People Helping People - Where is the room for AI?

Srinivas Njay
Srinivas Njay

‘People helping people’ was the philosophy the credit union movement was founded on. It has been over a hundred years since the incorporation of the First Credit Union in the US - still, Credit Unions continue to operate with a ‘people-first’ philosophy. Millions of Americans & under-served communities have benefited immensely from the Credit Union movement.

These not-for-profit institutions serve more than 103 million members by always putting their members’ needs first and helping them achieve their personal goals through sound financial practices and targeted advice.

Behind the ideology of people helping people lie many challenges for the credit unions themselves. They, too, must stay profitable, efficient and provide the best services for their members. They also are pressured by economic, technological, and financial pressures. With the ever-evolving member behavior, members expect Credit Unions to adapt their offerings to the changing needs. Failing to adapt quickly has caused several Credit Unions to offer sub-optimal service to their members & also struggle with managing operations efficiently. In many instances, these issues have led to Credit Unions losing members, driving up losses, and ultimately, dissolving. There were nearly 24k Credit Unions in the United States at the peak of the Credit Union movement; this has since dropped to just over 5100 Credit Unions today.

Even though all Credit Unions operate with the people helping people philosophy and employ a large support team, most Credit Unions cannot actively engage & support over 60% of their members, leading to a loss in revenues and poor member satisfaction.

This was the general state of the Credit Union landscape before the pandemic.

Since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, one of the most significant challenges Credit Unions are facing is the increasing call volumes. Traditionally, call center & support operations have been challenging due to staff attrition, hiring & training issues. With the pandemic, there is a change in member behavior & an increased call volume is observed across Credit Unions, even after the reopening of branches. This has led to increased stress on call centers leading to increased abandonment rates, increased call wait times, low-resolution rates, and overall, a poor member experience.  

Let us take a more in-depth look at support and call center operations in Credit Unions to understand the root causes of these issues.  For this study, we have aggregated call center data across several Credit Unions, and below are the findings -

  • Today, between 50-60% of credit unions’ total calls pertain to questions on basic information on products or accounts.
  • Another 10 - 20% of the total calls handled are to help members perform transactions such as transferring funds, bill pay, etc.

To summarize the study’s findings, most member support functions in Credit Unions spend up to 80% of their time answering basic questions or processing simple requests for members that are meant to be addressed swiftly. By spending such large amounts of time on such inquiries, the staff at credit unions lack the bandwidth and cannot tend to members who need financial advice.

The ‘people helping people’ philosophy was built on supporting members in need, offering them sound financial advice, helping them on the path to financial wellness, and not just helping them complete simple tasks such as providing details of accounts or answering FAQs.

For credit unions to stay true to their philosophy, they will need to ensure their staff has sufficient bandwidth to support all members. In today’s world, where issues with traditional member support operations persist and resources for credit unions are constrained, the only way credit unions can efficiently support each member in a prompt & timely manner is by leveraging Artificial Intelligence.

How can Artificial Intelligence help Credit Unions continue to operate by their core philosophy of ‘People Helping People’ in today’s times?

With interface.ai’s Artificial Intelligence-powered Intelligent Virtual Assistant(IVA), Credit Unions can handle high-frequency questions from members automatically, thus freeing up the support staff to engage members in need. The IVA also helps Credit Unions offer instant support to members 24X7 and help Credit Unions scale seamlessly to manage increased call volumes without hiring additional staff, thereby bringing call abandonment rates & wait times to zero. It can bring down the cost per call from over $1.5 per minute to less than $0.2 per minute enabling thousands of dollars in savings. It also engages members through financial insights and drives revenues through up-sell & cross-sell.

In conclusion, with Artificial Intelligence, credit unions can extend their support to all members and not just a fraction of the membership. Instead of responding only to a large number of straightforward inquiries, staff will be able to spend more time providing sound financial advice to members in need and helping them achieve financial wellness.

Artificial Intelligence will enable credit unions to operate with high efficiency even during testing circumstances and allow credit unions to stay true to their philosophy of ‘People Helping People.’

Many Credit Unions are already benefiting immensely from interface.ai’s IVA. You can learn more about how interface.ai’s IVA is helping Credit Unions across the nation here.