Automation Can Add to Personal Touch in Strong Member Service

Personal service has long been recognized as a key feature that makes credit unions attractive to their members. Yet credit unions, similar to other financial institutions, have found that automation is increasingly indispensable to their efficient functioning, particularly as these organizations grow in membership and in the number of services they offer.

While this scenario appears to pit efficiency against the one-to-one approach to member communications, latest-generation solutions are available to help CUs leverage the extremely large data sets (or "big data"). This helps them proactively manage risk, improve the member experience and identify market opportunities.

Research by MGI and McKinsey & Co.'s Business Technology Office suggests that big data has the potential to unlock significant value for firms that find ways to capitalize on the massive amounts of stored transactional data, as well as the exponential growth in data shared via social media and the Internet.

Big data is the vast amount of information stored in databases about members, including transaction and service histories, preferred communication channels, financial data and more. Add to that the information members have voluntarily provided via surveys, social media and other online and offline sources and it soon becomes clear that sufficient data is readily available to create highly personalized, individually relevant and accurate member profiles that can allow you to dramatically improve your member's experience.

Tapping this info, however, requires careful consideration of data workflows. Typically, information relevant to the member experience is not universally available throughout the organization. Instead, CUs are faced with a multitude of relevant but siloed data sources. Additionally, these data sources are often stored in numerous legacy applications and systems.


Open Architecture Required

Managing this information requires solutions with an open architecture that lets your organization easily access all relevant data and aggregate these multiple, disparate data streams. Another important point:whether the solution can accept raw data, avoiding the expensive and time-consuming process of preparing the data before any analytics or repurposing can be accomplished.

Big data can support your CU's efforts to forge lasting, multi-layered relationships with members through highly personalized communications. Designing a robust member communication management program will help achieve a number of important organizational objectives:

* Offering information relevant to each member. Highly personalized communications have a proven track record in terms of providing a positive member experience. Mining existing data will allow you, for example, to use the white space on your statements to send a targeted, life stage-appropriate message that will help members better understand your products as well as their statements, loan updates and related correspondence.

A member communications management solution can be developed to customize data with regard to layout, graphical workflow, color management and even content collaboration for easy-to-understand statements and correspondence. Additionally, these communications can be produced for print or digital channels without the need to touch any of the backend systems and processes or enlist IT support.


Reduce Confusion, Build Loyalty

Implementing this kind of communication management program will reduce confusion and service calls, promote education and build loyalty, while also reducing costs.

* Meeting delivery preferences. Whether a member prefers to communicate via paper (mail), electronic (e-mail, internet, social media), mobile/tablet devices or a combination of these channels, being able to meet these delivery preferences is quickly becoming an expectation rather than an option. Being able to fulfill these expectations is quickly becoming mandatory.

* Managing processes and content. Brand management issues as well as compliance issues are priorities that demand a secure, collaborative document creation environment. This environment should enable management of the processes, users and roles, interfaces and updating methods for a variety of channels.

* Reduce time-to-market with new offerings. The appropriate communications management program permits enables you to repurpose existing member data and quickly tailor communications to take advantage of new market trends and opportunities or to introduce new products.

* Predictive modeling. A comprehensive view of member data is essential for predictive modeling and analytics to identify trends and emerging market opportunities.

While highly automated systems are now clearly an essential part of the day-to-day functioning of CUs, automation doesn't necessarily mean abandoning the personal touch. The big data generated by automated systems, as well as through social media channels, can be harnessed to make your member communications more personalized and relevant to each member.

A robust communications management solution that easily captures and transforms member data, regardless of its source, helps you continue to address each member as an individual, enhancing their experience with your organization and nurturing their long-term loyalty.

Steve Francis is president and general manager, North America for GMC Software. He can be reached at s.francis@gmc.net. For info: www.gmc.net.