Lines wrapped around branch locations that were three lanes deep and 45 minute wait times on the phone. That’s what 108,000 members at Oregon-based Northwest Community Credit Union experienced after branches closed due to COVID-19. Messaging instantly became a valuable channel that enabled members to get a response in 1.5 minutes or less.

Even before the pandemic, the team at NWCU knew that messaging was their next frontier.  Members had started to request the ability to communicate with their loan officers via text. The team set their focus on making engagement more convenient for members on their preferred channel.

Messaging Was The Silver Lining

Northwest Community partnered with Quiq in Feb of 2020 with plans to start with outbound messaging for the member solutions and lending teams in early 2020. That was before COVID-19 required the 14-branch credit union to evacuate buildings and close branches. The challenges imposed by the pandemic drastically changed the roadmap, shortening implementation to days instead of months, and reshuffling priorities. 

When the team went live with Quiq in the first week of April, 2020, the world was well into the pandemic. The contact center was overwhelmed with flooded phone lines and crowded inboxes. Instead of introducing another channel to the contact center, NWCU pulled together a team composed of branch employees to manage messaging. 

The intuitive nature of texting and Quiq’s interface made employee training easy, providing the flexibility the organization needed during the staffing turmoil of the pandemic. “The beauty is that it’s so easy we’ve been able to have employees from all over the organization, including many employees who have never talked to members, using the channel, supporting them, and it’s just been seamless, so that’s been really great. It’s been the silver lining in rolling out something in the midst of COVID.” says April Cooper, Director of Digital Experience at Northwest Community Credit Union.

When a live chat is initiated, members are greeted by a chatbot, which presents a menu of topics members are most interested. Options, such as branch availability, scheduling appointments with a branch, processing a skip payment, checking the status of stimulus checks or Payment Protection Program loans, provide members the information they need without having to call in or speak to a human.

Increased Productivity and Beyond With Business Messaging 

Northwest Community acknowledges that they’re still pretty new with the channel but considers it a success. Not only were they able to roll out the channel quickly and include a bot, members love it, and the credit union has seen immediate efficiencies. In fact, 1 agent is handling the same number of messaging conversations as 3 FTEs would handle over the phone.

Normally human agents handle as many as 1500 to 1800 calls a month or 60 to 80 calls a day. With messaging, 1 agent is handling conversation volumes comparable to 3 phone agents.

“Implementing messaging was a real moral boost for us” says April. “ It gave all of us a chance to say, ‘Yes we’re in this. We’re closing our branches, but look at what we have to support you.’” April says that managing the messaging channel has now become a coveted position in the contact center as employees prefer the channel over the phone.

Match Your Members Changing Needs With Bots

As branches start to open, the information that members need will change. When they do, NWCU employees will be able to quickly and easily update the bot to reflect those needs within Quiq’s bot designer. The credit union has already had some experience with this.

Shortly after opening the messaging channel, the credit union began to receive hundreds of inquiries about the status of stimulus checks through the messaging channel. Due to some Goggle tagging, the credit union had become the top search result for a lot of non-members across the country who had questions on their stimulus check, not realizing they were contacting a credit union in Oregon.

Thankfully, the credit union was able to quickly insert logic into the bot to filter out those conversations. If the visitor chooses “Stimulus Check” from the menu of options, they are now asked if they are a member or not. If not, they are redirected to the IRS website. The credit union happily saw a 50% drop in these inadvertent messages after implementing this change. April says, “We’re able to learn on the fly and update our bot. Right now, our bot is still pretty simple, but this just shows how you can iterate and add additional layers of logic.

What’s next

Northwest Community still has a lot of plans for the messaging channel in the near future. Their first priority is to move management of the channel from the team of branch employees to the contact center and to entrust that team to monitor and measure the channel.

Soon, the collection team will use text messaging for payment reminders and enable the credit union to move away from the calls the contact center team would make to notify members when their payment was 10 days late. The team also plans to embed a secure link  in the text so that members can get the information they need and take action to securely a payment.

In the future, expect to see the Northwest Community Credit Union leverage messaging to make banking more convenient for members with features like integration with their IVR so members can dynamically shift to a text message instead of waiting on hold. Plans are in place to roll the channel out to the lending team who will use messaging to schedule loan signing appointments or document collection notices.

The credit union is proud to say that “‘Uncommon’ is a way of life for Northwest Community Credit Union”. Lucky for the employees and members that they’ve taken an uncommon way to serve their members and community with messaging that helps everyone thrive.

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