First, it was Covid-19 that forced people to stay at home. Then, it was a fear of getting delayed by the peaceful protests in response to George Floyd’s death. And now, the rioting and looting occurring in many cities have made the general public very wary about traveling outside their homes.
The tense atmosphere of those factors combined has placed a strain on Credit Unions, which rely on personal relationship building. Fewer people leaving their homes means Credit Unions must think outside the box to communicate with customers.
“People are feeling insecure and fearful” said Ashish Garg, CEO and co-founder of Eltropy.
Such trepidation starts to cascade: People are concerned about when their companies will reopen, not only for health reasons but for financial ones as well. They are afraid they may lose their jobs, and nervous about what’s going to happen if they can’t make payments on their mortgages, car loans, or student loans. Credit unions with Text Messaging can offer more ways to communicate with their members, and therefore help alleviate some of that anxiety.
“A key differentiator for Credit Unions is that they really want to help their members,” Garg said. “Let’s say, you’re not going to be able to make a loan payment. The credit union doesn’t want to come and impound your car. They really want to help you. The challenges that come with these uncertain times, Covid, rioting, and looting, make it harder to get to branches. Credit unions are all about the human-to-human connection. But unfortunately, if your members are not coming to your branches, that human-to-human connection is not happening.”
If human-to-human connections aren’t happening, that’s where text messaging can come in. It’s more effective than email, because people ignore their messages or they believe they are spam and delete them. Phone calls are personal, but most people don’t take phone calls from numbers that they don’t recognize. From a business perspective, phone calls take time to make and are often unanswered. Text Messaging offers immediacy and urgency, with very short, targeted content.
A Tale of Two Solutions
Depending on the situation, either 1:1 or 1:Many Text Messaging solutions are appropriate.
1:Many – This type of Text Message is meant to be used to alert a large population, and is not usually personalized. For example, the recent instances of civil unrest in cities nationwide, coupled with the abundance of caution displayed by municipalities regarding occupancy limitations in response to COVID-19 has led to irregular hours of business at many credit unions. One-to-many texting solutions provide the ability to notify members quickly when it is safe for them to visit the branches. That is also the type of messaging local governments often send the public to alert them of severe storms or hurricanes. It’s an efficient and effective way to react to a suddenly fluid situation.
1:1 – This is a more personal method of communication than one-to-many. For instance, a member may need cash or want to defer a loan payment. Either way, the member would like to talk with a Credit Union representative. The member can go to the website and locate the Text Messaging number and initiate a conversation. Or, a Credit Union employee might see a member’s payment is overdue, and reach out via a Text Message and open a line of communication.
Northwest Louisiana Credit Union is an example of a Credit Union working to provide the convenience of an in-person lobby, right on their members’ mobile devices. Garg called NWLCU’s CEO, Andrew Perez, a “visionary.”
“Andrew believes that intimacy and community happen with face-to-face interactions when members come to your branches. The problem with the current situation is that you cannot go to a lobby. Andrew said, ‘My vision is to give you the experience that you would have had in my lobby on your phone.’ His point is that the intimate experience is one where I cater to your needs, and I personally take care of you. Texting is great for that, because it’s short, it’s brief, and it’s conversational.”
Garg notes that the two ways Text Messaging engage customers are even more effective when used together. Eltropy’s solution offers a feature that allows a one-to-many text to be personalized. For example, a specific subset of members might receive this: “Good morning! XYZ Credit Union is available to help our members with auto loans who need assistance during these difficult times. Please let me know how I can help.” Eltropy can insert the customers’ names into the message, providing a more personalized experience, which may lead to a productive one-to-one conversation.
Everyone who has a smartphone has a messaging app. Text Messaging is ubiquitous; everyday friends and family send tens, if not hundreds, of texts to communicate. There is no learning curve, making it the ideal method to reach out to Credit Union members at a time when they may need the most assistance.