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Modernizing the member experience

Strike a balance between digital and human touch

Improving the member experience is a leading topic of interest for credit union executives.

Building digital channels and implementing touchless payment options with digital wallets have been a focus of credit unions for years. The pandemic was a catalyst, forcing many credit unions to quickly implement core digital services to keep up with the fast-rising demands of contactless transactions. A National Retail Federation and Forrester Research report from August 2020 found a 69% increase in contactless transactions.1 But implementing new digital channels and touchless payment options isn’t the only way to improve the member experience.

Survey says…

Indeed, improving the member experience is a leading topic of interest for credit union executives, as highlighted in a recent survey conducted in March 2021, by Securian Financial and the Credit Union Times centered around enhancing member experiences, credit union operations and industry knowledge. The paths to success may lie in focusing on innovative products and services, as well as improved member-facing technologies.

The complex dynamics of member experience

The average age of a credit union member is mid-to-late 40s.2 However, with 70 million millennials and 86 million post-millennials, it’s only a matter of time before younger generations make up a larger portion of membership.2 Right now, credit unions are challenged with serving their existing members while attracting and retaining younger customers. Serving a wide range of demographics means credit unions need to meet expectations from a variety of angles.

Many credit union members are digital savvy. And delivering a consistent experience to a wide range of members can be a challenge, due in part to the varying degrees of comfort and preferences that people have navigating technology.

John Underwood

National Sales Vice President, Securian Financial

When it comes to applying for a loan, purchasing an insurance policy or taking advantage of another financial solution, members want to make sure they get it right. Finding answers to questions can often feel impersonal if they’re seeking information through the digital environment. Members may begin their experience online and call or visit the branch to get their specific questions answered. Making these actions seamless is critical to providing the experience they expect.

The marriage of digital and the branch

Nearly one-quarter (23%) of respondents to the Securian Financial/Credit Union Times survey, which included various executive titles in the credit union space, say talking to members in the branch has helped their members understand and take advantage of offerings.

In fact, only 10% of respondents indicate online education modules have proven successful in helping members understand offerings. This illustrates they enjoy digital resources but it doesn’t eliminate the need for direct human interaction. Instead, digital empowers members with information and resources, so the types of experiences they have in the branch are improved.

Digital and the branch are working in tandem to create more seamless and meaningful member experiences. Digital allows members to have more knowledge than they previously had when walking into the branch – and it makes everything more efficient while simultaneously enhancing the member experience

John Underwood

Innovative products and services — a catalyst for better experiences

Slightly more than one-quarter (26%) report that innovative products and services would most help them improve their members’ experience. The key to successful implementation, however, is uncovering what’s most important to the member. How do members want to interact with you? Whether it’s online or at the branch, understanding preferences is the key.

The survey also shows that more than one-third (35%) say a primary problem they’re trying to solve when offering lending protection products is how they can add value for members by offering a more comprehensive suite of financial products. Moreover, one-quarter say members don’t find value in lending protection products.

One of the strategies that we’ve seen be successful when trying to communicate product value is telling stories that show how products have helped other members just like them. Whether it’s showing value in the community or the same place the member works, you need to illustrate how the solution can support the member during their time of need.

John Underwood

Effectively communicating lending protection value to members means these stories need to be integrated from branch to digital to create a cohesive and connected experience across delivery channels.

Conclusion: The role of strategic relationships

In the future, everything a credit union does, from innovating products to providing education, will be rooted in the member experience. Credit unions can mitigate challenges and align with member needs with greater impact by considering the value of strategic relationships.

Many credit union partners are investing heavily in industry research. They’re doing studies, attending conferences and working to better understand the member experience, so they can bring those insights back to the credit union.

John Underwood

Securian Financial, for example, has invested in research over recent years, analyzing what makes the largest impact on the member experience, both when purchasing a product and using a product.

“We can help by providing you with knowledge and consultative value on how members expect to have an experience with a specific product.

John Underwood

Understanding expectations around products is critical – in terms of how the product is described and what members expect when using it.

When somebody has to file a claim, for example, that’s the most important part of their journey with the product. Setting expectations upfront and delivering on those expectations enables credit unions to be there during a time of need and creates valuable and meaningful experiences.

John Underwood

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One-quarter of survey participants report that members don’t find the value in lending protection products.

Illustrate value through powerful stories that members can relate to.

Shaping the member experience

In our study, we found that:

  • Respondents believe innovative products and services and improved technology can help improve members’ experiences.
  • Nearly one-quarter (23%) say talking to members in the branch has helped them understand and take advantage of offerings.
  • Over one-third (35%) say adding member value via a suite of financial products is what they look to solve in offering lending protection products.
  • Creating a consistent experience across delivery channels is a top challenge in communicating lending protection value.

Unless otherwise noted, all statics are from the Securian Financial and the Credit Union Times survey conducted in March 2021.

1. Shearman, Craig. J. Coronavirus Leads to More Use of Contactless Credit Cards and Mobile Payments Despite Cost and Security Concerns. National Retail Federation and Forrester. Published August 6, 2020.

2. Gallagher, Richard. Inside Marketing: Appealing to Younger Members, CU Management. Published February 20, 2020.

John Underwood is a Securian Financial employee, and thus has a financial connection to Securian Financial.  The statements were given freely.

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