Q&A: Branch Transformation Doesn’t Always Mean Construction
in League Initiatives

Sundeep Kapur, an expert in digital, branch, and engagement strategies, will be presenting a one-day NJCUL Workshop on Branch Transformation, on Tuesday, February 7. The session is designed for anyone that has ever wondered how they can make their investment in a branch, its people, and all the associated technologies more productive for the credit union, and more valuable to members as well.

We actually had more content than fit into the previous two interviews, so consider this a “bonus round” third interview. Here, Sundeep talks with NJCUL President/CEO David Frankil about how the topic of transformation is relevant even if you’re not considering the physical renovation of a branch.

Frankil: We keep talking about the workshop as being about branch transformation, but it really isn’t just about the physical layout of the branch itself, right? As we’ve talked through the topic, I’d almost call it the application of behavioral science to model customer/member behavior and business processes.

Kapur: Our workshop is focused on more than just creating the perfect physical environment for our members. We need to extend this physical branch environment to the other channels and leverage the stream of interactions to build a better brand. That has less to do with construction, and more to do with people and process.

It’s almost as if the branch is a blank canvas, and we get to create the picture we want. The perfect picture is created when the member that visits our branch is at ease—they know what they need to do without feeling “lost.” When a consumer feels “lost” their anxiety level goes up and that diminishes our ability to truly connect. Our objectives are to create a brand that can be trusted, is inspirational, and one that is there to HELP those we serve.

While the physical layout of the branch is certainly important, we’ve found that member service processes, technology, and culture all play a significant role. It is quite possible to transform your branch and get far superior results without so much as lifting a hammer or a nail.

Frankil: New technologies and the physical layout and furniture seem like the easy part. Not to downplay the challenges of managing a construction project and selecting furniture, but we haven’t yet talked about the people part of the equation. How difficult is it for employees to adapt to a new environment and new processes?

Kapur: First, we must recognize that front-line employees are a tremendous source of insight into member needs and behavior, and create a process to capture those insights. Second, if we can show our employees the member journeys that we are trying to achieve, they will both provide great input and also understand the improvements that need to be made. Finally, now that the employees are involved in the process, they have a strong sense of ownership and will work towards the success.

The worst thing to do is to not listen to their input, not explain the overall purpose, and then expect them to drive your success—and get frustrated when they don’t. The key is to get employee buy-in early, involve them in the problem that is being solved, and allow them to own the member journey. As far as technology is concerned, the employee needs to be the expert so it is our obligation to ensure that they get comfortable. You haven’t asked me this question but I will dispel a myth that older employees and members cannot adapt to technology. I cannot wait to show the numbers and scenarios drawn from our real-world experience during the workshop.

Frankil: What are some strategies for helping our members adapt to new environments and processes too?

Kapur: A combination of a few things. Here are three categories: education, incentives, and punitive.

I have spent time with both employees and members explaining to them how to use remote deposit capture, pay a bill, look up ATMs when they are on vacation via the mobile app. The more specific I get, the more comfortable they become, and this way they are more likely to explore other functionality. Education makes the consumer very comfortable.

Incentives can drive positive behavior—a well-designed reward system makes people want to redeem and succeed. And, if you put a time bound incentive, it accelerates the process.

Charging a fee to change behavior works well too. Most times the member understands the reason for the fee. Even our employees realize that if they do not learn, they will not be able to serve the member effectively.

There are many specific tactics that have worked, and during the workshop I will also share anecdotes of what did not work. One question we will discuss in depth, and which I would like pose to readers of this post, is “who should you incent, the employee or the member?”

Frankil: Many of the decisions needed to center infrastructure and process around the member journey require looking at the credit union through the eyes of a member, which is very difficult. How can a credit union better understand member needs?

Kapur: As financial institutions, we are in the process of helping our members with financial journeys. For example, we help our members with transportation (helping them purchase a car to get around), a roof over their head (financing for a home), accounts for convenience, the ability to save up for a rainy day, and more.

To know our members we need to understand their preferences. Successful brands have guided their consumers to provide preferences across any channel—it could be part of a face-to-face conversation, online, based on behavior, or a variety of other means. Have we built up enough trust? Have we created an environment that is conducive to an open conversation? Have we earned the right to become a trusted partner and mentor?

Members are constantly seeking financial solutions, and to be successful we need to be top-of-mind for them. This usually comes only if the member tells us. A better approach is to learn how to listen actively, and more importantly how to ask the right questions. Members will only open up to us if they trust us or feel comfortable in the environment we create for the interaction.

A branch transformation initiative will be very successful if we allow our members to understand how we can help them with their financial journeys. Almost like being in their own homes—a conversation at their kitchen table. We need to help create omnichannel experiences.

If you want to learn how to apply these and other branch transformation concepts at your credit union, join us on Tuesday, February 7 for Sundeep’s NJCUL Branch Transformation Workshop. Registration is just $75 per person, more information and registration is available here.