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Opinion

Connecting the dots between automation and the member experience

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Today’s consumers compare banking experiences not only to those offered by rival financial service providers, but also to every disruptive experience from Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Uber and others. Now more than ever, people know what they want and how to get it. That’s why enhancing customer service ranked as the No. 1 priority for banks in PwC’s Retail Banking 2020 report.

A “customer-centric" approach isn’t just about offering great service in response, it’s a strategy based on putting the customer first and at the core of your business. This, of course, comes as little surprise to credit unions. A recent Gallup survey found they’ve “built strong relationships by using a personal approach, thoughtful products and member-centric service model to help members manage their finances – and 46% of members strongly agree their credit union does.” Still, if credit unions want to retain and attract members, they must find a way to keep pace with ever-increasing expectations.

How can credit unions compete with the larger national financial organizations and heavily funded fintech startups that are rapidly growing market share in areas like payment services, money transfers and personal lending?

The obvious shift is to embrace a seamless, customer-centric experience that digitally stretches across branch, mobile and online interactions. But while the majority of lenders are now “talking digital,” not all are “acting digital.” These digital transformations struggle with integration of new and legacy systems, and thus execution of a cohesive digital strategy. In particular, the rigidity of legacy systems doesn’t allow for the nimbleness needed to react to an evolving marketplace and the service expectations of customers.

This is where digital process automation can help spark real change, providing the glue that stitches together the parts of any process, forming a bridge between legacy and more modern systems. Automation is certainly not new to the financial services industry, but as technologies have matured in recent years, organizations are increasing their investments. Though goals and objectives vary widely, automation initiatives typically aim to improve the customer experience, drive efficiency, move products to market faster, and achieve or maintain regulatory compliance.

The best way to ensure members are receiving the optimum experience is to set automation in place across your core processes. Let’s look at a few select opportunities.

A faster, more efficient loan origination process

Take, for example, loan origination – where time is money. A smooth and efficient end-to-end loans process has long been recognized as a genuine competitive advantage. Yet in today’s environment, seamless and transparent loan experiences across online, in-branch and mobile are arguably table stakes. Members expect a speedy, intuitive loan application with real-time decisions for mortgages, personal loans and credit card origination.

That makes the key question for every lender how to eliminate or streamline the significant paperwork and lengthy information gathering associated with traditional loan processing, without introducing errors or opportunity for fraud.

Automation is key to achieving these efficiencies. First and most fundamentally, it speeds up data entry while eliminating human error. It also speeds the routing and processing of the loan application across multiple touch points between the front office, back office and outside entities – everything from credit checking services to loan review managers, analysts and fraud detection teams. This automation ensures better service through faster loan approvals and greater accuracy.

It also provides a more holistic customer view – something important for both members and the credit union itself. For instance, let’s assume a dozen disconnected systems – not at all a stretch today. This prevents staff from obtaining a comprehensive picture of the applicant, which slows the loan approval process. By linking these disparate systems, automation provides contextualization of customer information and ensures staff spend less time manually cross-checking repetitive information. At the same time, that holistic view provides intuitive insight into relevant data. Again, this not only delights members as they get loans approved faster, but also makes the organization more efficient.

Contextual, transparent, personalized onboarding experiences

For another example, consider member onboarding. When optimizing your onboarding experience, put yourself in the member’s shoes. What do you expect when you’re signing up for a new service? In addition to speed, customers now expect highly personalized – and consistent – experiences. This means providing contextual multi-touch services on both mobile and desktop that aren’t tied to paper-intensive onboarding process. If all channels are connected, customers can begin their interaction with you on one channel and complete it on another in a refreshingly integrated fashion.

Once the vital member information is captured during the onboarding process, you must take responsibility to continually monitor member feedback. Credit unions can use this valuable insight to offer or enhance a variety of services in their portfolio. An automated onboarding process that offers transparency will not only surprise and impress members, but it can also turn them into brand advocates who are more likely to recommend credit union membership to friends and family.

Establishing a culture for automation success

Lastly, keep in mind that meaningful organizational change is not driven by the automation of just one process or department. Although digital transformation often begins in one corner, an organization’s true success is defined by the ability to repeat successes across the business. To facilitate this achievement, consider establishing a Center of Excellence (CoE) – a team, shared facility or entity that provides leadership, governance and support for the initiative – to ensure your automation efforts stay on-track and maintain a high-quality standard.

The CoE is invaluable for gaining new efficiencies, creating a more consistent customer experience and implementing process consistency across the organization. It can also offer better business insights by offering guidance on process analysis, continuous improvement methodologies and change management. Your CoE should define business goals and set the course for process automation initiatives across the organization.

Over time, you’ll realize the vision defined within the CoE by implementing a steady stream of successful automation projects. And that automation can quickly bridge the divide from merely satisfying members to providing the consistent exceptional experiences that turns them into advocates.

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