Zipcast Episode 15: How Credit Unions are Growing Business with Texting

credit union adviser Galli Davis

Fast and effective communication is becoming essential for credit unions, not only to improve member satisfaction, but also to help front-line employees like loan officers be more productive. Two-way texting brings a personal touch to communication, without sacrificing time.

In this episode of Zipcast, host Scott Heimes sits down with ASG Results’ lending and sales training specialist, Galli Davis, to discuss the ways credit unions are growing business and improving team efficiency with texting.

You’ll hear more on

  • How texting software can help credit unions manage their virtual branch for young members
  • Why texting can help collections reach delinquent accounts when phone calls fail
  • How texting can ramp up a loan officer’s productivity

Listen below:

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Full Transcript:

Scott Heimes: Welcome to the Zipcast, where we talk about the latest trends in Texting for Business, customer communication strategies, and technology. I’m your host, Scott Heimes, chief marketing officer at Zipwhip, and thanks for tuning in.

Scott Heimes: The texting medium is changing the way credit unions do business. No one knows this better than Galli Davis. Galli works for ASG Results, a company that helps credit unions improve their processes, implement new technology, and drive growth. Credit unions face unique communication challenges these days, but even if you’re not in the financial industry, Galli’s insights might just inspire you in your own business. Stick around to learn more.

Scott Heimes: Welcome to the Zipcast, Galli. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Galli Davis: Yeah, so actually started my former life out as a schoolteacher. I got a degree in education and went out and taught school for several years. And I had an opportunity in the mid-nineties to go out and work in west Texas. So I moved out there, and it wasn’t very long before I had an opportunity to move out of teaching and into the car business.

Galli Davis: So, went to work for a big Ford store in the west Texas area. My dad, my father-in-law, and my brother were all in the car business, and they thought I would do well. And so I did, and it was one of the greatest experiences of learning something about finance and helping me into the career that I was going to eventually get involved in. One of my jobs at the dealership, after selling in sales, and then moving into the FNI department, I would talk to the area finance companies, all the auto dealers and auto finance companies, that were utilized at the dealership. And my job was to get our contracts.

Galli Davis: As we’ve seen, part of this hung with those entities. And so I was talking to Chase, and Bank Of America, and Capital One Auto, and also a local credit union, which was involved in an indirect program. And I kept talking to those credit union folks, and I was hearing on the other side of the fence what they were doing to help their members, those consumers. It was a different approach to helping them over to save money.

Galli Davis: And I guess I was convicted to be more about that side of the fence, then say the car business side of things. And so an opportunity opened up for me to go to work for a credit union, in doing those very things. As a schoolteacher, I had always been a member of a credit union. But here was an opportunity to work for one. And then 22 years later, here I am working as a consult that with credit unions to find opportunities to grow, and to help them coach their members through the car buying process.

Scott Heimes: So you guys serve 125 different credit union customers. Tell us about the things that your business helps credit unions do. What’s your objective in consulting with them?

Galli Davis: Our main, core purpose and objective with credit unions is we are an ancillary product provider. So, gap and vehicle service contracts, or extended warranties, life and disability, debt protection type products for credit unions who are wanting to protect their loans and protect their members. We’re a big player in helping credit unions with those products.

Galli Davis: One of the things that sets us apart in our company is that we specialize in training. We almost overkill in training, we really spend a lot of time with our credit unions. I would say much more so than our competitors, in the sense that we’re big believers in getting to know the ground level troops.

Galli Davis: So we really do spend a lot of in-person training. We’re not so big on webinars, but we do like to do a lot of in-person training. And we do so many other things besides just train ancillary products. Not just the product that a credit union is providing, but we like to go in and assist a credit union with many of their other needs. Lending, policy writing, helping underwriters become better at what they do. Sales, and creating a sales culture and a sales training environment.

Galli Davis: And so, we are focused on growth and not just provision of products to a credit union. It makes us a little different than our competitors.

Scott Heimes: Got it. So you’re all things to credit unions, helping them scale and grow, and optimize their processes, and think about new products that they can sell, and drive revenue growth. How about on the communication side? I’m sure that the way that credit unions communicate with their members has evolved dramatically over the past 10 years. Tell us a little bit about that.

Galli Davis: Well, it has. And what we have discovered, just, there’s a movement as we visit credit unions across our area, in going in and seeing best practices. We’ve seen a lot of credit unions over the last decade migrate to—I don’t want to overuse the word—but really enhance their virtual branch. With brick and mortar certainly still being important, but not what it used to be.

