels, when your members use your digital support channel you naturally record what they are asking, looking at and setting alerts on. Without any special effort, a DSC captures highly leveragable information about your members and prospects for use in permission-based targeted marketing efforts and to provide personalized support and service. Your other support channels only provide anecdotal information that can not realistically be leveraged.

  • Increases member loyalty: Bank of America claims that online banking customers are 50% less likely to leave their bank.

  • Accelerates online banking adoption: Financial institutions (FIs) have spent millions of dollars developing their online delivery channel only to see a disappointing consumer adoption rate and poor ROI. Even the FIs that are doing relatively well have 80%+ of their consumers not using their online channel, failing to attract anything more than the early adopters of technology. To get their non-early adopters to use their online channel, FIs must provide their consumers with a way to gradually acclimate themselves to this new channel. Interacting online via familiar email and Web forms along with completing research online allows consumers to gradually get comfortable with the channel, while providing FIs with the opportunity to promote the advantages of their online banking products and services. The end result is an acceleration of online banking adoption rates. Click here for more on this topic

  • Targets profitable consumer groups: Online users are affluent and their numbers are growing.



Aug. 4, 2003


  • Didn't feel you explained DSC well. Still not sure what it is? Just a WEB site? Sounded like it was a WEB site plus.
  • Lots of great information provided to mull over! I agree that we credit unions need to refocus our Web channel on what has always differentiated us: Great member service and support!
  • Thanks for the question! In a nutshell, a Digital Support Channel (DSC) is used to describe a suite of features that enables your Web channel (external Web site and Intranet) to provide your end-users (members, staff and partners) with a viable support and communications alternative to your in-person and phone support. A DSC also brings together interactions from all channels to provide a unified view of end-user interactions. Please refer to the “digital support channel” link included in the article’s first paragraph for more information about a DSC: Chuck Van Court