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Tellers and MSRs performing more complex roles.
Moving the front line to a sales mode has been in the works for decades. But there’s increasing pressure now to move high-cost/low-value transactions to nonbranch channels or to automate them within the branch.
Teller transactions have decreased an average 4.4% annually in recent years, according to a productivity survey by the research firm Novantas. And about 30% of branch teller transactions will disappear during the next three years because of remote deposit capture, according to Mercatus, a research center at George Mason University.
Does high-tech necessarily mean low-touch?
“There will always be a human presence in branches,” says Carmichael. But as members handle transactions on their own, he adds, tellers and member service representatives (MSRs) must take on new, more complex roles.
At Red Canoe, CUNA’s Creating Member LoyaltyTM System of Training is turning tellers from order-takers into relationship-builders.
“We spent a good deal of time educating staff on the difference between selling and meeting a need,” says Davis. “We aren’t trying to push certain products or services—we’re using cues we’ve gained from listening to members to provide credit union resources that seem like a good fit.”
Neighbors Federal, a community-chartered credit union, also focuses on relationship-building. “We train our front-line staff to do things ‘the Neighbors’ way and empower them to ‘wow’ our members and turn them into raving fans,” says Inman.
Neighbors Federal plans to put a new spin on “wowing” by trying the increasingly popular concierge approach at one of its branches later this year. Instead of going to a teller window, members will sit at a counter, face-to-face with a credit union staffer who can handle everything from transactions to loans. “We’re focused on engagement,” says Inman.
And at $137 million asset West Community Credit Union in O’Fallon, Mo., there’s a strong emphasis on hiring front-line staff who can go beyond transactions. “We created a program we call ‘listening and lending,’” says Gary Hinrichs, president/CEO of the community credit union. “This program is giving our front-line staff the tools they need to help members solve problems. They love it, and it helped grow our loan portfolio 14% last year.”
Even though members likely will handle more of their own transactions in the future, staff have to be familiar with the tools members are using.
“To optimize our investment, we need to help members help themselves,” says Robert Reh, chief information officer at community-chartered $370 million asset Nassau Financial Federal Credit Union, Westbury, N.Y. “Employees at every level need baseline knowledge of the tools in your branches and on your website.”
Business development staff are specializing.
In the past, when credit unions served only SEGs, business development was primarily a matter of hosting a few seminars or showing up at the employee picnic. But as more credit unions gain community charters—or function as de facto community charters because of the number of SEGs they serve—the business development role is changing.
“It’s important to have a sales mindset to have a successful business development program,” says Sean McDonald, director of business development at $18 million asset, community-chartered Mid-State Federal Credit Union in Carteret, N.J.
You have to set goals and create plans for achieving them, he explains. “You’re no longer in the business of merely sustaining an existing relationship. You’re in a very competitive space and you need to become visible in the larger community and build new relationships with centers of influence in that community.”
Multichannel connections are critical. Nothing will replace time-honored traditions such as face-to-face meetings and phone calls, but credit unions know that some people will never enter their branches.
“Keep track of where interactions take place, and respond accordingly,” says McDonald. “If someone’s only connection with you is online banking, use it to try to build business.”
Hold every credit union leader accountable for new business, and assign someone—perhaps a regional vice president—to lead your efforts, suggests Carmichael. If business development is a critical growth strategy, don’t bog that person down with administrative tasks, he says. “Give them the time they need to accomplish your business development goals.”
Your business development person also needs specialized expertise, adds Carmichael. “I don’t think you can grow your business unless you have strong mortgage and commercial lending programs. If you don’t have that knowledge internally, you might have to go outside.”
Next: Compliance staff dealing with complexity and heavy loads.