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Braving the Storm: How POPi/o Helped Xplore FCU Serve Members During Hurricane Ida

By | Blog, Client Experiences, Digital Customer Engagement

When Lousiana-based Xplore Federal Credit Union implemented the POPi/o platform a year ago, they didn’t know how heavily they would come to rely on it come hurricane season.

This summer, the deadly and destructive Hurricane Ida struck the struck the gulf coast, leaving many without power, food, water, and other vital resources. In the video below, Xplore President and CEO, Rafael Rondon summarizes the palpable sense of relief his credit union felt knowing they at least had POPi/o to help them continue serving members through this difficult time.

Being a Louisiana-based financial institution, Rafael and his team were no strangers to hurricanes. They had seen the damage sustained in previous hurricanes. So, when Hurricane Ida arrived, they knew they’d have to think fast to keep their members taken care of.

“Hurricane Ida hit on Monday morning,” Rafael begins, detailing the experience. “But by Friday afternoon we were up and running using POPi/o.” Watch the video below to hear more on how Xplore got up and running so quickly.

Most of what they were doing was assisting people who had evacuated the area. They were greeted with members that were grateful in the face of difficulty.

Another way POPi/o was able to help the situation was by providing the technology for Xplore’s employees to work from home during the hurricane. With POPi/o’s flexible platform, the Xplore team was still able to deliver vital services to members from outside their office.

But POPi/o also helped Xplore handle more pressing matters. Using POPi/o’s uniquely extensive capabilities, Xplore was able to provide emergency loans to members who were affected by the hurricane. In the video clip below, you can hear Rafael explain the value this service provided during his members’ immense time of need.

“Our video banking department was processing something like 120 emergency loans during those last two or three weeks of the month, after Hurricane Ida—because, you know, our members needed those emergency funds,” Rafael says, detailing the urgency of the situation they faced.

When asked if he could imagine repeating the experience without POPi/o, Rafael states plainly, “I couldn’t imagine not having POPi/o… It’s a scary thought to be honest with you.”

While members were able to receive some limited services from the credit union over their phone lines and mobile apps, only POPi/o allowed them to deliver their personalized, comprehensive services that they’re known for. To hear Rafael’s full answer, watch the video below.

And if you’re interested in learning more about POPi/o’s Digital Customer Engagement platform, talk with one of our experts.

Dead End sign

The Ones That Got Away

By | Blog, Digital Customer Engagement

A closer look at the reasons for dead ends and abandonment in today’s digital banking services.

 

Well if that isn’t a captivating subtitle, I don’t know what is. But behind that statement is a real—and in some cases, dire—fact of digital banking services: Some of them don’t work.

Users begin processes on their phones and tablets, only to leave them incomplete. They run into snags or are told they have to visit a branch in order to proceed. So they close the app or the webpage, and leave the transaction unfinished.

Meanwhile, other digital services are able to provide the convenience and support needed to create a successful customer outcome. They give the user a host of quick and easy solutions, while also offering the full capabilities of a branch visit.

So, what does it take to make the cut? Why do some digital services outperform others? And why are digital banking services so important anyway? In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at what’s needed to offer a satisfying experience to today’s digital consumer.

Great Expectations

Meeting consumer needs has always been a challenge for businesses. And with the recent growth and disruption of emerging technology, providing customers with satisfying experiences has become something like trying to hit a moving target. 

Then, as if the situation wasn’t already complicated enough, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, profoundly affecting the standards consumers had for digital experiences. With many in-person transactions, services, and experiences shut down, consumers shifted their reliance to digital outlets. This meant that many businesses had to quickly and effectively provide a digital infrastructure to their customers.

But now digital services have become a prominent feature in the lives of many users. People have become adept at navigating various kinds of digital experiences. Because of this increase in digital adoption and user proficiency, people no longer tolerate an inefficient, frustrating user experience. They want services to be fast and comprehensive, they want their needs to be understood, and they want clear, navigable pathways to whatever they’re trying to accomplish.

After years of being well-versed in streamlined apps and online services, the average consumer has little patience for frustrations and roadblocks in the online world. 

Robot Rage

One area where these frustrations crop up is with chatbots. These tools, along with AI, automation, and self-service channels, can anger the customer, failing to understand their need, and offering no through-line to human assistance when requested. 

In banking, chatbots, AI, and self-service channels may be excellent tools for simple, high-frequency interactions. But when these limited services are all a customer is offered, they can be made to feel like their FI doesn’t value them as a customer, that it doesn’t want to provide them with a solution to their problem. 

Forbes noted in an article that though chatbots are being offered by an ever-increasing number of banks and credit unions, they continue to lead to fewer happy customers. Research shows that 22% of chatbot experiences lead to customers being “frustrated”, and a further 11% led to them being “angry”.

These sour experiences can erode brand loyalty, which is leading to many customers leaving their FI’s for more technologically-adept ones. This act of leaving one’s institution for another is called “customer churn”, and in the next few years, it’s expected to hit an all-time high. According to Foresight Research, the pandemic created a “hot spot of churn”. They found that customer churn increased from 12% to 22%, and is still on the rise. At some banks, it’s gotten as high as 27%, making it increasingly clear that effective digital services have become a vital aspect of customer retention. 

To many FI’s, this statistic should be a canary in a coal mine. The proliferation of digital services is not a trend, it’s a shift. And the businesses that don’t adapt to it will always run the risk of being left behind.

Don’t Settle for Dead Ends

Satisfying the digital consumer may seem like a daunting endeavor. Many FI’s are left wondering what digital services to implement, or whether the digital tools they have will still be relevant a few years from now.

But the best advice, as offered by Forbes and other outlets, is to provide a host of services, allowing users to find the appropriate level of assistance for their needs. The goal for any business in this position is to eliminate dead ends from their customers’ digital journey. If one particular point is causing hang-ups, frustrations, or high abandonment rates, it should be rethought to offer a more efficient and comprehensive pathway for the customer.

This idea especially applies to the services that banks and credit unions typically perform in branches. Applying for loans, opening new accounts, and speaking with experts about mortgages and investments are just a few examples of tasks that users struggle to complete through digital self-service channels. 

According to Jim Marous, publisher of the Digital Banking Report, the baseline abandonment rate for online users opening new accounts through self-service channels is 19%, and at some FI’s it’s as high as 75-80%. Furthermore, Javelin Research found that only 8% of mobile users seeking to open a new account were able to complete the process on their phones.

What’s the Solution?

For services like these, users are calling for a “mayday” button—a direct connection to the expertise they need to complete their desired task. This option seamlessly elevates the customer from the chatbot, self-service, or call-center roadblock that they’re facing, and puts them in touch with the banking professional they need to effectively resolve their issue.

Especially helpful for loans, new account openings, and other operations that comprise the majority of a typical FI’s revenue stream, this personalized, human-to-human service improves brand loyalty and digital satisfaction. 

It can be delivered over chat, voice, or collaborative video, giving users a satisfying digital alternative to the in-branch experience, and giving your FI a proven way to operate efficiently in the digital space.

At POPi/o, we know it can be tough to keep up with the changing demands of consumers. But finding an effective digital solution doesn’t have to be an arduous task. We’re here to help you discover and explore new options for managing customer relationships, because we know there’s nothing more important to you than being there for the people you serve.

If you’d like to learn more about the POPi/o Digital Customer Engagement platform, schedule a demo today.

