How The Pandemic Is Reshaping The Future Of Member Service At Tucson FCU

After notching successes in appointment-only lobbies and automated services, the Arizona cooperative is rethinking hours, services availability, communications, and more.

Top-Level Takeaways

  • A bump in remote deposit capture and ITM usage as well as increased productivity among less-distracted workers are three benefits to appointment-only lobbies at Tucson FCU.
  • Seven weeks isn’t long enough to solidify a new branching habit, so the credit union is considering how to encourage members to adopt new behaviors for good.


Tucson FCU
Data as of 03.31.20

HQ: Tucson, AZ
ASSETS: $489.2M
MEMBERS: 65,590
ROA: 1.46%

Since COVID-19 forced Tucson Federal Credit Union($489.2M, Tucson, AZ) to shut its lobbies, the credit union has recorded a sharp jump in remote deposit capture and ITM usage. Now, the Grand Canyon State cooperative is considering how to encourage members to make those behavioral changes permanent.

TFCU closed its six branch lobbies on March 18 and started offering appointment-only service for new loans, membership, card replacements, notary signings, and cashiers’ checks. For more transactional services, five of the branches have ITM-equipped drive-thrus offering extended hours; a sixth branch located inside a Fry’s Marketplace grocery store offers two ITMs with extended hours for a fleet total of 10 ITMs.

The credit union is targeting June 1 for reopening its lobbies, says Krystal Adams, the credit union’s senior vice president of member experience, but that will depend on guidance from the Arizona governor’s office.

Krystal Adams, Senior Vice President of Member Experience, Tucson FCU

TFCU began replacing traditional tube transactions with ITMs in 2017 and last year averaged nearly 8,300 transactions a month on them. Since the lobby shutdowns, that number has tripled to a monthly average of 25,713, Adams says.

Remote deposit capture also has grown sharply but not quite as dramatically. Last year, remote deposits accounted for 20%, on average, of total check deposits. That number has grown to 31% since the March 18 lobby shutdown.

Adams has been with TFCU for nine years and in her current position since July 2014. Here, she offers insight on how her shop has managed ITM volume and member expectations. She also talks about her hopes to make the new member behavior more permanent.

What challenges did the jump in ITM usage present? How did you manage those?

Krystal Adams: Prolonged wait times at the ITMs and upset members because their way of doing business changed. We also had to quickly arrange an extra cash delivery, which has become permanent in the past seven weeks.

We’ve been transparent with members, communicating by email two to three times per week about what types of transactions they can do via ITM versus lobby appointments and providing helpful hints to make their transactions as quick and painless aspossible.

How about opportunities?

KA: There have been several major ones. The first has been testing our hours of operation. We now have an idea of what is and isn’t beneficial.

We’ve been open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. since April 1. We were open until 7 p.m. the first two weeks of the closure but cut back because of low traffic in that final hour of the weekday.

It’s easy to speculate that staying open later might be beneficial because people are getting off of work or lobby operations have changed, but we found we could cut back. This situation allowed us to test that and be flexible.

The second opportunity is understanding what capacity the ITMs can handle. We’ve tripled the number of transactions, and now we know how much activity the machines can handle and how many people we need to operate ITMs for them to be a viable deliverychannel.

The third opportunity is now we know what we can and can’t do remotely and where we’ll need to find alternatives for certain types of transactions and requests. For example, the top four requests in our appointment-only lobbies are autoloan applications, cashier’s checks, notary signings, and debit/credit card replacement.

We booked a total of 1,701 appointments in April. Of those, 477 were for instant card replacements, 434 were for cashier’s checks or notary services, and 377 were auto loan applications. So, we’re actively looking for solutions to providemembers a different way to do those things.

Branch manager Peter Graziano helps a member deposit a check at an ITM at the Tucson credit union’s East Branch.

Tucson FCU staffers shown here at an ITM are from left, Danyelle Thornton, director of digital marketing; Amy Figliolino, senior manager of member experience; (kneeling) Melissa Lopez, strategic business development manager; Shauna Vasquez, assistant vice president of member experience; Krystal Adams, (kneeling) vice president of member experience; Heidi Bailey, Experience Center senior manager; and branch manager Peter Graziano.

This branch is inside a Fry’s Marketplace store and open for ITM use.

What member behavior would you like to change permanently?

KA: How they use automated services. We’ve had mobile deposit for years, but members come in and make a deposit. I’d like to change what members define as an in-person transaction to be more consultative and less mundane.

We were working toward that already by instituting new procedures and processes that correlate with how we see business happening in the future. We need to remain faithful to our vision and understand members might push back, and that’s OK. Thatdoesn’t mean we’re being closed-minded. We can listen to our members and bring them along with good member service, communication and patience.

How has in-branch work changed with the appointment-only setup?

KA: We’ve gained efficiencies in the branch. We’ve funded the most we ever have since I’ve been in this role. I credit that to our member advocates being able to focus on their pipeline.

I’ve also noticed an increase in communication among different departments such as between the front line and lending because there are fewer distractions.

We’re considering keeping lobbies appointment-only or otherwise modifying hours because most transactions can be done via our ITMs. There’s a lot to look at, but we would be missing a huge opportunity to not capitalize on restructuring ourbranch hours based on the recent data.

If we open our doors without leveraging the behaviors of the past seven weeks, it’s a missed opportunity. Member behaviors will go back to what they were. Seven weeks isn’t long enough to change those.

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What are some best practices you can share with other credit unions?

KA: First, it was a good idea to implement ‘appointment only at our branches. It’s a great business continuity plan. The hybrid of human interaction and technology is critical because our members are always interactingwith a person, whether it be via chat, phones, texting, email, branch, or ITMs. If we had only self-serve technology, we might not have been this successful.

Also, be transparent with your staff. Providing them with the ‘why behind business changes allows them to embrace and support the message, which leads to a level of engagement on their part that’s necessary to your success.

Our AVP of member experience does daily 30-minute calls with our branch managers. They communicate changes and talk about challenges, wins, staffing, member stories, and feedback. Most importantly, they build trust and open communication.

Further, make sure you have your remote delivery down to a science, even when it represents only 20% of your business. That 20% could end up being 100% of the way you do business in a matter of minutes.

Finally, ensure you have a good relationship with your third-party vendors because that can be a point of failure. For example, we had some issues with our phones being able to handle the volume we were experiencing. Our IT department quickly found aresolution, but it took coordination with our phone provider. The same goes for armored car services. We’ve been fortunate, but if you don’t choose your third-party vendors wisely, it could cause your plans to not run smoothly.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


May 12, 2020

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