While brick-and-mortar branches set credit unions apart from other financial institutions, the traditional branch—which is focused on transactions at the teller line—can cause friction for members.‍

Instead, credit unions should make sure digital experiences match what members receive in the branch. They should also advise members and implement technology that eliminates friction, says Cody Willis, senior integration strategist at Kinective.

“Credit unions have branch networks, and that really sets you apart,” says Willis, who addressed the 2023 CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council and CUNA Technology Council Conference Thursday in Denver. “That gives members the ability to find someone when they need them.”

Willis identifies three areas where friction often exists in the member experience and suggests ways to reduce that friction:

1. Member engagement. Transaction-focused branches offer fewer opportunities for members to engage in advisory conversations with staff. They often involve “clunky” handoffs between different employees through a single transaction, and allow members to leave the credit union without receiving the help they need.

Consider removing the traditional teller line and instead have member service representatives who can engage in consultative conversations or guide members to the correct employee. Install technology, such as interactive teller machines, members can use to complete traditional, cash-focused transactions, Willis says.

2. Member onboarding. According to a Kinective survey, 67% of members start their relationship with a credit union by opening accounts in the branch. However, branches typically provide limited digital options for account opening and often have long wait times.

Remove friction by letting members open accounts online, allowing all staff to assist in the account-opening process, and offering digital signatures. Invest in appointment scheduling tools, and make it easy for members to schedule appointments, Willis says.

3. Engagement options. Members want to interact with your credit union in the manner they choose. Give them a variety of options—in-person branches, drive-thru, video banking, mobile, online banking—to do business with your credit union.

Offering limited options raises the risk that current or prospective members will use a different financial institution that offers their preferred channel.

“Wow your members with the best engagement options for them,” Willis says. “As a member, I should have multiple options to bank how I want to. That’s going to make me happier.‍

This article was originally written by the team at CUNA