Xplore FCU

Serving Members Around the World with Xplore Federal Credit Union

By | Blog, Client Experiences

In the late 1940’s the Shell Oil Company began providing financial services to a few of its employees. The services were limited, but employees of the oil company welcomed the idea. Because so much of their time was spent offshore or traveling, banking was—to many of them—a chore that they were glad to see simplified by their employer. 

Decades later, Shell Credit Union would become Xplore Federal Credit Union, but their aim to simplify the banking experience for workers in the oil and gas industry never went away. 

Xplore recently overhauled their digital offerings with the help of POPi/o. They now offer a suite of digital services, with video banking playing a key role in the implementation. In anticipation of the rollout, Xplore held an in-house contest to choose a name for their new services. The contest helped garner company interest, getting the employees acquainted with the new video banking platform. One employee suggested “Xplore Away”, which ended up taking the cake. 

The credit union began offering the service to all its members free of charge. They did some marketing to build awareness, and soon, their new video banking service was garnering real interest. Today, Xplore Away boasts an impressive adoption rate. Over 67% of their memberbase has used the solution. Additionally, the majority of their new account openings are driven purely through Xplore Away.

Xplore has a modest staff of only 45 employees, which means they have to work hard to service their 8,000 members. And because a large portion of their memberbase still work in the oil and gas industry, they don’t always have the option to come visit a branch. Whether they’re out of the country, working on an oil rig, or would just rather not make a trip, Xplore Away has given them the ability to easily perform transactions or work with a financial service professional. 

By connecting members directly to in-branch professionals, Xplore is able to service Member relationships in the most efficient way possible. Their loan officers, which may have been underutilized in a traditional branch setting, can quickly and effectively field calls that apply to their area of expertise. And the financial service professionals that comprise the department report that there are rarely, if ever, wait times for Xplore Away.

When you hear the Xplore Away team talking about their experiences helping members, there’s no denying that they’re glad to be a part of the department. Having the ability to serve people with the convenience of a digital platform and the personal touch of an in-branch experience creates new standards for efficiency and face-to-face service.

One of Xplore Away’s Member Advisors, Rocio Cueves, has worked at other financial institutions in the past, but she says she likes working at Xplore more. “At Xplore, it’s a little more one-on-one,” she says, smiling. 

And now, with POPi/o’s unique digital banking solution, Xplore can deliver that one-on-one service to their members any time. Whether they’re calling from their living room, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, or their office in the Netherlands, they still have access to the in-branch experience that makes Xplore special.

The Xplore Away team now provides a one-touch digital experience for their members, allowing them to handle everything from simple customer service inquiries to complex banking transactions.

To see the POPi/o solution in action, request a demo now.

Affinity Federal Credit Union in Grand Rapids

Putting People First With Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union

By | Blog, Video Banking

Affinity Federal Credit Union in Grand Rapids

One of the most fascinating things about Minnesota is the infrastructure. It’s a state that was built to thrive in the cold. In the major city of Minneapolis, for example, there are nearly 10 miles of enclosed pedestrian footbridges. Referred to as the Minneapolis Skyway System, the elevated bridges and tunnels connect 80 full city blocks, giving people access to numerous downtown destinations, free of exposure to the often frigid weather.

This type of industrious, connective thinking and planning seems to be built in to the mindset of many Minnesotans. They understand the importance of staying connected despite circumstances and environmental factors. For that reason, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Minnesota is a place where video banking has not only been adopted, but embraced.

“We felt like it just really opened up the capabilities for our membership.”

If you went to Minnesota and visited one of Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union’s 28 locations, you’d find a robust yet humble financial institution. Their locations are concentrated in the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas, but their footprint has increased in recent years. They’ve grown to serve smaller, more disparate communities in the far reaches of the state. 

Likewise, their assets have grown as well. At over $3 billion—and having grown from $2.4 billion just in the last year—Affinity Plus manages a significant amount of assets. But as a not-for-profit, member-owned cooperative, Affinity Plus isn’t only focused on their asset size. Their main focus is serving their 220,000 members. In their own words, they’re committed to “improving the lives of [their] members through meaningful banking, exceptional experiences, and trusted relationships.”

With the shuttering of branches during the COVID-19 pandemic, delivering on these key goals became difficult for Affinity Plus. But like a bridge built to connect people in a blizzard, the Minnesota credit union decided to use the adversity as an opportunity to improve their member experience. It was time for them to make the jump to video banking.

“We’ve been able to do everything that we do in a branch through video banking.”

“We started looking at it pre-pandemic,” said Jenny Nubeck, director of the Affinity Plus digital branch. “We felt like it just really opened up the capabilities for our membership.” Corey Rupp, Senior Vice President of Lending, shared the sentiment. He said the pandemic hastened their launch of video banking channels, but that it wasn’t the sole motivator leading up to it. Affinity Plus was already looking for ways to better serve their members and keep them connected—no matter where they were.

When asked how willing their members were to try the new service, Nubuck said she was surprised. Adoption of the video banking channels was higher than she’d expected. “It’s surprisingly simple,” she stated. “Based on everything we’re hearing from members, they’re like, ‘Ok, don’t let this service go away.’”

According to Rupp, the willingness to adopt is tied not only to the platform’s ease of use, but also to its versatility and functionality. “We’ve been able to do everything that we do in a branch through video banking,” Rupp said. “It’s been a great experience.”

“POPi/o has allowed Affinity Plus to see members again.”

Samantha Prudhon Falkowski, a member advisor at Affinity Plus, also commented on POPi/o’s functionality. Falkowski says she generates three to four loans per week through the video banking channel. And more importantly, she takes the video calls as a chance to discuss and compare options with members. By conversing face-to-face, Falkowski can get a sense of what the member is looking for, allowing her to best advise them. “The majority of calls that I’m seeing through video banking are people who want to have that in-depth conversation about ‘What’s the best recommendation?” 

By taking video calls and fielding members’ questions, Falkowski gets to restore the personal connection she shared with members before the pandemic. As she puts it, “POPi/o has allowed Affinity Plus to see members again—to see them in their own spaces, and to help them with their banking needs.”

To learn more about the adoption of video banking by Affinity Plus, watch the video case study.

How to Capture and Service More Profitable Relationships in 2021

By | Blog, Video Banking | No Comments

For years, financial institutions have physically modernized their branch environments to direct customers out of transaction teller lines and into new self-service channels like ATMs and banking apps. The shift was designed to allow branch employees to capture and service revenue-producing activities like loans, investments, and business accounts. Some banks and credit unions executed this revenue-focused branch strategy even more efficiently by connecting customers via video to centrally located lending and other product knowledge experts.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered branches in nearly every community across the country and around the world. Without warning, financial institutions were forced to find new ways to capture and service those profitable relationships.

Most had already heavily invested in mobile banking apps, online applications, and highly experienced call center teams. Most thought these digital channels could replicate branch services. Most discovered that wasn’t the case.

POPi/o® experienced exponential growth in 2020, including a 283% increase in call volume. We credit that growth to many of our new clients, using video to fill that in-person service gap. These banks and credit unions didn’t invest in video banking technology as a leap of faith; long before the COVID-19 pandemic, our platform usage data had already revealed that revenue-generating activity represented more than three-fourths of total call volume. The percentage of video banking calls to support new accounts and lending compared to total video calls rose even further in 2020 to 80%.

Our 2020 user data also reveals that as branches have reopened and other delivery channels have improved, video banking usage remains high. In fact, as 2020 came to a close, video banking traffic continued to climb.

