6 Ways To Reduce Friction In The Member Experience

Friction happens, but credit unions are taking steps to improve the member experience across branches, call centers, digital banking, and more.


Clearview FCU
Data as of 12.30.18

HQ: Moon Township, PA
MEMBERS: 103,431
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 12.9%
ROA: 0.59%

The introduction of new technology in the world of financial services is both a boon and a bust for the user experience.

Digital channels allow members to conduct transactions, research new products and services, and communicate with their financial institution all on their own schedule. And for credit unions, advancements in technology offers the opportunity to serve members via personalized strategies previously unheard of.

But new technology also is creating friction that manifests as long lines at the teller counter, online forms that require accountholders to reenter basic information, automatic holds on check deposits, excessive call hold times and clunky handoffs, limited hours of physical branch operations, incongruent information across channels, and frustrated or unhelpful staff.

Renee Lucas, SVP of Member Experience and Lending, Clearview FCU

Of course, technology is just one piece of the overall member experience and it can’t solve everything. In addition to choosing the right technologies and deploying them effectively, member experience also encompasses people in the form of organizational structure, culture, collaboration, employee experience, and leadership style as well as processes such as for training, performance evaluation, communication, decision-making, and research and development.

Member experience plays a role in building stronger, personal relationships with everyone, including members, employees, vendors, and community partners, says Renee Lucas, senior vice president of member experience and lending at Clearview Federal Credit Union ($1.2B, Moon Township, PA). A key area we focus on is disrupting the norm across all channels in the member journey and looking for ways to surprise and delight members.


Although their business models might differ widely, many credit unions face similar challenges when it comes to member experience. The approach a credit union takes to reduce friction will depend on its brand, membership, resources and more, but here are several tried-and-true ways credit unions are improving member experience and reducing friction across the enterprise.

1. Train Employees


Community First Credit Union of Florida
Data as of 12.30.18

HQ: Jacksonville, FL
MEMBERS: 134,886
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 13.0%
ROA: 1.28%

Employee training programs historically have focused on job proficiency and cross-selling, but a growing number of credit unions now include people skills on member interaction and conflict resolution. For example, Community First Credit Union of Florida ($1.6B, Jacksonville, FL) created a service training program to help front-line staff hone these skills.

I’m surprised at the number of credit unions I’ve talked to that don’t do service training, says Jimmy Lovelace, senior vice president of member experience at the credit union. They say, We just hire good people.’ You can’t hire good people and expect good service. You have to train service.

In Pennsylvania, Clearview is setting the groundwork for positive interactions and empowering front-line employees to always do the right thing to make banking easy. Tactics there include:

  • Offering members a cup of coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate, or bottled water.
  • Treating members like guests by walking them to the door or, in rainy weather, holding an umbrella and walking them to the car.
  • Handing out candy with personalized messages, such as May your wallet be filled with money and your mouth with candy.
  • Donning hats to celebrate National Hat Day.
  • Singing Happy Birthday to a member or calling to wish them a happy birthday.

This has created a memorable difference in the way they interact, build relationships, and provide solutions based on financial needs and goals, Lucas says.

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In Pennsylvania, Clearview FCU is setting the groundwork for positive member interactions with birthday wishes, Hat Day celebrations, and free candy.


Community First Credit Union of Florida is opting for open space and teller pods for new and remodeled branches.


Some branches at Community First include community rooms that members can rent for meetings and events. Branches are a billboard for your brand, says Jimmy Lovelace, senior vice president of member experience. We communicate our personality with our facilities.

2. Improve Processes

For many organizations, process improvement means reducing steps and increasing efficiencies. New processes might save money in the long run, but it’s important to consider how members perceive their interactions with the credit union. Before changing processes or adopting new tools, it’s a good idea to conduct journey mapping to better understand the member’s experience.


Georgia’s Own Credit Union
Data as of 12.30.18

HQ: Atlanta, GA
MEMBERS: 183,654
ROA: 0.82%

To support process change, Georgia’s Own Credit Union ($2.4B, Atlanta, GA) draws upon a variety of sources. For example, it conducts surveys and interviews with members who have closed accounts to identify trends in member attrition. And, it meticulously tracks and analyzes its member experience.

We put a member lens on all of our processes and policies and transform those into collaborative, nimble experiences that are scalable and consistent across delivery channels, says Shelley Mullett, vice president of member advocacy at Georgia’s Own.

Member insights at Clearview have driven numerous process changes, according to Lucas. Among them: a new workflow for opening business accounts, a one-call resolution process, a hold time protocol, and new specialists to resolve fraud claims. The credit union even moved its card services unit to the contact center to eliminate call transfers.

Another challenge facing the credit union industry is anticipating changes in member expectations. Sometimes, members don’t express their expectations through complaints and feedback mechanisms, notes Lovelace at Community First in Florida.

You have to have a clear channel for process improvement where you’re constantly looking at your existing procedures and policies and asking, Is this currently best in class?’ he says. How does it compare with other industries? If Amazon has taught you that it only takes 24 to 48 hours to get your goods from overseas, how are members supposed to be OK with a four-day turnaround on a decision?

3. Enhance Technology

New technologies and digital tools are constantly changing, keeping IT departments on the go. However, the challenge isn’t necessarily being the first to market with a new digital offering. It’s anticipating when members will be ready to adopt it.

