Where Bellco CU Sought Inspiration For Its Website

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Credit unions and banks still don't know how to do websites right, if you ask Bellco CU's Sandra Sagehorn-Elliott.

"We don't like what any of the other credit unions or banks are doing, really," said Bellco's vice president of CRM. "Instead, our new website is modeled after the retailer sites."

When Bellco unveils version three of its seven-year-old website late next month, users will experience a lighter, faster Bellco, Sagehorn-Elliott continued.

Faster is better, said the Bellco members who responded to the CU's automated surveys during the past eight months. In fact, members said page load speed was the least satisfying element of the site, Sagehorn-Elliott added.

"Load speed then moved to the top of our priority list during our website redesign project," she said. "We stripped down the graphics and extra information."

The 12-branch credit union was inspired by the likes of the homepages at Sephora, a European retail beauty chain, and O*Two Medical Technologies, supplying emergency respiratory care products, Sagehorn-Elliott continued.

The CU also looked towards Nestle, the food, beverage and pharmaceutical conglomerate, she said.

Surveys told Bellco that, although the website tools are highly satisfactory, members often couldn't navigate the site to find the tools, according to Sagehorn-Elliott.

"We already offer very high functionality," she explained. "And we ranked fairly high on security, the usefulness of our products and our online banking tools."

Bellco is not alone among credit unions, according to a March study by ForeSee Results, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based firm specializing in online customer management. Credit unions have surpassed online banks in customer satisfaction and privacy, measuring up to the gold standard set by e-retailers, the study said.

Now that Bellco has functionality and security under control-and more than 30% of members using online banking-the credit union is concentrating on enabling members to make the most of what's available online, Sagehorn-Elliott continued.

"Right now we have a 'kitchen-sink' site," she said. "We want to show the member everything we have. With the new site, we want to help direct members attention to the most important features instead of making members search for them. By stripping down the graphics and extra information, we are making the site clean so that a member's eye will flow naturally across the site."

Bellco's new site will be divided into five or fewer quadrants, she said, with just one marketing quadrant instead of several. The remaining quadrants will comprise advice tools, rate comparisons, the CU's locations, and loans.

"Members just aren't seeing the advice tools, locations, and loans on our right-hand navigation bar," she said.

Sagehorn-Elliott gathered data from many sources to inform the site's redesign process, she said. In addition to researching other websites across industries and "hundreds" of banking sites, as well as gathering Bellco employee feedback, the CU switched from a "less flexible" website survey tool to CS SiteMonitor. Provided by ForeSee Results, Site Monitor helps to measure online member perceptions.

SiteMonitor delivers a numeric measurement of different elements of Bellco's site, including navigation, functionality and quality of content. Then, the tool predicts how members' satisfaction will be affected by any site changes that Bellco is considering.

Sagehorn-Elliot explained: "You can use the predictive measures to play with various scenarios, for example: What if we upped the speed by buying two servers? What percentage increase in member satisfaction would I get, and is it worth the money?"

SiteMonitor also helped justify the expense associated with providing website OFX downloads for the Microsoft Money and Intuit Quicken money management programs, she added. "Members said with vehemence that they wanted this technology."

ForeSee Results also measures CUNA and CUNA Mutual and five credit unions, including Bellco, Patelco, Wescom, Orange County Teachers' FCU.

CUJ Resources

For additional information:

* Bellco CU at www.bellco.org

* ForeSee at www.foreseeresults.com

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