For financial institutions seeking additional new account and loan volume, this is great news. Video banking not only replaces branch service in a pinch, but it can also extend the reach of your in-person service to capture and service even more profitable relationships. This centralized operational strategy frees your most talented employees from being confined to a specific geographic location. Video banking allows your best employees to make the biggest impact on your organization, leveraging the efficiency and convenience of digital delivery to generate even more high-touch, revenue-generating activities.

Educators Credit Union is a perfect example of a financial institution that had modernized branches to include centralized lending via video banking but was forced to switch gears quickly when branches closed. Because Educators Credit Union needed to deliver face-to-face service to members quickly, the credit union first deployed video banking to its website, which only required pasting a few lines of code. After some marketing across social media platforms, website video banking traffic grew enough to convince Educators Credit Union that the next step—mobile video banking would be a profitable move.

Educators Credit Union deployed a standalone video banking mobile app, rather than integrating video banking into its existing mobile banking app. Nearly all POPi/o video banking clients deploy mobile video banking this way because it allows for more rapid deployment and provides availability to non-customers to connect for new business. In fact, financial institutions that have launched video banking through existing mobile banking app integrations have often later added a standalone app to capture new business.

Looking for other video banking best implementation practices? Our phenomenal 2020 growth and influx of new institutions live on our platform has provided a treasure chest of tips and strategies for creating and deploying a successful video banking. Download our 2021 Video Banking Implementation Guide here to begin. Then, when you’re ready, click here to talk to an expert.

To learn how POPi/o Video Banking can help your financial institutions maintain relevance and personal service, request a FREE demo.

Video Brings Santa Claus to Town

By | Blog, Video Banking | No Comments

PCSB Bank has already won Christmas.

The leaders of this $1.5 billion financial institution in Clarinda, Iowa, were crushed to learn that officials had canceled this year’s community Santa House. The cancellation left no place for local kids to meet Santa, share their wish list, and pose for a photo.

Even with social distancing and frequent photoshoot wipe downs, COVID-19 has turned Santa House into a risky spreader event. While the decision made sense, CEO James Johnson felt like he had to do something. The bank couldn’t let local kids miss birthdays, graduations, summer with friends, school, trick or treating, and Santa. It was just too much.

PCSB and his team brainstormed ways the bank could help bring Santa Claus to town. The answer was our video banking.

PCSB is offering free video visits with Santa to local children using its video banking channel, which is available to customers through PCSB’s website and mobile app. The 10-minutes video chats are by appointment only. PCSB is making Santa available to both customers and non-customers. Parents can schedule visits for kids by calling the bank or filling out an online form that provides the jolly ol’ elf with important personal information that makes the moment magical.

I think this is such a great idea because it’s not only good for local kids and the community, it’s good for the bank’s bottom line, too. Here are four benefits, for starters:

  1. Joy for local children. Sure, we love to achieve career success, but real leaders get even more fulfillment out of using their resources and influence for the greater good. They couldn’t have picked a better year to do this!
  2. Corporate citizen goodwill. Community financial institutions are the foundation of healthy communities. By making Santa available to kids for free at a time when families are struggling financially and feel unsure about the future, the bank is providing a sense of normalcy and hope for the future.
  3. Video banking demonstration. I can’t think of a better way to motivate people to try video banking than a visit with Santa. Customers are often impressed with how easy video banking is to use and return to use the channel again and again.
  4. New Customers. All FI marketers know the key to getting new business is being top of mind when the customer is ready to buy. Not only does Santa raise awareness and the bank’s reputation, it cleverly showcases new technology that sets PCSB apart from its competitors. And, I’m sure Santa’s elves are able to transfer Mom or Dad to a service representative if the topic of a credit card to pay for all of those toys comes up in conversation.

“When we learned that the children in our town would miss out on meeting Santa Claus this year, we were crushed—and determined to find a way to help,” said James Johnson, CEO of PCSB Bank. “We’re thrilled to bring some merriness and cheer to all the people we know and love in this great community.”

How can you use POPi/o video banking to spread good cheer? Drop your ideas in the comments section below.

Careful and Steady Wins the Tech Urgency Race

By | Blog, Video Banking | No Comments

Financial institutions have had to pivot quickly this year when it comes to delivering products and services, launching new delivery channels adding to and modifying using existing ones. Even those banks and credit unions confident in their digital delivery strategies were caught off guard by the dual challenges of operating remotely and switching to entirely digital interactions.

Andy Crisenberry, SVP of eLending Solutions at real estate lending fintech Black Knight, said his firm scrambled to provide support for its remote online notarization product after COVID-19 shuttered its clients’ real estate lending offices.

“This is a great technology solution that really helps with the challenges of COVID-19, but unless your business is ready to deploy, use and support RON, you won’t be very successful,” Crisenberry told HousingWire.

All new technology produces unexpected friction. In a normal year, launches are carefully planned and include feedback that identifies friction. Yes, COVID-19 drastically increased the urgency with which firms needed to launch technology or find new ways to use existing technology. However, increasing consumer expectations for intuitive, real-time digital service had already been pushing CX modernization forward faster than expected in all sectors well in advance of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Take, for example, the $2.5 billion Educators Credit Union in Racine, Wis. Like many community FIs, Educators had already determined smaller branches, supported by video access to centralized product specialists, was the most effective strategy to serve its market. It planned an in-branch video banking launch offering auto lending, mortgage and investment services that included training, testing and weeding out of all known friction points. On March 5, the credit union excitedly opened its first modern branch featuring video banking.

Less than two weeks later, COVID-19 closed every branch lobby in the credit union’s network. Existing online and mobile banking products handled essential transactions well on a dime, but new service friction points quickly popped up, including a hasty transition for employees to work from home.

Around this time, POPi/o reached out to Educators and asked if they would like to launch video banking digitally, through the credit union’s website. Within days, the executive team approved the initiative.

While this decision seems like a no brainer, consider that it required Educators to execute a 180-degree shift in video banking strategy. Staffing and workflows had to shift; the technology would now be used to provide branch services like cashless transactions and new accounts, not specialized lending and investments. Second, staff would have to be trained remotely and access new technology from their homes. Third, because Coronavirus had blocked access to lobby branch service, time was of the essence.

The solution to this challenge was a balance of speed and CX in the form of a measured, step-by-step rollout. To begin, Educators reviewed what it did know: how to train employees on using the technology and how to provide effective service on camera. It also had staff with video experience in its existing interactive teller machine service department, a valuable resource for the video skill set.

Within 60 days, the credit union had a team trained, staged, connected and ready to serve members via video banking. Educators was ready for the next step, a soft launch. On May 19, WeCU video banking branch was open for business. The launch was purposely limited, offering video banking via a widget button on the credit union’s website only a couple of days a week. Because there was no advertising, adoption numbers were small; on the first day, only 16 video calls were completed. However, this soft launch allowed the credit union to collect ample feedback from members and employees, and then take the time to address friction before taking the next step.

After one week, WeCU was promoted on the credit union’s website and social media accounts. Traffic climbed quickly and by the end of May, in just four total days of service, Educators had completed 193 video sessions.

Feedback and adjustments weren’t just limited to friction. From the first day, members raved about being able to see credit union employees face-to-face while in lockdown. Educators capitalized on the benefit of personalization and added the video banking representative’s branch location or department to the welcome screen.

Step by step, Educators collected feedback, made adjustments, increased service hours and carefully managed channel growth. Changes during the summer included increasing service hours to Monday through Saturday, providing staff with professional lighting, staging, and more on-camera training.

