With more than six billion texts sent each year in the United States, some credit unions are realizing that members aren’t looking to just talk.

Shaa Moore, system administrator at Southern Chautauqua Federal Credit Union
Shaa Moore, system administrator at Southern Chautauqua Federal Credit Union

“We were trying to enhance our digital blueprint and communications with our members — we were looking for more avenues to talk to them,” said Shaa Moore, system administrator at Southern Chautauqua Federal Credit Union.

Moore’s team signed on in late 2017 with the Madison, Wis.-based Quiq, which allows members to connect with credit unions via cellphones as if they were texting a friend.

“While it is more popular with the younger demographics, texting is not necessarily age specific,” said Philip Wilcheck, Quiq’s credit union and finserv specialist. “Baby boomers and older age brackets are using it [texts] heavily.”

Joseariel Gomez, CEO of the Berkeley, Calif.-based Shastic, which provides productivity solutions for customer engagement, loan generation and workflow automation, said more than 50 percent of business customers prefer to receive text messaging over their current form of communication for both customer service and support.

“Marketplace lending companies and the big-five banks have changed expectations in terms of convenience and response times,” he noted.

The Lakewood, N.Y.-based Southern Chautauqua FCU supports more than 15,000 members, including 5,200 who are active online bankers and 2,100 who are active mobile users. Since rolling out the texting service, Moore said, there has been a growing adoption rate among all members.

A screenshot of the Quiq text messaging platform for credit union-member communications.
A screenshot of the Quiq text messaging platform for credit union-member communications. Photo courtesy of Quiq

In the month of February, for example, the call center, which is staffed by 22 employees, engaged in 540 text conversations with members and sent 550 outbound messages. Branch hours and account balances are among the most frequent text questions, said Moore. There is no sign-up process required and response time to a member’s query is less than one minute.

“When we launched we were getting one text a day or less, so it’s been a big jump,” said Moore. An ancillary benefit to Quiq, he added, was sending collections reminders via text.

“Typically, we get a five percent response if we were to call members,” said Moore. “With texting, we are getting a 75 percent response rate. We didn’t expect this to happen and it has been pretty amazing.”

Texting for loans

In early 2018, Shastic’s Gomez said, five new credit unions signed up for the company’s texting solution, Elle, a real-time messaging platform. Among these new clients are CoastHills Credit Union, Mill City Credit Union and Educators Credit Union.

Emily Olson, marketing development specialist at Educators Credit Union in Racine, Wis.
Emily Olson, marketing development specialist at Educators Credit Union in Racine, Wis.

“While we had a texting program in place for marketing messages, the Elle solution provided another way to use texting that we had not previously had,” said Emily Olson, marketing development specialist at Educators Credit Union.

The Racine, Wis.-based Educators CU supports nearly 180,000 members. As of February, 9,189 members had used the CU’s mobile banking app. Of these members, 816 are considered Gen Z (born after 2001) and 4,908 are considered millennials (born between 1980 and 2000). The CU rolled out Elle in the third quarter of 2017.

“I think that although texting is considered to be associated more with Gen Z and millennials, the usage rates for Gen X and baby boomers is extremely high,” said Olson. “While we enhance our products and services, we also keep what works. So the members who have been using our services for years are still getting the familiar, first-class service they are used to.”

For Educators CU, Elle has been used to enhance its loan portfolio. To date, millennials, who represent 66,576 members at the CU, have 30,975 active loans.

The text-message reply rate by members and nonmembers applying for loans is currently at 70 percent, with nine out of 10 responding in less than four minutes. Additionally, 68 percent of loan prospects completed an application and more than 50 percent of these individuals were approved for loans. And surprisingly, nearly one in three text messages received by Educators CU were from nonmembers.

“The ability to respond to members' questions through the loan process is a huge benefit,” said Olson. “We are looking at expanding this ability to different stages in the loan buying process as well.”