For example, when Community First rolled out touchpoint kiosks in its branches, adoption rates were low. But, a new text messaging notification system for its e-channel loan program resulted in a 94% adoption rate by those awaiting updates on loan applications.

Shelley Mullett, VP of Member Advocacy, Georgia’s Own Credit Union

Finding technology that augments the human experience, rather than replacing it, is key, Lovelace says. We’re already seeing this in the retail industry. Customers bring their cell phones with them to buy a fridge at Best Buy and look up reviews in real time. For us, texting was a good example of how we were able to augment the human experience. We started it last year and are in the process of expanding it to other departments.

Recognizing the importance of a unified digital experience, Clearview created a digital experience department in 2018 that is responsible for the credit union’s website, mobile and online banking, online surveys, digital marketing, social media, business intelligence, and Pepper, Clearview’s robot that visits the financial centers and events.

Mullett at Georgia’s Own advises taking a holistic view of changes.

Our goal is easier-to-use systems and processes, knowledgeable employees empowered to make decisions aimed at one-stop resolution, and solution-oriented products at value based pricing, the VP says.

4. Optimize Facilities

5 Priorities For User Experience

A credit union can win in member experience by making a series of small changes, says Jimmy Lovelace, senior vice president of member experience at Community First Credit Union of Florida. According to a 2018 Forrester survey of 1,269 customer experience and metrics decision makers, here are five places to start.

  1. Better manage the entire customer journey.
  2. Improve cross-channel customer experiences.
  3. Improve or expand content marketing capabilities.
  4. Add or improve social media experiences.
  5. Add or improve mobile customer experiences.

Credit unions today are rethinking the size of their buildings, floor plans, services and amenities all in the name of member experience.

Clearview’s financial centers, for example, are moving away from the traditional teller line in favor of all-in-one service pods with cash recyclers, cafs, self-service kiosks, and coin machines.

We no longer hire tellers, Lucas says. Instead, we recruit financial experience advisors who are capable of handling all responsibilities from transactions, loans, and investments to financial health checkups.

Another highly visible change at Clearview: The credit union replaced its drive-thru lanes with 13 interactive teller machines and expanded hours. Members can now access the ITMs from 7a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

Community First is taking a similar approach to branch design, opting for more open space and teller pods with cash recyclers at new and remodeled branches.

That cash recycler takes friction out of the member experience, Lovelace says. No one has to count cash or open the drawer. That’s a good technology spend.

Some branches at the Florida cooperative even include 300-square-foot community rooms that members can rent for meetings and events.

We focus on shared experiences with our facilities, Lovelace says. Branches are a billboard for your brand what are you saying with that billboard? We communicate our personality with our facilities.

5. Communicate

Jimmy Lovelace, SVP of Member Experience, Community First Credit Union of Florida

As face-to-face member interactions become less frequent, the way a credit union communicates through other channels including the website, mobile, social media, and phone messaging systems becomes even more crucial.

Lovelace recommends making those digital channels reflect the credit union’s brand personality and voice. At Community First, the social media manager took charge of all canned scripts for various channels. A bland text message that used to say, thank you for contacting Community First, a representative will be right with you, became thanks for chatting us up, we’re changing the world for other members and we can’t wait to do the same for you.

Similarly, the credit union is personalizing its call center system, so instead of hearing the general voicemail box, a caller with mortgage questions, for example, will hear the voice of the mortgage department manager promising a staff member will return the call.

And instead of flooding channels with marketing messages about products, Community First is focusing on sharing news about what the credit union is doing for members and the community.

Digital channels need that dynamic voice, Lovelace says. With a little effort, they can have more personality and feel more human.

Internal communication is another key pillar.

To increase the visibility of its member experience program, Clearview launched an intranet site that includes a summary of member experience projects, ideas, and process improvements. The Pennsylvania credit union also publishes a weekly MX communication blog to keep member experience front and center with Clearview team members, Lucas says.

6. Mine Metrics And Data For Insights

Credit unions are inundated with data from all channels. The core function of member experience teams is to gain insight from that data to support a wide range of decisions and priorities. Key metrics include member and staff feedback, net promoter scores, employee surveys, account closings, average share and loan balances, social media engagement, and online customer ratings.

In 2018, Clearview which has an NPS of 88 and member effort score of 4.8 launched daily surveys through CloudCherry for new accounts opened, transactions, new loans, and live video teller interactions. The credit union also offers relationship surveys and mobile, chat, and online banking surveys.

We continue to assemble lists of pain points or challenges the staff and members face with processes and workflows that preclude a frictionless operation, Lucas says.

Discovering new ways to use member data and provide higher levels of service through artificial intelligence is the next frontier, according to Lovelace at Community First.

A lot of the taboos around data are changing, he says. Privacy is a key concern for members, yet they’ll mail their DNA through the Postal Service to find out more about themselves. Members will be willing to share more and let us do more with their data if we find a meaningful way for them to benefit from it.

Data aside, the key to reducing friction is having a dedicated process improvement team, composed of front- and back-office staff, that’s constantly looking for new opportunities, he advises.

You win member experience by a series of small changes, the senior vice president of member experience says. The members appreciate constant iteration, constant innovation on their behalf. Even if it’s the smallest thing, put it out there.


March 29, 2019

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