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How to Improve Credit Union Member Engagement

How to Improve Credit Union Member Engagement featured image

There is no doubt that many consumers look to credit unions for lower fees and higher savings rates, but there’s more to credit unions’ popularity than just the financial gain.

Credit unions are not-for-profit and are owned by the people who use its services – their members – rather than shareholders or investors like banks typically are. This means that while making a profit is a bank’s priority, credit unions’ overriding goal is to provide the best service to their members. Many consumers choose to join a credit union based on this principle, and so expect to receive the very best member engagement that reflects this priority.

To deliver on this expectation, member support is key. Through direct communication with individual members, credit unions can show their genuine care and interest. However, to do so in today’s digital-first world, traditional communication is no longer enough. While telephone and in-branch support will always have their place, credit unions must now also embrace digital channels like live chat and chatbots to cater to their current members’ rising digital expectations, as well meet their future members’ digital needs. It’s time for credit union digital transformation, and here’s how.

This blog will explain why credit unions must adopt digital support channels to deliver the member engagement that their current and future members expect, and how to do it smoothly and cost-effectively.

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CHAPTER 1Why is credit union member engagement so important?

The decision to join a credit union rather than a bank often isn’t purely fiscal. Some members have direct connections with their unions, many value its not-for-profit status, while others want the local and personal engagement that unions promote. As a result, members often have high expectations when it comes to customer service and credit union member experience.

“Credit union members often have a direct connection to their credit union, so their relationship to the credit union is not just fiscal. As a result, members have high expectations from their credit union.”

Mark Galauner, Senior Insights Consultant, CFI Group

To deliver this level of service, credit union member engagement is critical. Credit unions must prioritize personal, one-to-one interactions to create connections with their members, engage with them, and show that they care. If they can achieve this, they will considerably improve lifetime member value.

Firstly, engaged members have been found to spend 22% more than non-engaged members. Secondly, 43% of members don’t renew because of a lack of engagement with their credit union. This is up from 37% in 2018, showing just how important it is to today’s members.

How to Improve Credit Union Member Engagement
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CHAPTER 2Why does digital support improve credit union member engagement?

1. Current members are ‘phygital’

The average age of a credit union member worldwide is mid-to-late 40s: In Canada, the median age is 53; in Australia, the United Kingdom and U.S., it’s 47. This has naturally led many credit unions to favor more traditional support methods, particularly phone, email, and in-branch as they assume this age demographic is more comfortable with these channels. However, this tide is now turning.

How to Improve Credit Union Member Engagement

While the average credit union member is a Gen X (born 1965-1980) who is accustomed to traditional channels, they are now becoming more digitally confident and capable. PwC’s 2021 Digital Banking Consumer Survey highlighted this changing relationship between consumers and financial service providers, showing how they are moving away from physical branch locations and towards digital services. PwC labels these consumers as ‘phygital’ – “active users of both digital and branches”.

With members less reliant on physical branch locations, credit unions are increasingly seeing the need to adopt digital channels to remain relevant. Cabrillo Credit Union experienced this when they launched Comm100 Live Chat in 2021:

“It wasn’t much of a surprise to see the younger generations engaging first… but we are starting to see Baby Boomers learning the technology and using the chat. It does require some patience by our agents as they discover the technology, but our members appreciate it, and they love using it.”

Cabrillo Credit Union, Kelli Davis, Assistant VP of Member Support

The movement towards digital services and support in credit unions can be seen in how members are interacting online. In CFI Group’s Credit Union Satisfaction Index (CUSI) survey, it was found that 81% of credit union members had visited their union’s website in the past 60 days. Moreover, 90% check their balance online or via their mobile app at least once a month, 71% to pay bills, and 68% to transfer funds.

How to Improve Credit Union Member Engagement

This trend towards digital has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. In Gen X, the generation that most comprises credit union members, 65% said that they ‘expect to spend more time online after the pandemic than I did before’. 70% also said that ‘Covid-19 has elevated my expectations of companies’ digital capabilities’.

How to Improve Credit Union Member Engagement

With all this in mind, it’s crucial for credit unions to embrace digital support channels, particularly live chat and chatbots, to provide the digital member experience that they now expect. More on this later on.

“Member engagement has now expanded into a multifaceted omnichannel environment. This means credit unions now need to measure and manage their customer interactions across multiple channels in order to drive customer satisfaction overall and effectively compete with banks.”