Educators launched its mobile app on August 12. After a couple of weeks to work out any bugs, a marketing campaign followed. By the end of October, ECU handled 5,278 sessions.

What began as an operational pivot during the Coronavirus pandemic has developed into a popular service delivery channel that members will continue utilizing after branches resume regular service. ECU didn’t change its original video banking strategy; it expanded it. The credit union will continue to offer video banking through digital channels, while also executing its original plan to provide specialized lending and investment services in branch from centrally located staff.

The future still isn’t clear when it comes to how COVID-19 has permanently changed consumer habits, but ECU has all its delivery bases covered with the ability to provide a branch experience in person or digitally through a virtual branch. This allows the credit union to focus on the future instead of worrying about it. ECU can instead focus on enhancing video banking to improve CX and achieve new member and loan growth goals.

Like other financial institutions, the Coronavirus shutdown turned ECU’s service delivery strategy on its head. Despite the urgency of the situation, credit union leaders calmly rolled out video banking using a carefully measured approach. The result was a new delivery channel that will pay dividends for ECU and its members long after its branch network reopens.

Interested in a deeper dive into Educators’ remarkable business pivot? Click here to download ECU’s case study and learn more about the unique way POPi/o approaches your growth and service goals.

To learn how POPi/o Video Banking can help your financial institutions maintain relevance and personal service, request a FREE demo.

Does Video Banking Create Relevance? InRoads Credit Union Thinks So

By | Blog, Video Banking | No Comments

Remember back before the pandemic, when traditional financial institutions’ greatest concern was relevance? Today with Covid-19 concerns, FI executives are consumed by the need to deliver touchless service while managing new concerns about employee safety, dwindling earnings, loan losses, and capital.

As a result, relevance has moved down on the priority list. While relevance may not be an immediate priority, the need for it remains high. Consumers understand or perhaps don’t care if an organization struggles with financial or regulatory concerns, they just want a relevant provider to serve their needs.

InRoads Credit Union is a $288 million community-chartered institution headquartered in St. Helens, Ore., a town of approximately 13,000 people. In St. Helens, $288 million in assets buys a lot more relevance than in nearby Portland. Still, President/CEO Brooke Van Vleet, who began her credit union career in the marketing discipline, recognizes the value of continuing to evolve that strong brand with the times. She and the InRoads team knew the credit union needed to continue investment into their digital services to remain relevant in their marketplace and ensure a sustainable future.

In 2019, InRoads went all-in on ITM drive-thru service for teller services and POPi/o’s Video Banking solutions for both mobile and in-branch video consultations.  The goal was to provide members with a combination of digital convenience and face-to-face service to meet member’s needs. In the very early stages, members’ response to the new technology was lukewarm, that is until COVID-19 shuttered the community and InRoads closed all of its branches. Suddenly, video became the only way to get face-to-face service and adoption quickly grew four times over.

InRoads LIVE Manager Kim Preston said response to the new video-branching normal has been very well received, even by members who previously rejected digital delivery. She recalled one grandmother and grandson duo who used video banking to open the boy’s first account. The young saver didn’t appear to be thrilled about his first credit union experience until the video representative appeared on the screen. “I can’t believe this, Grandma! Wells Fargo has nothing like this,” the boy exclaimed. And just like that, InRoads Credit Union gained Gen Z relevance.

Preston recalled another member who refused to use video banking, loudly demanding that he sit across the table from a live human being. A branch employee eventually convinced him to just give the service a try. As he emerged from the video banking office and headed for the lobby door, the teller said, “Bye, see you later!”  “No you won’t,” he said, “I’m using this from now on.” And just like that, InRoads gained relevance from a member who was perfectly happy with the status quo.

Chief Experience Officer, Ron Winter, explained that rolling out new technology and asking a small town community to adopt it isn’t always well-received. However, when the pandemic hit and InRoads already had a solution that was not only safe, but also maintained face-to-face service, perception of the credit union shifted in Columbia County. InRoads became the most relevant game in town. “It certainly positions us differently than six months ago,” Winter said. Video banking was a perfect complement to the new branding initiative the credit union began in 2018, in conjunction with its name change. In fact, video banking has become a cornerstone of how InRoads plans to serve members in the future. “We’ve talked a lot about what traditional used to mean, and I don’t think we’ll ever build another branch the way we used to,” he said. “Yes, we will have brick and mortar, but it will be different. Video banking will allow members to speak with a subject matter expert from anywhere. Even if you visit a small location, we can connect you to a commercial mortgage loan officer or whomever you need. That’s the vision.”

To learn how POPi/o Video Banking can help your financial institutions maintain relevance and personal service, request a FREE demo.

How Video Can Bring Digital Sales To Life

By | Blog, Video Banking | No Comments

I’m a big fan of the convenience of digital services, unfortunately, most deployments are targeted to such narrow use cases that it doesn’t address most consumer’s needs. This is especially the case for more complex financial service products. It shouldn’t be that difficult, right? Consumers should just go to the FI’s website, find the products they want and “sign-up”, or in the model of Amazon, add the product to their “online shopping cart”.  Yet as branch traffic dwindles and digital adoption grows financial institutions are finding that their “online shopping cart” abandonment rates remain sky-high.

According to research by UK-based behavioral marketing company SaleCycle, the financial sector has the highest global online shopping cart abandonment rate at 83.6%. The overall average for all sectors wasn’t much better at 75.6%.

Why so high? In general, digital channels are a one-way experience. Closing a sale has traditionally been a five-step process that requires two-way communication, which is missing in digital sales interactions.

Below are the five most common sales steps:

  1. Introduction
  2. Discovery
  3. Offer
  4. Objections
  5. Close

Research shows a variety of reasons online carts are abandoned; however, they all have one thing in common, a stalled sales process. But Video Banking can help since it provides a customer experience that combines two-way, face-to-face service with the convenience, security, and efficiency expected with digital interactions. When Video Banking is leveraged to its full potential it can become the ultimate sales channel, providing financial institutions the ability to take a customer through all five sales steps in just one call.

Let’s examine how Video Banking supports these five sales steps.

Introduction

For institutions focused on increasing wallet share, the introduction and rapport building stage are already occurring while providing service to existing customers. Video banking provides an ideal channel to discuss complex transactions, solve problems, and ultimately builds rapport that leads to additional sales. Video banking helps build trust quickly with prospective and new customers in the moment of need when facing major life events.  Our customers expressed the value of providing an empathic face with video while discussing consumer loan modifications and payment plans during the recent branch closures.

Discovery

Video banking allows your customer service representative (CSR) to initiate conversations that reveal unmet financial needs, which is the purpose of the discovery step. Customized digital sales pages backed by data and artificial intelligence (AI) can perform better than general digital sales tools, but only a live CSR can listen to the customer’s needs and effectively tailor their sales pitch or presentation accordingly.

Offer

No matter how well you craft an online offer and sales page, it will never compare to a well delivered presentation by an experienced CSR. Video banking can integrate professional presentation tools that add consistency and polish to your message. And, a two-way conversation during the offer step allows CSR’s to confirm that they are matching the customer’s needs with the right features and benefits of your product.

Objections

Handling objections is where two-way communication truly shines. Data and AI can anticipate which objections a digital customer may have, but video banking has a definite advantage with two-way communication that effectively identifies objections and provides the opportunity to answer questions. Additional POPi/o tools like dynamic call routing, warm transfers make accessing the right experts easy.  Plus our Positivity Coach feature allows the CSR to monitor the consumer’s reaction and adjust if emotions indicate some fear or trepidation.

