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‘Fast and easy equals growth'

Adapt to changing consumer demands, says operations expert Adam Johnson.

Personal attendant tools such as Amazon's Echo smart speaker represent the member experience standard credit unions should aspire to achieve, according to Adam Johnson and Charlene Leland of c. myers.

Those devices have fundamentally altered consumers' outlook, said Johnson, c. myers's vice president/principal, and Leland, vice president, in a breakout session at CUNA Technology Council Conference and CUNA Operations, Sales & Services Council Conference.

"Nobody pushes any buttons or looks at any screens to get their business done," Johnson said. "So it changes people's mindsets about how they're going to do things going forward."

As credit unions anticipate rapid changes in financial services—hastened by nontraditional competitors that run the gamut from fintech firms to Amazon—they must aggressively change their processes to match consumer expectations, Johnson said.

"The mindset of who your competition is has to change," said Johnson. "It's not just financial institutions and fintechs. The bar is being set by the consumer experience in general. Consumers don't want to type in their passwords anymore, or they don't want to go further than one click. Once they experience a clunky process, the gap will widen."

Credit unions must now look at service from the consumer's point of view. "People always say they look at situations from the members' perspective," Johnson said. "Ask your employees to describe your processes, and see if they end up explaining it from their perspective rather than the members' perspective."

To approach matters from the members' perspective, Johnson and Leland recommend starting with the end goal in mind. They referenced Rocket Mortgage, which aimed for consumers to refinance a loan in the time it takes to wait in line for a cup of coffee.

"In the credit union space, that might translate to making a decision on 90% of your ‘A' paper loans in 10 minutes or less—if that's what you need to offer your target market to be relevant in this environment," Leland said.

Setting such goals requires measurement, and Johnson and Leland advised listeners to "know their numbers," so they can determine where they need to make improvements. For example, Johnson said many credit unions have added online lending, but didn't implement any processes to speed up back-end processing. "These are exactly the members who expect faster processing," he said.

In the end, the "brutal fact" is that today "fast and easy equals growth," Leland and Johnson said.

"You might think that might not be what your members want, but certainly the inverse has to true: If you're making it difficult for your members, you're limiting your growth," Johnson said.