Of all the communication formats on the average smart device, text messaging is arguably the most ubiquitous and least utilized by credit unions. While online banking apps and local branch Facebook pages seem like natural additions to the devices members use, translating the convenience and immediacy of two-way text messaging carries excessive compromise on one side and cost on the other. Loan officers don't want to hand out their personal phone numbers to dozens of members, just as their employers don't want to hire droves of new personnel to handle the influx of 160-character messages they receive.
Despite this reluctance, the experience-obsessed financial industry may soon find itself at a tipping point. According to Statistic Brain, the number of texts consumers send each month has increased more than 7,000% over the last decade. Meanwhile, millennials — who are rapidly becoming America's largest generation — continue to display little patience for inconvenience and have an affinity for organizations that meet their digital needs.
Fortunately, SMS is no longer the impossible problem it once represented, nor is it particularly difficult to solve. In fact, two-way text messaging can be a powerful addition to any credit union's list of contact formats — and a necessary one, considering texting's role as a primary point of business communications.
Convenience is King: The Benefits of Two-Way Text Messaging
Convenience is a driving factor anytime consumers are involved. Even a cursory look at changes in consumer behavior reveals a clear trend toward painless transactions: From e-commerce to online food ordering to walk-in retail health clinics, speed and ease are no longer secondary attributes.
Though regulation and the inherent seriousness of financial matters may soften this need in finance, credit unions are far from immune. This is apparent in online banking's trajectory from high-tech perk to baseline expectation — not to mention enterprise-level finance, where large institutions continually race to provide high-convenience apps and features for a growing list of devices.
Texting is not the newest or most cutting-edge communication technology on the block. However, it is an extremely convenient means of communication with credit union members, many of whom don't have the time to engage in a full phone conversation to ask a simple question. This is especially true when SMS is used in conjunction with other communication formats preferred by members, such as social media messaging, chat platforms, email, and for those who still find it to be the most reliable way to reach out, phone. And remember: The goal is not to usher all communications to a single point of contact, but to simplify member communication for a clientele marked by its desire for diversity and convenience.
Members who might be reticent to call with questions can now send a quick text, receive an answer, and decide whether and how to continue engaging.
Two-Way is the Operative Term
How a credit union utilizes SMS is as important as the decision to utilize it. And here, the most important point to remember is that messaging goes two ways — back and forth. While texts have many strengths as one-way marketing tools, inviting members to the conversation is swiftly becoming a must-do.
Credit unions can utilize this capacity in numerous ways, with cloud technology providing the technological oomph to make the configuration feasible. Utilized alongside the credit union's existing account- and relationship-management tools, cloud-based business text messaging solutions can inject a surprising amount of flexibility, allowing the institution to make improvements whether the member is calling for a specific employee or for general assistance.
On the general-help level, the advantages of texting are obvious and substantial. A credit union that allows its members to carry on an ongoing, threaded text conversation opens the door to higher satisfaction scores and reduced churn, all from the same call center: agents who answer the phone can just as easily reply to a text via the same computer. Members who might be reticent to call with questions can now send a quick text, receive an answer, and decide whether and how to continue engaging. And members with more complex issues can still call and receive traditional phone support.
Protecting Privacy, Providing Mobility
Members reaching out to specific employees can also benefit from two-way text messaging, as can the personnel receiving the text. Generally, lines to loan officers and other one-on-one personnel are shielded behind IVRs. These same employees would understandably hesitate to offer their personal or business cell numbers to the many members they've worked with.
In these situations, a dedicated, separate texting number that can be answered from any authorized device conveniently provides privacy for the employee and the perception of a personal touch to the member; instead of calling, dialing an extension, and leaving a voicemail for that simple question or form request, they can send a text and wait on a response.
Texting tools that expand an employee's desk presence beyond a single office can be similarly useful in remote and branch offices, two common organizational models at credit unions. Employees that carry the same number between locations and can access their combined text communications from anywhere are inherently suited to deal with the distributed lifestyle many finance pros live. Combined with cloud communication tools that give voice calls the same capability, putting the same face forward everywhere has never been easier.
Don't Ignore SMS
These are just a few examples of how text messaging can round out and revolutionize the way credit unions communicate with their members. Considering the relative ease with which these tools can be implemented, it's amazing what a simple SMS conversation can do to soothe pain points and ease transactions.
If every institution can't push bleeding-edge features to their applications, they can make it easier to meet members where they wish to engage — and with the sheer number of consumers tap-tap-tapping away in a messaging app, the best possible candidate is clearly two-way text messaging.
Let Vonage Finance Solutions help guide your move to better SMS communication.