Close

The most important step in making a sale is asking for the business and closing the deal. However, even expertly optimized digital sales pages convert just 20% of leads. That’s because the close step can only be completed if the previous four steps were successful. Your seasoned CSRs knows when all questions and objections have been addressed and when the time is right to close the deal..  With this step, it’s essential that Video Banking tools include workflow abilities like E-sign, document exchange, and screen share, to allow for the product purchase to be finalized before the video chat ends.

Introducing POPwelcome

It’s the extra tools and system integrations that make the POPi/o Video Banking app so robust and successful. However, not all customers have downloaded the app onto their mobile devices. For customers that are browsing an FI’s webpage, your representatives can now use POPi/o’s new POPWelcome for online or mobile chat messaging, providing a truly omnichannel experience by seamlessly transitioning the customer from text chat to video banking.

Personalized service sets community financial institutions apart from national and global competitors. However, without sales, no company can prosper and grow. No matter the size of your institution, you must provide your sales team with technology that allows them to provide the best of digital and face-to-face service, without any disruption to the five-step sales process. Video banking can provide that experience. To learn more about how quickly and effectively POPi/o Video Banking can boost your digital sales conversions, request a free demonstration with a video representative.

For more information about video banking, request a free demonstration.

Easy Social Distancing Ideas When Branch Lobbies Re-open

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Digital service providers are reporting explosive increases in user data over the past two months as shelter-in-place orders have forced consumers to go digital. Attitudes toward digital have seemingly changed overnight – what was once a user experience enhancement is now literally an essential service channel.

The term disruption had run its course before COVID-19, but this largely unexpected even is just that, a major disruption for nearly every sector. Now that we’re about three months into this global pandemic, financial institutions are no longer wondering if, but how much COVID-19 will change the way they deliver products and services.

The answer could mean shuttering even more branches and once again rethinking branch strategy. Consider this: increased digital adoption won’t be the only drain on branch traffic. Experts say the stay-at-home environment could be a way of life for a long time. Certain groups of people, including retirees, those with compromised immune systems, and those fearful of infectious disease may forever avoid in-person interactions.

There’s more. Experts say social distancing could be required by authorities well beyond 2020.

As long as someone in the world has COVID-19 and there is no vaccine or herd immunity, breakouts can and will keep recurring without stringent controls, wrote MIT Technology Review Editor-in-Chief Gideon Lichfield. Even if social distancing measures are only put into place every time ICU admissions begin to spike, research models predict that strategy would still require a schedule of roughly two months under quarantine and one-off.

Harvard disease experts agree, saying that some form of intermittent social distancing may need to be in place until 2022 and possibly longer.

Social distancing is beginning to be referred to as physical distancing, which is a more accurate description. Despite being physically separated by quarantine, people have still found ways to be social. Neighbors have entertained each other around the world with balcony musical performances. Friends and family have honored graduates and birthdays with car parades. We’ve turned video conferencing into virtual happy hours that even have their own signature drink, the Quarantini.

Those under COVID-19 quarantine have shown that while they are willing to adhere to physical distancing, they still require face-to-face contact, even if it’s via video. To maintain brand loyalty, financial institutions will need to find ways to provide that level of human service. Many of them will have to find ways to make branching work despite the challenges, which will likely include the need to keep everyone at least six feet away from each other, limiting people in the branch at one time and increased personal hygiene and cleaning standards.

The solution lies in using technology in new, creative ways to provide meaningful social interaction, just as parents have created virtual graduation and birthday parties for their children. We’ve seen credit unions and banks integrate video banking like POPi/o into their branches in creative ways that provide a superior user experience while also supporting the institution’s bottom line.

For example, one financial institution completely centralized its lending operations, even going as far as to restructure branch employee incentives to guarantee their support of video banking in lending. To ensure privacy, an office in each branch was reserved exclusively for video banking sessions. This institution already had a pandemic-friendly branch strategy that minimizes employee exposure and maintains excellent physical distancing between two groups of customers: those completing transactions and borrowers.

Another video banking institution has closed its branches to walk-up traffic, performing only select services for customers by appointment only. However, it had already installed personal video teller machines outside of the lobby, providing an on-demand way to accept check and cash deposits, make cash withdrawals, and, if needed, connect to a live video teller who can perform more robust transactions and problem-solving. Time will tell if this strategy will work long term, but because video tellers had already been integrated into the branch strategy – even if only intended to extend service hours, not perform essential services during a national emergency – this financial institution didn’t skip a beat providing full branch service while being a good corporate citizen.

Are you frustrated with what seems like no-win options to adjust your branching strategy to physical distancing and other measures that will keep your employees and customers safe? Let POPi/o help you brainstorm ways your financial institution can use video banking to quickly and effectively meet the needs of your customers and your bottom line.

How COVID-19 Could Change Banking Forever

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Throughout history, major events have created permanent, unexpected shifts in human behavior. People have been forced into lockdown to stop the spread of disease before; the long-term psychological effects of those quarantines have been studied, so we have some idea of what to expect. However, the length and global reach of this isolation are unmatched, and there is no doubt this traumatic event will produce permanent changes. 

Here are three impacts of COVID-19 and their respective long-term outcome for community banks and credit unions.

Fear of public gatherings

After this pandemic has long passed, a generational shift will produce new preferences when it comes to public gatherings and face-to-face interactions.  Following previous outbreaks in Asia, face masks became a normal and expected day-to-day accessory. With the fear of contagions and mandatory stay-at-home orders, people are becoming more comfortable replacing physical interactions with digital visits.  The long-term shift will come as many start preferring it as a way to manage lingering fears of contracting a fatal disease. Perhaps you’ve already seen this fear play out on social media in emotional debates about whether or not a COVID-19 vaccine is required before reinstating sporting events, concerts, and other large public gatherings. In particular, subsets of the general population who are concerned about germs will be more sensitive to the risks involved. 

The effect on FIs: Traffic at branches has been decreasing for years; however, fear combined with increased digital channel adoption will send this trend into overdrive. After all, it’s mostly older consumers who still use branches, and this age group will be understandably shaken by losing friends to COVID-19. However, older generations also value face-to-face service and prefer doing business with specific employees. Not only will video banking fill that service gap for this market, but adoption will also be easier than ever because so many grandparents have been using video to communicate with family during the quarantine. 

We’ve said for years that consumers want to choose how they engage with their FI. If they can do it all digitally, more power to them. But in tumultuous times like now, people need more help from real people. Maybe they can’t pay their existing monthly loan payment due to reduced hours. Do they refinance the existing loan? Roll it into a HELOC? Find another solution? To solve this problem, they need a financial counselor, and that’s something credit unions and community banks can and should offer. Video banking supports that consultative relationship while still protecting the consumer and employees.

Economic shifts

I’m confident that the stock market and U.S. economy will survive and continue to lead the world; however, segments of the economy already affected by quarantine orders may not completely recover. Small restaurants, travel industries, commercial real estate, and auto industries are all likely to face a protracted slowdown. 

The effect on FIs: Financial institutions that serve these industries will suffer resultant impacts on their businesses as well.  Although markets shift and change every day, this change is so drastic and unexpected, we may see some financial institutions fail or merge for survival similar to the mortgage meltdown in the late 2000s.  Those looking to thrive must find ways to economically provide their services. Again, we see video banking as a possible solution for cost-conscious service delivery. 

