An astonishing number of credit union members feel that their credit union’s web sites offer little or no value. Features such as on-line banking, bill payment, educational content and loan applications exist on most of these sites, but credit unions are missing the key elements necessary to make these features valuable to their members. The three biggest flaws of credit union web sites are in the areas of on-line service, personalization and usability.
On-line Service-Where is it?
One of the most overwhelming complaints that members share about their experience with credit union web sites is poor service in response to on-line inquiries. According to a recent Jupiter Media Metrix study, more than 50% of on-line consumers expect to receive a response to customer service inquiries in less than 6 hours. Unfortunately, only 29% of on-line retailers are meeting this goal, and many credit unions fail to meet this goal as well. Members express disappointment that it often takes credit unions several days to respond to service inquires that members submit through web sites, and sometimes credit unions never respond.
Another recent study by Jupiter showed that an amazing 70 percent of online customers would spend less money at a "brick and mortar" business if they received poor service at the organization's on-line store. It is likely that a significant number of these people also feel the same about their financial institution. Jupiter advised these organizations to move their customer service operations in-house, but outsource the infrastructure to reduce costs.
By using tools like InetSolution, Inc.'s InetActive Member Response™ system, credit unions can provide better on-line service to their members and recognize significant call and service center cost reductions. These systems help credit unions to log, track and answer member service issues in a timely manner, and with less staff than traditional call centers. By guaranteeing members a timely response to their service inquiries, credit unions can overcome the first challenge to implementing successful on-line branches
Personalization-This time, it's personal!
Credit unions pride themselves on providing individualized attention and really focusing on members' needs. Unfortunately, members feel that most credit union web sites fail miserably at offering a "personal touch" or individual appeal. A recent Jupiter research titled "Integrated Finance: Composing A Symphony out of Discord", revealed that only a handful of the 11, 420 financial institutes in the United States have adopted any type of personalization technology into their web sites. Credit unions are missing out on the best opportunity to strengthen relationships with members and build individualized marketing campaigns to increase members' awareness of credit union products and services. Worse yet is that, by failing to recognize the needs of individual members on-line, credit unions may be jeopardizing their own future existence. Fortunately, it's not too late for credit unions to get back on track.
To ensure that financial institutions do not begin losing members to tech-savvy competitors, Jupiter recommends that they "invest heavily in customization and personalization capabilities in order to provide users with a filtered selection of products, content and messages that fit their tastes." Credit unions that fail to do this will eventually lose members and market share to those institutions that are using this technology to build strong relationships with their customers.
Those credit unions that properly integrate personalization technology into their sites will enjoy stronger relationships with their members, and members will take advantage of more of the services their credit unions offer. By implicitly and explicitly collecting information about members' preferences and needs, credit unions can more accurately present products, services and special offers that interest each individual member. Truly advanced systems, such as InetSolution, Inc.'s CU Member Protect™, even allow credit unions to customize their sites "on the fly" to provide a unique experience for every single member using the site.
With this technology in place, when Joe, the 19 year old college student visits the site, he will see information on student loans and basic credit cards on the main page. When Margaret, the ambitious GM executive simultaneously visits the site, she will see information about new home mortgages and platinum credit cards in the same spots where Jim saw student oriented content! Obviously, this type of product presentation will yield far greater response rates than a non-personalized display, as is common in most credit union web sites.
Usability-What in the world is that?
A third, and most critical issue that hampers the success of credit union web sites is the lack of usability engineering and testing that credit unions apply to their development processes. Many members complain that the on-line banking features of credit union web sites are difficult to use and, as one member stated, "are built to confuse people." While most credit unions do not intentionally build their sites to confuse members, most credit unions do fail to conduct any type of usability testing during their site development process.
Developers of credit union sites, along with most other consumer oriented web sites, fail to involve the actual site users in the planning and development of the sites. Instead, most credit union sites are planned by committee and built by teams of programmers, who attempt to guess at what members need and want from their credit union's web site. By failing to involve members early on in planning, whether through focus groups, member studies or even basic surveys, credit unions waste tens of thousands of dollars producing sites that members do not find valuable. By enrolling actual users to help with usability testing in the early stages of development, site designers can identify elements that are confusing or difficult and then fix them.
One recent example of how performing simple usability testing early in the design process could have saved a lot of time, grief and money became evident when a credit union decided to learn why members stopped using the on-line bill payment shortly after registering for it. What members disliked about the system is that it assigned a random identification number to each payee they added to their on-line payee list. Instead of displaying the name of the payee, such as "XYZ Electric Company", the site instead displayed the payee as "675929939405". This confused members and caused them to abandon the system after using it only a few times because they had no idea who they were paying! Early usability testing would have identified this problem and the designers could have corrected it in the beginning, saving time, money and most importantly, member confidence
Essentially, to remain competitive and realize continued ROII (Return on Internet Investment), credit unions need to better address the individual needs of their members who are using their web sites. Credit unions can provide this individualized attention by implementing systems that improve three key areas:
- On-line member service
- Personalization of products, services and marketing messages
- Usability engineering and testing to make sites more intuitive and user-friendly
Those credit unions that successfully execute these strategies in their on-line operations will remain competitive, grow membership, increase member loyalty and operate more efficiently than ever before