How To Make The Wait Worthwhile

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CINCINNATI-Two companies are working with several credit unions to make in-lobby wait times not just less unpleasant, but almost enjoyable, while gathering member feedback in the process.

DEI, a design/build company for credit unions and banks, said it has seen CUs express interest in branch automation to shorten perceived waiting time during peak hours. With a few changes to branch design, the company said, members can be given a much more comfortable waiting experience compared to the traditional cattle herd behind ropes.

Recently, DEI began working with Fletcher, N.C.-based Qmatic, a vendor specializing in customer flow, to install queuing systems at several credit unions.

Nathan Gilman, an account representative with Qmatic, said the goal is to manage the member experience from pre-arrival to post-visit feedback. Pre-arrival includes scheduling an appointment online or via the telephone. Arrival is handled by a greeter, known as the First Impression Person, or at self-service kiosks. Once checked in, members may watch TV, check e-mail or read a magazine while they wait for whichever services they require. Their place in line is held for them without having to stand in an actual line. When ready, they can be told it is their turn by an announcement on a video screen or a personal greeting from a member service representative, depending on how the CU sets up the system.

"The queuing process moves to the waiting process, which can be handled with our system," Gilman said. "When the members enter the credit union their needs are identified and plugged into our system. We make sure the members meet with a representative who is trained for their particular needs, whether they are looking for a mortgage loan, business services or something else."

An Intel-Gathering Opportunity

Qmatic provides an opportunity for the CU to gather information on each member's experience, including questionnaires at the end. Gilman said wait time, transaction time and other factors can be reported to management to help create a more efficient environment.

Thomas Montchai, a design architect with DEI, said the firm is working with a university-based credit union to retrofit its lobby with a queuing system to allow the CU to handle large volumes of students at the beginning of each school year.

"The credit union has a number of foreign students who might not know where to go, and this helps them," Montchai said.

When it is working with Qmatic, DEI uses a First Impression Person or a free-standing kiosk, depending on the credit union's preference, Montchai explained. The FIP's desk or the kiosk typically is located at or near the main entrance. The video display is placed where it can be comfortably seen from the waiting area.

"Once the member is in the system, they can relax, look around, watch TV, maybe have a coffee," Montchai said. "It makes the waiting time manageable. For these projects we will have a video wall with four screens. One will have the queuing display and the other three will have entertainment."

The Advantage Of Checking In

The advantage of having a member check in with a First Impression Person is the FIP can input specific information about the waiting member for the MSR. Qmatic said this increases the MSR's ability to identify the waiting member in a lobby. Instead of randomly calling out "Tom," the notes may say: "Tom. Tall. Blue shirt. Brown hair." This allows the MSR to easily pick this person out of a crowd and approach personally rather than bellowing out a name.

Gilman said Qmatic has worked with a limited number of credit unions in the United States to date, but has a "large presence" in the banking industry globally. Its global headquarters is in Sweden.

"We are making a push into the U.S. market, working with banks and credit unions to improve the customer/member experience," he said. "We are still in the early process of doing market research. One of the first steps we are going to be taking is to more fully understand the needs and pains credit union members identify while they are waiting for service, and the views of credit union management. Any type of facility, large or small, could use it."

DEI's Montchai said it has consulted with numerous companies regarding queuing systems, and it feels comfortable recommending Qmatic because its people are "very responsive" and the company has several options to offer to DEI's clients.

"Member satisfaction is very important to credit unions, so they want to offer amenities such as queuing and a friendly environment for waiting," Montchai said. "Instead of standing in a line, they know they will be taken care of. The system works with having tech stations for people to surf the Internet while they are waiting."

Added Qmatic's Gilman: "Credit unions want to differentiate themselves, and handling member flow in an efficient and fair method is an easy step to improve the initial interaction, which will help set the tone for the entire visit."

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