Capitalism loves consolidation, and credit unions are no exception. Callahan & Associates’ creditunion.com reports there were 1,121 credit union mergers in the past five years, with 194 in 2018. What’s behind these mergers? Sure, there may be compelling financial reasons. But one analyst is noting a pattern that has nothing to do with balance sheets and everything to do with competitive member service.
Vincent Hui is a managing director for banking consultants Cornerstone Advisors. Credit Union Times magazine quoted Hui in a recent article on mergers. Hui said many credit unions are merging to meet more demanding consumer expectations. “These were not [financially-] troubled institutions,” the article quotes Hui as saying. “They were saying, we don’t need to merge, but if one of our goals is to thrive—not just survive—for the benefit of our membership, which means being future-ready in products, services and delivery [then we will merge].”
Institutions Are Merging to Prepare for a Future of Better Service
“Future-ready” includes the capability to deliver superior service by whatever channels members choose to reach their credit unions. Consumers expect to be able to contact credit unions by all the means they use to contact other companies—phone, chatbots, email or the next big technological breakthrough, such as Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated digital assistant.
Hui told Credit Union Times that “[Financial institutions] need to seriously think about whether they can do it alone in this environment where we have a digital channels race and member experience race, because the amount of investments that financial institutions, particularly large institutions, have made will continue.”
The Omnichannel Is an Opportunity
There are so many ways to contact companies that the challenge—and the new opportunity—needs its own name. The industry is calling the proliferation of customer service channels “the omnichannel.”
The omnichannel is a wonderful development for consumers. It enables them to get in touch by means that suit their personalities. We all know people who prefer voice over written words, or vice versa. Some use their Alexas to place calls while cooking or doing other tasks that accommodate multitasking.
The omnichannel accommodates all types.
And the omnichannel can be a business opportunity for financial institutions. McKinsey & Company reports that “omnichannel customers have higher value”—a lot higher!
Why Wait for a Merger to Master the Omnichannel?
So, do you need to be larger to compete in the race to offer superior member service? I would argue “no.” You can—and should—master the omnichannel at whatever size you are. It will help you now, and it may save you if and when you do merge with another organization.
Let me explain.
As you know, your organization is working with multiple software platforms. Great customer service demands your reps be proficient on all of them. Changes to products and programs demand a lot of updating across those platforms. It’s a lot of work. It’s hard for reps to keep up.
Now imagine that dance when your organization merges with another and you have even more variety. Even more to learn. Even more opportunities for confusion and disruption.
Not a happy prospect, am I right?
Especially before you think of merging with another organization, it would pay to implement the omnichannel, because that’s what will enable the merged entity to thrive from the start. You’ll already have the infrastructure and processes in place to absorb new platforms and processes.
What It Takes to Deliver Omnichannel Service
Given that credit unions are valued for their superior service, omnichannel service is a natural extension of your business.
McKinsey says omnichannel success depends in part on equipping your team with the tools to operate in an omnichannel environment. One of the key tools you’ll need is a technology or process—or both!—that enable all those channels to tap a single source of truth.
A single source of truth may be hard to obtain, considering the fact that you have knowledge scattered across multiple systems and locations. But it’s possible. One approach, of course, is to consolidate knowledge into one system. More practical, however, is to provide your subject-matter experts and content developers with an authoring environment that enables them to change text and processes across multiple documents and channels at once. (I know—it sounds impossible, but there’s a way!)
I’ll talk about these technologies and processes another time. If you don’t want to wait, feel free to get in touch. I’m happy to share what I know about the ways other organizations are not just coping with change, but are harnessing it to thrive, regardless of the size of the organization.