Next Step In Online Banking? It's Not With Members, But Employees

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Online banking is a hot topic at most financial institutions, but many credit union managers are wondering what the next step is to speed adoption by members.

According to several people at the Digital Insight National Conference here, the answer lies not in members but in training credit union staff to prepare them for the coming wave of technology.

Bobbi Brown, senior vice president of information technology at Safeway Northwest Central Credit Union in Portland, Ore., said her CU implemented a training program after management took note of what employees were telling members about online banking.

"Our people were not sure how it works, so there was a tendency to redirect members who were asking questions to other employees," she said. "No one wanted to own the knowledge and give the knowledge. Our staff was not trained and not comfortable talking about online banking."

Safeway Northwest Central CU began its program by setting a goal of having 100% of its staff trained. Then, it identified which groups within the credit union needed specialized training.

Brown said SNCCU designed T-shirts and polo-style shirts with a special logo that were awarded to each member of a department when all those in the department had received training. "This made it really easy to see which departments participated," she said.

Safeway Northwest also set up a monetary incentive plan that awarded quarterly incentive payments to staff based on the number of accounts sold.

"We concentrated on actual use," explained Brown. "All of our employees had to register for our online banking service, and they had to pay at least one of their own bills online. This helped them be more comfortable talking about online banking and bill pay with members."

According to Brown, one of the most valuable things the credit union did during training was compile an extensive document of frequently asked questions. "No one can remember the answer to every question, but having this resource document gave our people confidence."

After completion of its training program, SNCCU increased its active online banking users by 62%, and its bill pay users by 78%. Brown termed the difference before and after training as "significant," with a "minimal investment."

Benefits of Training

Renee Gibson, acting director of training for Digital Insight, told attendees that return on investment (ROI) in training is difficult to measure because some of the benefits do not show up on a balance sheet.

In addition to improved quality, time savings, labor savings and improved productivity, Gibson said training yields "soft" benefits such as: better work habits, increased initiative, higher morale, improved retention and lower turnover of employees.

"It is not true that people do training and then leave. If you train your employees, then they know you care," she said.

The ultimate payoff of training is how well your employees do their job after completion. Gibson recommended using "mystery shoppers" to measure competence.

Calculating Value

Tony Rasmussen, vice president of e-services for Mountain America CU in Salt Lake City, Utah, emphasized the importance of online banking while speaking at another educational session. He said Mountain America, a 160,000- member, $1.1-billion CU, has learned the costs of getting members to use Internet banking "not only are good, they are worth it."

"The branch only serves a small part of the member base; but home banking serves everyone," he said.

Mountain America's members have told the credit union they cannot be "forced" into using one channel versus another, so Rasmussen said they must, for the good of the credit union, be encouraged to use the online channel- especially bill pay.

According to Rasmussen, members who have online banking, but not bill pay, have an average of three services with Mountain America. When members have both online banking and bill pay, that figure jumps to five services.

"If you can get members with nearly twice as many services, imagine how much less likely it is that they will leave," he observed.

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