Updating Tellers 'Stuck In The '70s' Adds Speed, Flexibility At AFCU

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MIAMI-America First Credit Union had a problem. Although the $5-billion institution was up-to-date with technology for its members-including mobile and web, along with speech recognition and touch-screen capabilities-tellers at the credit union were, as AFCU's Steve Hilton put it, "stuck in the '70s."

To bring the Ogden, Utah-based CU's teller systems as current as the systems it offered to members, AFCU worked with Xeon Financial Services to design what Hilton called "the most modern, most integrated teller product out there on the market today."

Hilton shared this story of transformation at the Best Practices in Retail Financial Services Symposium, sponsored by SourceMedia, parent to Credit Union Journal.

While precise data is not yet available, Hilton said that anecdotally speaking, the system has already vastly improved teller productivity for the 100-branch CU and its 600,000 members. For example, Hilton noted that transaction overrides in the old system required tellers to physically locate and bring a supervisor to the workstation to complete the cancellation-all while the member waited.

The new system allows for such transactions to be done digitally by any authorized employee working within the system. Additionally, whereas the old system utilized multiple codes, the new technology is in plain, easy-to-understand English. "That translates not only into happier tellers," said Hilton, "but into fewer errors and less reluctance" to run some of the more difficult transactions.

America First has about 1,000 tellers, and whereas it took two weeks to train tellers on the old system, the new system requires one day. It has also helped lower costs by eliminating the paper trail through scanning checks, archiving an electronic copy of receipts and storing a digital security photo of the member performing the transaction at the teller counter. The new system has significantly sped up transactions, but Hilton said that there are no plans to eliminate the number of tellers.

"We didn't have to justify this on the savings of reallocating tellers," he said.

America First's technology also has member benefits, noted Hilton, because it serves members the way they want to be served. For those who like to do things the old-fashioned way at the counter, paper-based materials are still available, and for those who prefer e-services, they can swipe their card at the teller window and use their PIN. The system even allows members to just tell the teller what sort of transaction they want in a more informal manner.

"That flexibility is key, so that you're not offending [members] that want to be served the old way," but can still serve those who want a more modern approach, Hilton explained.

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