BYRON, Minn.-When First Alliance Credit Union determined its chatting capabilities weren't robust enough for member satisfaction, it began looking for ways to improve those capabilities.

"We had a live chat program but it wasn't working for us, so we started looking at other options, including video tellers and the new UGenius NCR combination," said Mark Hettinger, vice president of operations for First Alliance. "We really liked the Skype aspect of live video, so we started to look at how we could use Skype for our members, and then Netop came along, which provides a much easier and more secure communication platform for our members."

Greg Griffiths, Netop's Live Guide marketing manager (Americas), explained that the company has been involved in remote control solutions for financial companies for 30 years. "The concept is computer-to-computer secure interactions and we started out focusing on credit unions and banks," said Griffiths.

The company serves approximately six CUs, and Griffiths said the slow adoption rate is growing.

"This is a subscription based software as a service hosted by Netop. The technology is fairly simple and requires a credit union to add a line of code to its website and that creates the channel to the communication," he said. "All communications through the chat channel are completely encrypted. We take security very seriously."

Once the decision was made to go with Live Guide, First Alliance began to the implementation process. "It was fairly easy to set this up and quick. With regard to training, maybe an hour was required for the staff," said Hettinger. "What is really important is for the staff to get comfortable with it realizing that members will actually be seeing their face. It is this opportunity for members to see and interact with our tellers or business people that makes all the difference."

From a cost perspective, each First Alliance computer terminal required the addition of a camera; the same is required of members. "This is a minimal investment for both the credit union and the members, many of whom might already have a camera so all they have to do is click on the icon at the bottom of the screen on our website," said Hettinger.

And whereas dropped calls can frequently be a problem with some providers, First Alliance said it has yet to drop one video call.

The Live Guide operator interface is designed for usability and offers reporting capability to increase efficiency and member satisfaction. However, both Hettinger and Griffiths admit that video chatting is not for everyone, with the primary demographic of users being those between the ages of 20 and 40. They noted members can also type responses with this service or use an audio option.

"What we have seen is those users that do use video chatting continuing to do so," said Hettinger, adding the adoption rate is not yet where he had hoped. "Right now we have roughly 30% of members using the video chat program and that's pretty low, so we are looking to bump that up more."


Finding The ROI

Placing a return on investment with video chat service is difficult, though the increased level of personal one-on-one virtual member service is starting to pay dividends. "Tellers can do more for members than simple transactions," said Hettinger. "We are seeing more applications for loans, for example. Members are more comfortable seeing a face, an expression, I think it makes it easier for them to apply loans over video chat or discuss mortgage rates-it is a more comfortable and confident way to communicate."





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