Sheri Petras, CEO of CFI Group 


2. Future members are digital-first

Millennials (born 1981-1996) are now the largest generation group in the U.S., with an estimated population of over 72 million. It is safe to say that this generation will compromise the majority of future credit unions members. Many of these consumers are coming into their financial own, looking into financial products as they navigate first homes and saving plans.

This generation has grown up surrounded by technology and supported by digital channels and services. With this has come a high appreciation of customer experience (CX). When it comes to CX, 83% of Millennials agree that ‘the experience a company provides is as important as its products/services’ – the highest of all age demographics.

But Millennials don’t just value CX. They demand it. 81% of Millennials agree that they ‘expect to interact with someone immediately when I contact a company’. 69% also ‘expect all company reps to have the same information about me.’

How to Improve Credit Union Member Engagement

To meet their CX expectations, credit unions must provide the digital support channels that this generation is used to, including live chat, chatbots, and omnichannel support. With this digital support at hand, credit unions can:

  • Attract new members
  • Improve CX
  • Increase engagement
  • Encourage word-of-mouth

Affinity Credit Union recognized that they could improve engagement with younger members through digital communication and so implemented Comm100 Live Chat:

“We thought we should really have the ability to chat with our customers through our website. Our younger generation – how they communicate is through text – to them that’s talking! This is a way to communicate with our members, and the more ways we give them to communicate with us the better we feel we are at keeping a solid relationship.”

Affinity Credit Union, Colette Branigan

Digital communication is now essential for credit unions to meet their members’ expectations. Take a look at our prediction blog to find out what credit union technology trends we expect in 2022 and beyond.

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CHAPTER 3How to improve credit union member engagement

So now we know that today’s and tomorrow’s credit union members want digital support, it’s time to see consider the best member engagement strategies and explore what channels need to be provided. Here are the key technologies and channels that credit unions must offer to provide the very best member experience:

  1. Live chat
  2. Video chat
  3. Chatbots
  4. Omnichannel

1. Live chat

To support members how they want to be supported, credit union live chat should be at center of every member engagement strategy. Live chat is an incredibly popular channel among all ages, primarily because of its convenience and speed.

Live chat typically sits in the corner of a website, opened by simply clicking the button. This makes it incredibly accessible to all digital-capability levels which Lake Michigan Credit Union found out when they launched Comm100 Live Chat back in 2015:

“We’ve received nothing but positive responses. Members love the ease of being able to be anywhere and connect with us over chat instead of having to go into a branch or calling in. They really enjoy the convenience of live chat overall.”

Lake Michigan Credit Union, Jasmina Duric, Manager of E-Services and Support Department

Another key live chat benefit is its speed. With live chat, members can send and receive messages in real-time, getting resolutions to their problems more quickly than any other channel. When asked what matters to them in customer service, 85% of Gen X (the generation that comprises most credit union members) agreed that they ‘expect to interact with someone immediately when I contact a company.’

Cabrillo Credit Union recognized their members highly valued fast support, rather than going to the trouble of visiting a branch or being put on hold on the phone. They implemented Comm100 Live Chat to resolve this and were able to cut down average wait times on live chat to only 15 seconds, compared to 45-50 seconds via phone.

Lastly, but certainly not least importantly, live chat empowers agents to create personal connections with members. As we’ve touched on earlier, members don’t always choose to join a credit union purely for financial reasons – they also often have a connection with the union, or value its not-for-profit status. Because of this, many credit union members expect to interact with their union on a more personal, one-to-one level. They want to be treated like an individual. In fact, 67% of Gen X ‘expect brands to demonstrate empathy’ and the same percentage ‘expect companies to understand my unique needs and expectations’.

With live chat at hand, agents can deliver on these expectations and develop genuine and more personable relationships with members, as Cabrillo Credit Union found out:

“Live chat can be very personal. Often people think you can’t engage the same way you can on the phone, but you can. It’s fun, members like it, and you just have to not be afraid to engage and put a little humor or happiness into someone’s day through the written word.”

Cabrillo Credit Union, Kelli Davis, Assistant VP of Member Support

Features within live chat also help agents to provide personal support. Previous conversation history is stored within the console so agents can better understand each member and their circumstances. Member information is also accessible to the agent such as geographical location, purchase history, age, and much more. With all of this information at hand, agents can better understand the members and so deliver more personal and helpful support.

Read more – 4 Ideas to Increase Credit Union Membership 

2. Video chat

Consumer interest in corporate responsibility has grown exponentially within the last five years. Consumers want to know what impact an organization makes on society, the environment and the economy. Given their not-for-profit status, members have particularly high expectations for credit unions.

