press release archives

Technology and Communication Innovations Help United Federal Credit Union Serve Members Remotely

St. Joseph, Michigan - United Federal Credit Union’s (United) Information Technology team has used the first half of 2020 to implement several technology improvements that are all designed to make the financial services experience easier for its Members.

As part of United’s ongoing mission to enhance our Members' lives and deliver a simple, personalized experience when and where they choose, a number of leading technology enhancements—including a new online mortgage application, Apple Business Chat, and a FAQ Chatbot—were launched in the first and second quarters of 2020.

“Building a strategic, technology-innovation plan and having our team use a collaborative approach to execute on that plan has been critical to our success,” said Duane Wilcoxson, United’s Chief Information Officer. “At United, we combine research and best practices with feedback and insights to develop solutions that allow us to meet the moment when our Members need us.”

The ability to communicate and chat with Members via digital services has become one of United’s points of emphasis, creating an opportunity for the credit union to pilot a new chat service from Apple.

In March, United was one of the first 180 companies worldwide to implement Apple Business Chat, and one of the first 60 organizations to integrate it through the Live Engage platform. Apple Business Chat is a new way for businesses to connect directly with customers by allowing people to receive answers to questions, schedule appointments, and resolve issues from an Apple device such as an iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple Watch or Mac.

“Our Members have enjoyed Apple Business Chat so far and are happy to see United stepping up and staying ahead of the curve,” Wilcoxson said. “People see the advantage of real-time responses to important questions, especially about their finances. That’s why it’s important for United to stay connected to their preferences and deliver on our promise to advance the financial services experience.”

Over 2,000 chats have been initiated through Apple Business Chat since United launched it. United has also completed efforts to incorporate Facebook Messenger and other chat options into its Member service communication channel. Through May 2020, United has completed over 20,000 chat or text sessions with Members across all of its channels.

The most recent innovation, initially launched in June, is the FAQ Chatbot service on United’s website. This feature is designed to recognize keywords, phrases, and tags entered into an online chat by a Member and provide answers and links to frequently asked questions or requests such as ‘what is United’s routing number?’ and ‘how do I make a loan payment?’.

With the Chatbot available to assist, Members receive the answer immediately so that online interactions are more seamless, and to help alleviate some common questions that are currently handled by the Member Service Center—giving Member Service Advisors more availability to answer unique Member questions.

“Communication is key,” said Wilcoxson. “As more people look for contactless solutions to everyday interactions, having a robust and reliable online communication channel shows that your organization is open to listen and engage, and values and understands the choices and concerns of your customers.”

One of the ways United responded to its Members’ preferences was by launching a new online mortgage application platform in Q2 by partnering with Blend.

Blend’s software makes it easier, faster, and safer for people to apply for a mortgage online. Since May 2020, 30.5% of mortgage applications were completed through United’s website using Blend—compared to just 7.9% in May 2019.

“As difficult as the COVID-19 pandemic has been for the entire country, it magnifies the importance for businesses to be proactive when talking about continuous innovation and improvement,” said Wilcoxson. “We can’t predict the future, but we are better prepared to respond in uncertain times by having a culture, team, and philosophy in place that explores and embraces new, purposeful technology.”

Members have also engaged United’s other digital channels and services since the pandemic including more than 31,000 mobile check deposit transactions from March to May 2020 and an average of 255,000 monthly digital transactions during the same time period.