While we have successfully learned to adapt to the pandemic for over two years, the safety and health of our members has been our biggest priority, which means in-person connections have taken a back seat. For credit unions, this technological shift has created both costs and benefits for members. I applaud all NAFCU credit union members who were able to efficiently adjust to an increased online presence and remain connected to your members, but I recognize you lost your incredibly valuable in-person, “hands-on,” interactions with members in your community.
Even though the digital shift has fully transformed the way we think, communicate, and exchange information during such a distanced time in history, I like to think that there is nothing that compares to the in-person connection that we truly need to feel a sense of camaraderie in our lives. As much as technology will remain a prominent tool for engagement, talking face-to-face with each other creates an indescribable sense of community that one cannot feel through a screen.
Recognizing the impact the pandemic has made on consumer preferences, now is a prime opportunity to seek a balance in providing both online and in-person service options for your members. While it’s important to make space online so that your members have the necessary access to address their questions and concerns, the opportunities to mimic the “hands-on” interactions are endless, from one-on-one phone calls and video calls to online chats offering insights for specific concerns in their credit union journeys.
Through this process, it is critical to not lose sight of the real identity of credit unions, which has widely been recognized for a large brick-and-mortar presence in local communities across the country. Although some members may now prefer chatting online with a customer service agent, many members still enjoy physically visiting a credit union to make deposits and other transactions because it gives them an additional sense of connection and security. In the end, the focus is on your members. Listening to their needs will help you define and implement a plan that provides the best options for service in your community.
Every single credit union faces unique challenges and opportunities, so no two operating plans will look the same. But it’s important to recognize the community that surrounds you as you learn to re-navigate this rapidly evolving way of business, and life. This is one of the reasons NAFCU offers NAFCU Networks, online communities developed for credit union staff to connect peer-to-peer with other professionals who serve similar roles and functions. NAFCU member credit union executives and staff can utilize this tool to connect with others and share best practices on all topics and areas of concern.
As we embark on this hybrid path together, I can sense the magic of in-person connection coming closer to the forefront of our minds, and I hope that we will all be able to bask in our communal successes together, all 127 million of us. I am looking forward to getting back on the road and visiting many of you in-person this year. I know it has been tough navigating the pandemic, and while I wish I could personally congratulate all of you for the progress you have made these past two years, know that the entire NAFCU team is here to ensure the future is strong for credit unions.
Connect with B. Dan Berger on Twitter, @BDanBerger, and on his blog at nafcu.org/berger-leadership-blog.