Raj Bandaru, CIO/COO Gesa Credit Union
It’s no secret that rapid advances in technology have changed the way we live and work, that agile apps, powerful mobile phones, and tablets with the memory and speed of a computer have raised service expectations by offering more choices, better service, and competitive pricing.
As a result, the ongoing investment and innovation in digital transformation are critical to the future evolution and success of every business, and credit unions are no exception. Credit unions are known for their passionate commitments to the members they serve, so making technology improvements must evolve in lock step with improved service capabilities—an expectation Gesa Credit Union knew only too well.
In 1953, Gesa Credit Union was formed to serve 2,600 members in southeastern Washington; its first account receipts were stored in a shoebox. These unpretentious beginnings allowed Gesa to offer the high-touch, personalized service that’s made it so successful over the last sixty-five years. In 2017, Gesa mapped out a digital transformation strategy that would enable it to maintain that high-touch experience while delivering on the promise of a fast, frictionless customer engagement.
Gesa knew it had to expand customer service beyond the teller window to extend to members’ laptops, smart phones, tablets, and other devices; but it also recognized that technological improvements could become the driving force behind the bank’s own operations to ensure that even branch visits would be fast and friction-free.
Gesa approached digital transformation from several different angles to preserve excellent service through automated technologies and streamlined processes that would allow the digital banking experience to be as successful and pleasurable as coming into a branch while automating as much of the in-person visit as possible to accommodate tech-savvy members accustomed to a digital lifestyle.
As with other financial institutions, the Gesa member experience differed greatly depending on which channels customers used: The branch experience was different from online and call center interactions, and no one channel was optimized or integrated with any other. At the branch, Gesa personnel were required to access multiple applications to open new member accounts, start new loan applications, and evaluate value-added products and services. The result? Employees spent lots of time toggling among different systems to serve a single customer—a process that was neither fast nor frictionless, to say the least.
All of that systems training offered little opportunity for employees to dive deeply into Gesa’s products, an understanding of which would enable them to provide exemplary member engagement through customized, personalized product and service offerings.
Changing the Game
In other words, successful enterprise digital transformation requires more than improved technology and processes; it requires employee engagement and advocacy too. Personnel on the front lines should be empowered to offer more meaningful member engagement, more focus on proactive cross- sell and need-based opportunities, more face time with members—and much less time fighting technology issues or trying to manage multiple systems on the fly.
Gesa envisioned transaction automation and an easy, transparent, simple user interface that would enable employees to focus on sales and service while training them on the bank’s full suite of business products and providing a real-time, 360-degree-view of members. Gesa also sought to integrate online and mobile banking channels on the same platform to support sales and service activities—including enterprisewide lead management and account origination. It set out to find a partner to help realize that vision.
Choosing a Partner
Finding the right partner is never easy, particularly when organizations must contend with years of point solutions designed to solve individual problems but fail to take into account enterprisewide needs and long-term growth.
The right partner should be able to innovate on the front end without allowing underlying core technologies to complicate or prolong the time it takes to process requests or retrieve information; Gesa only evaluated partners with technology solutions that would enable members to move seamlessly among different channels and pick up previously saved applications and activities. Gesa also wanted its members to enjoy a consistent experience by maintaining online agent conversations without having to re-enter or repeat data; accessing mutually reinforcing channels, such as direct video chat-to-banking applications or mobile-to-branch kiosk capabilities; and integrating analytics, automation, culture, governance, IT, organization, process, and products to meet member needs. And of course, Gesa intended to optimize the cross- channel experience by building on every channel’s strengths—that’s where Terafina came in.
Terafina’s combination of omnichannel customer origination; configurable user interface; high-touch lead management and abandonment follow-up; and 360-degree view of the customer helped Gesa optimize and maximize sales opportunities.
“We built an intuitive state-of-the-art interface to sit atop Gesa’s legacy systems, enabling Gesa to streamline information-intensive interactions and reduce costs while simplifying processes for members and employees alike,” said Terafina Founder and CEO Meheriar Hasan, “and the deployment speed was impressive, especially considering the complexity of real-time integrations and number of systems that had to be integrated.”
Gesa was up and running in just six months.
“Not many companies have CRM sales and services out of the box,” said Gesa Credit Union President and Chief Executive Officer Don Miller. “Many products are highly customized and require expensive integration deployments. Terafina offered us all the high-level components we needed to get to market quickly.”
The Terafina DSP revamped Gesa’s member experience platform to improve customer retention and boost branch and employee performance using high-touch, high-value interactions; integrated digital sales capabilities; and refined self-service, omnichannel options, and team engagement to understand customers better and offer more personal and relevant services.
Gesa can now take advantage of formerly lost loan opportunities through easy-to-access, easy-to- understand cross-sell and upsell prospects. It can salvage incomplete or abandoned loan and member applications and transform them into active leads that employees can convert into new members and new member loans.
The company expects a significant return on its investment and up to a 15-20% increase in sales in the first year alone, with additional returns over time.
Deepening the Commitment
Other business benefits will include improved member engagement and stickiness as cross- and upsell numbers increase, deepening relationships with members and boosting retention in addition to sales.
“Once the new platform is in full production, we can help Gesa initiate phased deployment of additional services such as wire transfers and payments; change-of-address capabilities; self-service troubleshooting; and additional service requests that will no longer necessitate lengthy in-person activity by credit union employees,” Terafina’s Hasan explained.
By the end of the year, Gesa expects to have fully transparent systems and workflows with
only nominal data entry tasks required from employees who can then maintain their focus on the members—and continue to strengthen Gesa’s “people helping people” commitment.