Work from home

Now that a majority of U.S. workers are gaining remote work experience, a return to the office will be a tough sell. Let’s start with the dress code: sales figures from Walmart that report the chain selling out of tops but not pants. Americans have happily embraced new workplace standards that only require professionalism from the waist up and allow for interruptions from children during meetings.

The effect on FIs: Like everyone else in America, financial services employees will want to continue to work from home. Working from home and the schedule flexibility it will bring could create the need for, and ability to offer, longer service hours. While that might be possible from a technology standpoint, security will be an issue for FIs, because video conferencing apps like Zoom they weren’t built to handle secure financial information and workflows. We’ve helped our customers use the POPi/o platform to not only serve customers securely but also support employees who must now work from home and handle sensitive consumer information. 

Change isn’t easy for anyone.  Big external events (like a global pandemic) create new circumstances and could be the stimulus for permanent change.  Good luck to you and your financial institution as you navigate the new normal post-Covid-19.

Video Banking Protects Employees and Consumers

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POPi/o Covid-19 Response

As I write this, the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. has risen to 6,574, and that number is sure to rise by the time you are reading this. Every state in the union has announced positive cases of Covid-19 and most have declared mandatory shelter in place orders. The financial markets have continued to tumble throughout the month of March and the Federal Reserve Board announced its first emergency rate cut since the 2008 financial crisis.

The fatality rate for Covid-19 isn’t as high as other viruses, but what seems to make Covid-19 frightening is how contagious it seems to be. Evidence that Covid-19 is more contagious than estimated lies in the numbers: the virus has reached 210 countries on six continents in a matter of weeks, and many of the infected report no contact with anyone known to be exposed to the virus.

At a time like this, how does a Financial Institution protect their staff and consumers? Most FI’s are choosing to close branches. During the month of March, I talked to hundreds of FI’s. In those meetings, I learned that most branch lobbies remained open on March 16th, but by the end of that week and early into the following week, the majority of branch lobbies had closed or restricted their access.

With this restricted access to physical locations, how can FI’s maintain business continuity? Amid the fear, there is some positive news: today’s technology allows financial institutions to provide essential services much easier than during previous pandemics. During the SARS outbreak of 2002, when most financial institutions last updated their business continuity plans, customers utilized call centers, ATMs and online banking services. These days, technology has enabled several additional tools such as mobile banking, mobile check deposit, video teller machines (ITMs), and video banking tools.

This transition to new technologies is happening already. Within 10 days of Covid-19 hitting the U.S. shores, our video banking company, POPi/o, saw video call volume jump 50%. We also saw a rapid shift from our in-branch video call volume to mobile and web video calls. Other financial services providers report digital channel traffic over the last few months to be equal to traffic during all of 2019. We expect traffic to continue growing.

During this pandemic, consumers need access to your FI resources more now than ever. Whether they need to discuss loan modifications or to apply for the government’s payroll protection program, consumer needs are just as high as their anxieties. Video Banking tools can assist financial institutions when they are forced to close branches, or when consumers are unable to leave their homes. FI’s can now deliver teller services from Interactive Teller Machines and with POPi/o Video Banking offer in-depth banking consultations and account services. Today’s Video banking is far more robust than basic communication via phone or video conferencing and allows for new accounts, loan origination, funding new accounts, exchanging documents, signing applications, and any number of account servicing needs.

Before today’s recent events, many of our credit union and bank clients have found POPi/o video banking to be useful in assisting customers who are homebound due to age, illness or disability. Others used it to assist professionals in medical, military or other circumstances that didn’t allow for quick trips to a branch. Now we see personal branch services being delivered to consumers in self-isolation, oftentimes with the staff member safely working from home.

If your credit union or bank is reviewing their business continuity plan and looking for additional ways to provide essential services using digital channels, request a demonstration or give us a call. We’d be glad to discuss how video banking can become an integral part of pandemic mitigation that protects your staff and consumers. Until then, stay safe, and healthy.

We’re Grateful for Video Banking’s Unexpected Gifts

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The Holidays are a time to reflect upon the past year and focus on gratitude and service. Gratitude can take many forms, such as feeling grateful for financial success, heartwarming gifts, the important people in your life, and even the wisdom you’ve gained from life’s ups and downs of the past year.  As we dig even deeper into gratitude we begin to feel grateful for the things we take for granted, like our health, mobility, food, clean drinking water and even our freedom.

Freedom isn’t just political; it means different things to different people.

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than one in four adults in the United States live with some type of disability. The most common disability is a lack of mobility, which makes the freedom of being able to walk severely difficult or impossible for nearly 14% of Americans.

Many of us take for granted the freedom of being able to handle day-to-day tasks on our own without relying on help from someone else.

When we first started exploring video banking and the impact it would have on people’s lives, we always focused on convenience and how to get services directly to a consumer without friction. Never once did we think it could help so many gain freedom in the way they banked.

But we are incredibly grateful it did.

For example, Idaho Central Credit Union a $4.8 billion credit union headquartered in Chubbuck, Idaho, was able to use video banking to serve a quadriplegic member face-to-face that was an hour away from any branch location. The ability to see and talk to his loan officer allowed him to feel like a piece of independence was given back to him. Service provides assistance to those in need, even when you’re not aware of it, and we are grateful video banking was able to help this happen.

Cobalt Credit Union, a $1 billion institution in Council Bluffs, Iowa, shared a different kind of assistance success story. This member, who is deaf, wasn’t able to access the credit union’s call center and if they needed assistance beyond what was available online or through the mobile banking app, they had to visit a branch in person. With Cobalt’s new video banking channel, however, the member was able to both see the representative on screen and use the app’s chat feature to clarify their banking needs. Now, this member can enjoy full service, at-home banking. We are grateful video banking was able to change how this member interacted and accomplished their banking needs.

Pioneer Federal Credit Union, a $500 million institution located in Mountain Home, Idaho, was able to serve a member who was severely injured in a rodeo accident and had to adjust to depending upon others to assist with their financial transactions and business. We hear a lot about accessibility when it comes to your financial institution’s digital channels, but providing accessibility to your people can mean the world to those in need. We are grateful Pioneer was able to go above and beyond with video to help serve this member and countless others who have let Pioneer know that this engagement channel “has given them their freedom back.”

There are countless more stories of how video banking has supported financial freedom and accessibility. We’ve heard about pilots making video banking calls from the tarmac, consumers accessing financial assistance via video from overseas, parents receiving face-to-face service without having to drag kids along to the branch, and working class Americans who were finally able to connect and accomplish their financial needs.

We didn’t anticipate video banking would change lives. But this Holiday season, as we reflect upon the past year, we are beyond grateful that it did.

Omnichannel ROI? Look For Insights Not Common Metrics

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It’s been nearly a decade since omnichannel became the go-to digital transformation buzzword, and organizations have worked hard to upgrade their consumer experience accordingly. According to the Aberdeen Group, between 2012 and 2017, the average company doubled the number of channels it uses to interact with consumers.

Omnichannel is a simple concept: increase convenience by offering a choice of access channels. If those new channels are digital, and they usually are, the consumer experience will improve. In turn, efficiencies will increase, costs will shrink and revenue will grow.

Oh, if only omnichannel were that simple. For most organizations, the reality of offering additional access channels has been quite different.

For example, your financial institution probably invested significant resources in your mobile banking app, and even though you’ve met your adoption and rating goals, costs keep going up, not down. Or maybe you’ve added texting, online chat or social media messaging, but in some cases, they have created friction instead of streamlining your workflow by not delivering a seamless experience that meets the needs of the agent and the consumer.

