Expert Opinions On CU Questions Regarding Remote Tellers, Mobile Branches & More

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What do you do when your remote tellers are a flop with members? Do mobile branches really work? What if you're a small credit union with little budget but you have big dreams about retailing?

Those were among the questions from audience members of a panel of build/design and retailing experts at CUES Marketing Operations & Technology Conference here. The panelists included Cynthia Grow of DEI, Paul Seibert of Emick, Howard & Seibert, and Mark Weber of Weber Marketing Group.

Here's a look at what was asked and answered:

Q: Remote tellers were installed at our credit union and were a complete flop. What can we do to address this?

Grow: One of the things we did was look at the different types of people who would be using remote tellers. The blue collar people like to fondle their checks, and won't be the type to immediately go to that technology. Some credit unions have gone to both the remote tellers and a teller counter. The big thing is anytime you introduce something you have to have a roving concierge to explain something. People don't want to look stupid.

Seibert: You need to look at the cultural connection and who will use this and who will not. It's a very expensive process to put in and take out. We have, on occasions, used remote tellers to supplement the teller line.

Weber: I know of at least 15 credit unions that have torn out teller lines and installed remote tellers, but also of at least two that have pulled out the remote tellers. I think the real issue is will there be tellers in the future? Will they be replaced by technology? A lot of people want a teller. Do you know who is the most visible part of your brand? Your teller. The least-paid, lowest-ranking person represents the credit union.

Q: How do we balance merchandising and a friendly atmosphere with people at the credit union who say security comes first?

Seibert: You have to have everyone involved in the branch development-someone from IT who hasn't been involved in the past, someone from security, someone from merchandising. That has to be integrated at one time and why it's important to develop a prototype.

Weber: You have to have the marketing person up and in front of this. You can't design a branch and then go to marketing and say, 'Oh yeah, we need to stick some stuff on the walls.' This is a member experience.

Q: What about mobile branches?

Seibert: My first mobile branch was a Greyhound bus converted in 1972. I think a mobile branch ha a real role in SEG relationships. It can be a big sign that drives around, and is most effective if you have a community charter. It's a great marketing source if you use it constantly, and you have to go all the way with it. But I would say that about 80% of credit unions that have had them have gotten rid of them. It has a role to play, but..."

Q: What about those of us who have to work with what we've got and can't afford to hire anyone?

Grow: One thing we've helped some smaller credit unions with is with a queue system that gets your products and services in front of them while they're in line. Try to look at your branches with fresh eyes and see what the member sees. Get rid of the clutter; it will improve your message.

Seibert: Start simply with the colors. Can you repaint the walls a consistent color? Can you dress your staff-no T-shirts-to start reinforcing the brand?

Weber: Cumerchandising.com (offered by Weber Marketing) has 2,200 items credit unions can buy. The key is to make sure you are consistent and not buying one piece at a time. Think about how you're going to lay out your merchandising.

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