Technology for What Purpose?

Make sure technology benefits your members, not just your operations.

July 13, 2012
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Being a search and rescue volunteer always has its challenges. But recently I faced one of my most daunting challenges ever.

No, it wasn’t jumping out of a helicopter or jumping into a 40-degree river for swift-water rescue training. It was far worse...and scarier.

I had to figure out how to use the new search and rescue radio.

I’m not really a technophobe, but I do have weird phobias. For example, I’m fearful of both clowns and Congress, although they might share enough in common to make them indistinguishable.

In retrospect, our new radio had all the bells and whistles one would expect:

The capacity to store hundreds of radio frequencies in a package only slightly larger than half the size of its predecessor, while simultaneously handling new Federal Communications Commission regulations with ease; and

A user’s manual that would make a NASA engineer proud, and probably busy, for the next three months.

Yes, it’s a miracle of technology. But my first use of that miracle drove me nuts.

Apparently, I hit a button called “Scan every frequency known to man, and when you’re done do a few more.” I’m pretty sure I was hearing traffic from passing aircraft, ships far out at sea, and something to do with an order for a cheeseburger and fries at the local burger joint.

As I pressed other buttons, the situation worsened with beeping, screeching, and bellowing. The radio was making sounds, too.

Technology for what purpose?
James Collins is Credit Union Magazine's humor columnist.

This encounter with miracles has practical applications back at the credit union. It’s very similar to most financial institutions’ approach to in-branch automation. We try something new, expecting it to work because it’s “new technology.”

Here’s an example. This experience happened at a local financial institution in my community (not at my credit union):

Me: I need to deposit $100.

Teller: Sure, please put it into the receptacle labeled “cash” and press the green button.

Me (looking first at the ceiling, then to the ground): Where?

Teller: To your right and down.

Me: It’s not working.

Teller: You’re putting it in the wrong slot.

Me: Got it.

Teller: What’s that grinding sound? Oh goodness, you didn’t put change in the slot did you?

Me: You told me to.

Teller: I thought you had bills.

Me: I do. I also have coins.

One hour, two supervisors, and one technician later, the deposit was made—although I think the teller now has a phobia of me because she avoids me like a teenager avoids chores.

I can honestly say this little piece of technology was not helpful—at least to me.

Fundamentally, technology should benefit the consumer in a unique and personally satisfying way—something that companies such as Apple have learned and my neighborhood financial institution has not. I perceived the cash recycler as less of a convenience for me, and more of a work-saver for them.

The takeaway: When your credit union considers automation—whether it’s a cash recycler, lobby kiosk, ATM, or even an automated loan system, ask: “How will this help the average person?” and, most important, “Is the benefit to the member readily apparent?”

Too often, the credit union benefits but the member only benefits indirectly.

As for the search and rescue radio, I finally figured it out. I pressed the “OFF” button.

Silence is golden.

JAMES COLLINS is president/CEO at O Bee CU, Tumwater, Wash. Contact him at 360-943-0740.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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