If your bank or credit union is missing the return on investment that digital service channels were supposed to bring, you’re not alone. Many financial institutions struggle to effectively satisfy the needs of today’s demanding consumers while reducing costs and driving revenue.

Where’s the digital disconnect?

The problem lies in financial institutions using common metrics to measure omnichannel ROI, instead of tracking metrics that measure consumer engagement. Moneythor, a digital banking firm based in Singapore, uncovered this common error while researching how financial institutions track ROI earlier this year.

After analyzing annual reports and investor reports of 24 banks around the world, the fintech was able to divide digital metrics into two categories: common metrics and insightful metrics. Common metrics only report usage of digital channels. Insightful metrics, on the other hand, report engagement measures that allow financial institutions to measure how each digital channel contributes to financial success.

Common metrics like adoption rates are important, but the truth is they don’t add much value to your bottom line. To accurately measure ROI, you must instead measure digital engagement and digital users’ activities on each platform. For example, don’t base your success on how many times your digital banking app has been downloaded or how many logins you get each month. Instead, track average session time, number of monthly digital sessions per user, click-through rates, response to digital marketing campaigns, satisfaction ratings after digital channel use and how each digital channel generates revenue-producing activities like loan applications or new accounts compared to transactions.

Using these advanced metrics, financial institutions can then determine how and even why their consumers use each digital channel. Digitizing and automating operational processes won’t automatically deliver ROI. Financial institutions must also develop ways to measure, track and report the actual value generated by each digital channel. This holistic view will allow them to focus on the functions that deliver the most value, and prioritize optimization that reduces friction, improves the consumer experience and drives even more revenue.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative: How Technological Innovation has Changed

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Bigger, better, faster, more. These uniquely American values, along with healthy dose of creativity, have been the driving force behind some of the world’s best innovations. Electric light bulbs, airplanes, skyscrapers, microwaves, credit cards, the internet, Google, wi-fi and even the Fitbit are all technological breakthroughs made in America that have fed our appetite for more.

There’s no limit to how much more we can achieve; and yet, it feels like we’ve reached a tipping point in our culture as it applies to innovation. The primary driver of new technology isn’t just about delivering more in a quantitative sense. We’re seeking a better quality of life, too.

Microsoft CEO Bill Gates made a case for that shift earlier this year in MIT Technology Review, when he guest curated a list of 10 breakthrough technologies. While it’s true that technology still seeks to deliver more, Gates’ observed that his list included an equal number of innovations that primarily serve to improve quality of life.

He used cultured meat, one of the innovations he selected, as an example. There is more than enough livestock to feed the world, even as the human population grows and the demand for meat increases. Instead, cultured meat is about making the world a better place by reducing the rate of deforestation, reducing methane that contributes to climate change, and allowing those who oppose killing animals to still enjoy the taste of a hamburger.

The demand for innovation in financial services is experiencing this same shift. Today’s fintech buzzwords – friction, engagement, functionality, AI – all support consumer demand for qualitative improvements. We’re also focusing on technology that can improve our employees’ quality of life, from tools that help people work remotely to machine-based learning that eliminates mind-numbing repetitive task work.

Gates stressed that technology’s shift from quantity to quality isn’t going to happen overnight. In fact, he said we’ve only now reached a midpoint where we are considering both ideas at once.

However, Gates predicted that 20 years from now, the brilliant minds of the world will focus less on how to achieve more, and instead consider metaphysical questions such as how they can find ways to help people can live happier, more fulfilling lives and create more meaningful connections with each other.

How does your financial institution’s long-term technology strategy align with this notion? Are you focused primarily on implementing new technology that will grow your consumer base, generate more revenue and increase your outstanding loan balances? Or, are you equally seeking solutions that will optimize technology to make life easier and more rewarding for your consumers and staff?

The Financial Brand recently released a new study, Digital Banking Consumer Engagement, that details how community financial institutions are falling further behind big banks when it comes to using technology to increase engagement. The big banks aren’t using expensive, cutting edge strategies – the report tracked readily available technologies like mobile new account opening, online applications that take less than 5 minutes to complete and digital funding options.

Despite demand from consumers and ample supply from fintechs, the adoption rates for these tools was low. Only one-third of financial institutions that participated in the study allow consumers to open a new checking account using a mobile app. A staggering 39% require an in-person trip to a branch to complete that process. Only 18% say their online account opening process takes less than five minutes. Nearly half don’t allow consumers to stop and save the account opening process in one channel and continue using another channel.

This isn’t just a strategy to increase market share among millennials because they are lazy or softer than previous generations. This is a long-term, groundbreaking change in our approach to technology according to Bill Gates, the second richest man in the world. And the richest man in the world – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos – is undoubtedly on board with the idea of using technology to improve our quality of life. Nearly every successful Amazon innovation, from free shipping to Alexa, has focused on finding ways to make our modern life easier.

Like the saying goes, it’s not the number of years in your life that matters, it’s the life in your years. What was true in simpler times is even more important in our modern, digital world. And for community financial institutions, technology that improves consumers’ quality of life could very well be the key to their survival.

Four New Service Standards to Keep Your Eye On in 2020

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We all know what the Amazon effect is, right? That’s when your consumers expect you to offer digital service and delivery on par with the $178B retail and tech giant.

That’s why it’s crucial you make the most of every single penny allotted to your 2020 tech budget. It’s not enough to compare your service to the other community FI across town. You need to measure up to the general service standard consumers expect across all industries.

According to consumer service experts, here are four service standards American consumers will expect from all retail firms in 2020.

Consumer-centric attitude

We’ve all heard the statistics about how it costs five times more to acquire a new consumer than it does to keep an existing one. So if consumers expect Amazonian digital service and experts call for a possible recession in 2020, you’d better believe successful firms will put more emphasis on retaining consumers next year than acquiring new ones.

Those digital channels that make product and service delivery so efficient can be your best friend and worst enemy when it comes to word-of-mouth referrals. How often do you see posts on social media from friends who are delighted with a product or company? Probably just as often as you see posts from those who are furious with poor service and exacting revenge.

Word of mouth has expanded exponentially from yesterday’s one-on-one friendly chats. Your consumers can share their service experience with hundreds or thousands of people (or millions, if it goes viral) just by pressing enter. It only takes one bad experience to wipe out the gains from an entire marketing campaign, which is a sobering thought during budget season.

You absolutely must prioritize providing your existing consumers with the very best service you can provide, whether it’s face-to-face or through digital channels.

Personalized service

If you’re in marketing, you’ve probably already heard of “a market of one.” Your consumers expect you to know which products and services they’re interested in and which ones they aren’t. How in the world can they expect such a thing? Because these days, most people – especially young adults – have a general understanding of big data and how it can be used to personalize the consumer experience. They know that as their financial institution, you have a lot of data at your disposal.

The days of “do you want fries with that” sales pitches are over. Studies have shown that young adults aren’t weirded out seeing auto loan ads pop up in their social media newsfeeds after researching new cars online. In fact, they expect it. They aren’t going to waste their time searching for financial services when your competitors make it so easy they don’t have to.

And even if your credit union or community bank provides a better deal, your consumers will never know about it.

Life moves quickly these days, and consumers don’t have much tolerance for organizations that waste their time. A 2020 budget priority should be providing personalized service that leverages consumer data across multiple touch points that include your website, call center, branches and mobile app.

