Worldly Lessons

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The fact that Service Credit Union gathers with members every month as a means of "maintaining relationships" isn't unusual. But the fact those members are scattered around the world is.

A web and audio conferencing platform assembles 50 to 100 members across 23 branches in the U.S. and Germany for monthly educational seminars such as Tax Strategies from H&R Block, Ask Our Auto Buying Experts, and Five Things You Should Know When Buying A House.

"Conferencing has been a good fit for us," explained Ray Springsteen, vice president of marketing at SCU. "It allows us to educate and maintain a relationship with remote members outside of the branch network."

The $840-million Service CU (SCU) counts in its FOM anyone who lives or works in New Hampshire, four towns in Cape Cod, Mass., and 14 military bases in Germany.

Two years ago, SCU hosted its first seminar in which members joined a credit union representative via a toll-free number and an accompanying online slide presentation. Five members attended that first seminar, titled Exploring Service Credit Union Through The Internet, according to Angela Williams, SCU website marketing coordinator.

"Because our numbers were so low for that one, we decided to hold it again the following month and did a lot more advertising to get more attendees," Williams said. The repeat performance drew 32 members, she said.

In September, Service Credit Union extended its telephone and web duo with Meeting Center technologies, provided by Denver-based Genesys Conferencing. The upgrade allows SCU to control unwanted telephone noise, chat live online, share applications online and archive seminars online for members to play back.

The virtual get-togethers-18 of them thus far- have been gathering steam. In fact, the high-bandwidth seminars have been such a good fit with members that SCU started quarterly webinars with employees. "We want to facilitate learning between our 23 branches," Springsteen said.

About 70 of SCU's 400 employees from around the world participated in the first seminar in September.

The 85,000-member CU also hosted its most popular member seminar, How To Use SCU's New Internet Banking System, in September. More than 100 members listened and asked questions during the hour-long seminar, said Williams. About 380 members signed up for the seminar, she said. "If we get 50 members on a seminar, we consider it successful," said Springsteen.

Perhaps SCU's Internet banking platform conversion had something to do with the popularity of September's seminar, said Williams. The conversion affected a good portion of the membership-SCU has 23,000 active homebanking users, she explained.

"Even though we had information about the new system at our website and at branches, the Webinar gave members the opportunity to ask a bunch of questions," Williams continued.

"Those questions ended up as our online banking FAQs," Springsteen added.

In addition, the seminar results prompt SCU to adjust website services for easier use, he said.

The Webinars also help SCU to promote products and services. "An ongoing goal is to create a higher profile for certain products, such as retirement and investment, which require additional marketing material," said Springsteen. "And showing members how to use the bill pay section gets more people signed up and using," Williams added.

Web and audio conferencing costs are not too much of a concern, said Springsteen. Each seminar runs $500, he said.

SCU's Webinar participants serve as a kind of mini-focus group, said Springsteen. "We get a lot out of hearing members talk."

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