82% of credit union members believe that it is at least somewhat important to bank with an institution that contributes to local society. Moreover, those who see active involvement in the community are twice as likely to recommend the credit union, compared to those who do not recall seeing involvement.

The image a credit union cultivates of itself and its employees is crucial, and while this can be improved through community involvement and charity, one-to-one communication between members and support agents can be just as powerful. Support agents are the voice of a brand and can have a huge impact on every stage of the member journey. If these agents have the ability to present themselves as genuine, personable and helpful when engaging with members, a credit unions’ brand image can be significantly improved.

This is where video chat comes into play. While the likes of canned messages and phone scripts can help save time and keep the conversation up to company standards, they can also detract from the humanizing aspect of conversation. On the other hand, by offering video chat to members, credit unions can show the company’s commitment to genuine and personalized communication. The fact that the member can see and hear the agent on the other side makes the chatting experience more human, and even helps to increase trust in the agent. Also, while you may not have the full attention of an agent who is in a live chat conversation handling several queries at once, members also appreciate the personal, attentive one-on-one help that video chat offers.

Video chat is particularly helpful when in-branch visits aren’t possible too. While some conversations are much easier to have face-to-face, many members can’t visit a branch to have this chat. By offering video chat, credit unions can help their members resolve their issue in whatever way it best suits them. 

3. Chatbots

Credit union live chat is the most effective channel to connect with members, but few credit unions can afford to provide this support 24/7 – an expectation that more and more consumers are demanding.

This is where chatbots for credit unions come into play. When support teams are on or offline a chatbot can manage an array of member queries around-the-clock without any human supervision. Chatbots powered by AI can handle even more questions and more complex interactions as they understand intent and provide the most appropriate answer.

Cabrillo Credit Union introduced an AI chatbot to their live chat offering for this purpose, enabling them to provide support after hours and at weekends when their agents couldn’t be online. Cabrillo’s bot also ensures their members receive the fast support that they expect. With 30% of all queries managed by the bot (and growing), overall wait times are reduced so members who do need to speak to a human agent can get quicker responses and enjoy more in-depth, helpful conversations.

“We love our chatbot. We were initially slightly nervous about it… so we started out with about 10% of incoming chats being answered by the bot. However, we soon saw the successes and where it needed correcting, and we now have it set managing about 30% of incoming chats.”

Cabrillo Credit Union, Kelli Davis, Assistant VP of Member Support

Find out more about banking AI chatbots and the benefits they can bring, from increased efficiency to 24/7 support. 

4. Omnichannel

Members want to connect with credit unions across a variety of digital channels – be that live chat, chatbot, social media, or email. However, they don’t just want channel choice – they also want to be able to move between these channels and enjoy a seamless experience when they do. This especially means not repeating their question. When surveyed, 78% of Gen X said that they ‘expect consistent interactions across departments’.

For many credit unions, the prospect of offering all of these channels can be daunting. They may have the following concerns:

  • “We can’t manage so many channels without increasing team size.”
  • “Offering so many channels will increase support volume to an unmanageable level.”
  • “Knowledge and information between the channels will become siloed.”

All of the above would be true, if it wasn’t for Comm100’s omnichannel platform. This platform brings together every digital channel into one easy-to-use, unified agent console so if a member begins a conversation on email and then moves to live chat, the agent has access to all the previous conversation history. This means the member never has to repeat their issue (a top support complaint), even if they are passed between agents or changes channels themselves.

Agents don’t just have access to conversation history. They can also see their purchase history, web page visits, geographical location and other key data stored in integrated systems. With this much member information at the agents’ disposal, responses will be accurate and personalized every time. After all, 67% of Gen X say they ‘expect companies to understand my unique needs and expectations’.

With all this information at hand, it also helps to speed up resolution time as agents don’t need to hunt for information or switch between platforms.

Next steps

If you want to level-up your digital support capabilities and improve your credit union member engagement, book a demo with Comm100’s specialists.

With live chat, messaging, video, bots and automation all wrapped up in a secure, personalized and AI-powered solution, Comm100 fits your needs now, and later. Join the likes of Third Coast Bank, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Cambrian Credit Union, and many more who are improving member engagement everyday with Comm100.

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Article by

Kate Rogerson

Kate is the Content Marketing Specialist at Comm100. She has extensive experience in content creation for technology companies across the world, including the UK, Australia and Canada. She specializes in B2B messaging, branding and soccer trivia.