Secure concierge

Speaking of not wasting consumers’ time, another service expectation in 2020 will be the ability to perform tasks on behalf of consumers. Don’t tell a consumer to go do something when your call center rep or even your systems could do it for them. For example, don’t ask a borrower for a copy of their paystub to verify income if you have been receiving their direct deposit for two years.

Consumers don’t care that your core system lacks functionality or your service reps aren’t authorized to perform the task they need. They just want you to help them be more efficient with their time, and they’ll go somewhere else if you can’t deliver.

Here’s an important part of concierge service that could give your community financial institution an edge over fintechs and big banks: yes, consumers want you to perform tasks for them, but not at the expense of data security. Make sure your systems and workflows are secure so you’re not the subject of the next data breach story in the news.

One and done

Centralizing your operations is a big trend these days, but if you make your consumers wander through the maze of your organization chart to find the right person to solve their problem, you’ll lose them. In fact, consumers today expect firms to resolve questions and issues with just one point of contact and in real time.

That’s one reason why chatbots have been more popular than expected. Spending a few seconds answering some questions that route the caller to the right place is much better than sitting on hold, waiting for help … only to find out they need to be transferred to another department.

While chatbots work well for simple questions and call routing, they don’t replace consumer service with a live person who can provide reassurance and problem solving skills. The key to a successful centralized operations team is both technology and face-to-face consumer service representatives who resolve issues efficiently and effectively.

Service standards are a very important part of your 2020 budget planning, but they aren’t everything. To learn more about the economy, a new operational trend, and how the continued challenge to remain relevant will impact your financial institution, your consumers and your 2020 budget, click here to download our new white paper, “3 trends that will drive your 2020 budget.”

Is your Financial Institution loved?

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When community financial institutions compare themselves to big banks, they usually talk about great service.

“Our consumers love us,” they say.

But do they? Do they really?

Data has helped FIs more accurately measure performance boosting factors like market sensitivity to rates and fees, look-to-book ratios and digital marketing rate of return. Data has also helped improve the accuracy of net promoter scores and consumer satisfaction. This data might show that your financial institution is performing better than your competition; and yet, you’re still not meeting your organizational goals.

It seems like something is missing. That something is love.

Back before technology quantified everything, financial institutions relied upon old fashioned human indicators to measure how much their consumers loved them. Things like word-of-mouth referrals and branch traffic may sound quaint today, but they represent one thing that’s missing in our digital, data-driven world: human interaction.

Research says today’s consumer wants 24/7 digital access, automatic loan decisioning, the latest P2P payments service, and of course, the best products and most competitive rates.

But do they? Do they really?

A recent J.D. Power Retail Banking study revealed something very interesting: the thing consumers said they want most from their financial institution is advice. Of those surveyed, an overwhelming 78% said they wanted financial advice, but only 28% said they received it. You might think you’re providing advice on your website when you explain your products and services, or in blog posts that teach financial literacy skills. But that’s not advice. Advice requires a two-way conversation that values listening as much as selling.

How survey participants said they received advice supports this fact. Of those who told J.D. Power they received advice, only 33% who received it via email said it met their needs. Compare that to the 58% who loved the advice they received face-to-face. Now here’s where it gets tricky: nearly 60% said they want to receive that face-to-face advice through their financial institution’s mobile app.

“The key takeaway from this study is that there is a huge opportunity to leverage a combination of in-person and digital interactions to provide advice and guidance that assist customers in their financial journey,” said Paul McAdam, J.D. Power senior director of banking practice.

We believe when a financial institution uses technology to make its consumers feel loved, it’s the best of both worlds. And we think your bottom line will show it.

Video banking evolution

Video Banking Evolution

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As I’ve reflected on my 20 years in video banking, it’s been fun to see how far we’ve come. To highlight milestones in my video banking journey, I created this timeline. I hope you enjoy reviewing the milestones that have lead us here. Now let me welcome you to join us in the milestones to come.

timeline_post

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Centralizing Lending Delights Consumers and Lenders

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Only 26% of consumers prefer to conduct their financial business in a branch, according to a new study from global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company. That’s down from 38% in 2016.

This change in consumer behavior fueled an all-time record of nearly 2,000 branches closed in 2018, according to S&P Global.

Don’t assume this trend is only being driven by routine transactions. Lending is also experiencing a service shift, moving from loan officers in every branch to a focused, centralized effort. And we’re not just talking about credit card applications. Even mortgage lenders are centralizing their operations.

Last fall, the $123 billion BMO Harris Bank eliminated most of its branch mortgage officer positions and now sends borrowers to a centralized mortgage call center and an online mortgage application platform.

Bankrate.com Chief Financial Analyst Greg McBride said mortgage loan officers simply aren’t being utilized in branches anymore. However, digital doesn’t necessarily mean an entirely online experience.

“The use of call centers or video conferencing centralizes the taking of applications and provides a human interaction in a more efficient manner than stationing someone in a branch,” he added.

That human interaction is key to a successful centralized lending effort. Loan officers are located in an efficient, single location, but are available to borrowers via phone or video. Consumers usually have the option to call in from home, work or while traveling … and, just in case a consumer visits a branch to apply for a loan, most financial institutions also offer video access from the branch, too.

Video-based lending teams also close the gap when it comes to online lending attrition rates. Community financial institutions have invested significant capital in online self-service account opening and loan application tools, only to be disappointed that 80% or more of applicants abandon the cart. Video Banking provides the engagement needed to identify a borrower who is struggling with the application process to assist them immediately with a click of a button…

Centralized lending also allows financial institutions to select the best employees for the job – those whose skill sets focus on the drive to sell and grow, rather than task-oriented branch responsibilities.

The more lenders can focus on just lending, the more skilled they become. Think about it – it’s difficult to be consistent when you only do something a couple of times a week. Due to low volume, in-branch lenders don’t have an opportunity to complete a variety of loans on a regular basis, which can sometimes lead to costly mistakes. A centralized team with higher volumes improves consistency, makes training easier, and allows for easier goal and improvement tracking.

Not only are loan officers more focused on their jobs, in many cases centralizing lending operations allows them to sit close to their underwriting and processing teams. Not only does this improve efficiency that allows for loan decisioning within 30 minutes or less, but it also provides a culture in which the entire team works together to achieve organizational loan growth goals.

FIs that have centralized their lending operations have the numbers to back up that concept. For example, one credit union on the east coast saw a huge productivity boost after centralizing its lending operations, seeing an average loan volume per employee increase by 80%. Brett Christensen of CU Lending Advice has been touting the benefits of centralized lending for a few years. In one of his recent presentations, he said a credit union in Texas centralized lending and in one month one of their centralized lenders sold 143 GAP policies, 47 extended warranties and funded $3.7M in new loans.

The entire organization is more efficient across the board, too. Centralized lending allows staffing decisions to be based on overall loan volume, not geography. The $730 million Tropical Financial Credit Union in Miramar, Florida, reduced its front-line lending staff by 77%, from 19 employees spread out across their branch network to just 9 centralized and highly productive staff.

POPi/o is a perfect system to build a successful centralized lending strategy because it provides face-to-face video interaction at the borrower’s convenience and it was created to support lending workflows. For example, POPi/o collaboration tools provide the ability for loan officers to educate consumers on their loan choices with screen sharing, slide sharing, and other engaging tech tools. Once a product selection has been made, the consumer can provide their photo ID, proof of income and other necessities, then review and sign the loan application in just one video chat session.

If you are interested in learning more about how POPi/o can help support your centralized lending strategy, please contact us for a POPi/o demo at www.POPio.com.