The Banker Will See You Now

Online appointment scheduling and in-branch queuing are helping credit union members make the most of their spare time.


Top-Level Takeaways

  • Digital FCU implemented online appointment scheduling four years ago; MSUFCU aims to launch in 2020.
  • New technologies are helping busy members make better use of their branch time.

Walking into a credit union branch can be a gamble for members. Will it be crowded? Will the person working the teller line be able to handle a particular request? Will the time spent be worth it?

Enter in-branch queuing and online appointment scheduling, which are eliminating one of the biggest pain points prevalent in the legacy branching experience: the unknown.

Digital Federal Credit Union ($9.0B, Marlborough, MA) implemented online appointment scheduling four years ago; and Michigan State University Federal Credit Union ($4.5, East Lansing, MI) aims to launch in 2020. By partnering with third-party vendors that specialize in these technologies, credit unions are giving members the power to bank where they want, when they want, and with whom they want.

Here, leaders from Digital and MSUFCU discuss the in-branch capabilities of this new technology, member response, and lessons learned along the way.

Julie Moran, Senior Vice President Of Member Services, Digital FCU

Julie Moran, SVP of Member Services, Digital FCU

Digital implemented online appointment scheduling through workforce management company Kronos in 2016, a full year after the credit union introduced queuing capabilities in its branches.

It was a natural progression, says Julie Moran, the credit union’s senior vice president of member services.

How does online appointment scheduling work?

Julie Moran: Members can visit our website to book an appointment time that is convenient for them at the branch of their choice as well as check anticipated wait times before visiting a branch. Members can book appointments based on a product or service need. Additionally, members may also choose a specific member service representative to meet with.

Examples of a product need: membership, checking account, auto loan, credit card, or mortgage.
Examples of a service need: mobile banking question, credit report analysis, or IRA question.

Our call center representatives also can schedule appointments on behalf of our members who they feel might benefit from a face-to-face meeting in a branch.

How do you set wait times?

JM: We estimate based on past experience the time it will take to assist a member. For example, it takes an average of 15 minutes to open a checking account, 30 minutes to process an auto loan, and one hour to process a mortgage.

How have members responded?

JM: Members find the ability to book appointments, especially at the busier branches, extremely convenient. It allows the member to do their banking on their own time and helps to improve the overall lobby wait-time experience.

What are some of the functionalities you like best about this technology?

JM: One of the biggest benefits is that the appointment scheduling system syncs to employees’ email calendars. This ensures staff will not be assigned an appointment if they have something on their schedule.

Also, we can create a unique profile in the system portal that includes strengths specific to each employee. For example, we are able indicate if the employee is bilingual and speaks Spanish. This allows the member to meet with a representative that speaks Spanish when booking an appointment. It also allows us to capitalize on an employee’s skillset. For example, a relatively new employee who might not be trained on originating mortgages would not be scheduled for a mortgage appointment.

The portal also contains great tools and reporting mechanisms to assist management in reviewing branch trends and gaining a better understanding of member needs and behavior.

What are some or lessons you’ve learned?

JM: Members who are waiting in the lobby might see someone come in after them but receive assistance first because that member booked an appointment in advance. So, we’ve found it is important to address this with the members waiting and also educate them on the benefits of booking their appointments in the future.

Lea Ammerman, Executive Vice President Of Member Services, MSUFCU

Lea Ammerman, EVP of Member Services, MSUFCU

Members can’t yet book in-branch appointments online at MSUFCU that functionality is coming in 2020 but the credit union did roll out the first of this two-step process in the spring of 2019. Today, the largest credit union catering to college students, faculty, and families does offer in-branch queuing through Better Lobby.

We always knew we’d start with self-queuing then add appointment scheduling, says Lea Ammerman, the credit union’s executive vice president of member services. It’s a matter of getting initial functionality up and running before starting on next steps.

How does in-branch queuing work?

Lea Ammerman: We offer it in six branches, all of which have a universal teller (integrated) model. Not all of our branches have that model, and we’re only starting to roll it out to our traditional high-volume branch locations. Currently, with the integrated model, members walk up to an iPad, enter their information, and see the service order on monitors.

What is the value of in-branch queuing?

LA: Members can queue themselves. They don’t need to wait in line they can choose for themselves what to do with their time. If it’s going to take five minutes before they are served by the next available FSR, they don’t need to spend those minutes in a teller line. We hope they choose something else, in fact.

We recently began introducing technology bars, a tabletop set up with interactive screens, where members can learn more about our products and services. For example, if you’ve been thinking about a new car loan, you can price out the loan amount and potential rate right there while you wait.

Additionally, members can feel other members behind them in line, so they don’t ask all the questions they want to. We hope giving them additional touchpoints will give them a fuller experience before they even talk to a person.

What will change when you introduce online appointment scheduling?

LA: Rather than spending five minutes waiting in the branch, members can spend that time in their office. Our overall goal is to let members decide whether they prefer to wait in our space or at their office.

What are your expectations for online appointment scheduling?

LA: Based on what we’re seeing in the queuing, we’d like to get ahead of some things. Right now, a member could be the next person in line, but the FSR who comes up might not have the technical skill to handle the request. So, we’ll need to educae our members on how the system allows them to choose the person best able to handle their request.

We understand that it will be a learning process for members. They only know the experience of waiting in line for the next available teller. Response will be favorable, but we expect it to come with a bit of hesitation and resistance to change. We’ll have to overcome that by proving its value.

How will you know it’s successful?

LA: We’ll introduce typical transactional surveys with the online appointment scheduling. Questions like: What did you enjoy? What was the value? What didn’t you enjoy? What suggestions do you have?

Of course, we can’t just turn something on and expect members or employees to automatically know how to do it. We have to invest in bridging that knowledge gap by having conversations with both sides. When a member comes in with a question, we can provide the answer in a way that highlights the system’s true value.


September 23, 2019

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