Galli Davis: More and more young members of credit unions are relating with their credit union through mobile applications, through online app, through lending resources available to them through their internet. They’re finding that a majority, if not a heavy part of their lending portfolio each month, will come from productivity without a member ever even coming into a branch. They’ll apply online or they’ll phone in, they’ll take the application process, go through credit situations with members, and get members approved. And a member never actually comes to the credit union.

Galli Davis: And so with that, there’s been a challenge of, how do you efficiently and quickly communicate and handle multiple members at one time? And so, certainly as email came on board back in the day, credit unions got very busy about that. But it’s funny how loan officers tend to get a backlog of emails, and they don’t tend to work those, except through the time they have in a day. Especially if they’re a person who also helps members in-person.

Galli Davis: So, what credit unions did was they moved to creating a virtual branch, or a call center, that would in essence be invisible to the member as far as physical contact, or personal contact. But they would communicate by phone, and then as they learned the opportunity to now text a member, it’s been sort of an answer to the big problem.

Galli Davis: We are going in and sitting with underwriters and online folks who are actually being able to manage more than one member at a single experience. They can handle one person through a texting channel while simultaneously helping another. And this has really helped to improve volume. When we sit and talk to virtual teams, they’ll tell us, since gaining the ability to text a member from their desk PC to a member cell phone, they’ve been able to … Some of them are telling us they were able to do as much as triple, or three times as much, volume as they were able to do before.

Galli Davis: Your average loan officer will do between $400,000 and $600,000 a month in loan productivity. And if you bring texting on board, we’re seeing those folks be able to ramp that up to well over a million dollars per-person. And this is the volume and loan growth that credit unions are looking for.

Scott Heimes: Wow, that’s an amazing stat. So, as the market and the world has changed, credit unions have had to take their digital game up multiple notches to compete, right. And texting, as you’re saying, is a big part of that, because it allows them to actually reach customers more efficiently, and it’s driving more productivity, and increases in growth for credit unions.

Scott Heimes: So, how about the texting experience itself? Why do you think that it is so efficient, and it works? What are the attributes about it that come to mind for you?

Galli Davis: That’s actually, that’s a pretty easy question to answer. I deal a lot with loan officers working their queues, taking loan applications. And one of the things that I think just your common, everyday person who’s very good at what they do, is time management. And they struggle with working their queue, working their phone, and then handling email exchange.

Galli Davis: And so what’ll happen is, I think I mentioned earlier that they’ll get sort of this backlog of communication, of email stack. And they tend to not work those until the end of the day. And one of the things that I have seen be so relevant with texting is that it’s more of a live type of a conversation. And so, where loan officers are very comfortable, perhaps sitting live talking to someone, they’re limited to that one person, while you got three more out in the lobby waiting to see you.

Galli Davis: If you can work or condition your members to communicate with you through a texting environment, “Hey, thanks for applying today. I’m going to go ahead turn you loose to go in back to your job. Thanks for coming in at lunch, or for calling in. Let’s continue our conversation about your loan through a texting relationship,” or texting communication. And this is somewhat surprising to some members, learning that credit unions are now able to reach them through their cell phones.

Galli Davis: And so, what loan officers who are learning the efficiency of that are doing, are moving their members over into that sort of channel, if you will, and getting them to do the business the way that credit union wants to do. And as a result, you get more efficiency, you get a faster turnaround. It is more live. A member may be considering a vehicle to purchase, and wants their loan officer’s opinion of where it may fall in the qualification, or how the member’s been qualified to make that purchase. What kind, or year, or model of the vehicle to purchase.

Galli Davis: And so they’ll take a picture of the vehicle, or a VIN number, and just text that to their loan officer, instead of sending in an email and that email not being read until the end of the day. That helps … A loan officer can get that text and actually respond right then. “Yes. Let me look that up for you. That vehicle will work. I’ve pulled up our NADA values on it.” And it works quickly and getting the answer back to the member, on the progress of perhaps their car shopping, or in waiting for the answer on how they qualify for a loan request.

Your average loan officer will do between $400,000 and $600,000 a month in loan productivity. And if you bring texting on board, we’re seeing those folks be able to ramp that up to well over a million dollars per-person. — Galli Davis, ASG Results

Scott Heimes: Interesting. So, the use cases that you’re describing are all around customer service, and support, and processing alone. Anything else in the credit union universe that you’ve seen texting applied for? Have you seen it for billing responses, or sales, marketing kind of uses?

Galli Davis: Certainly, have seen it in those areas you’ve mentioned, but specifically, where I sort of saw the first real big activity, was a particular credit union in Texarkana. A credit union there utilized texting to collect. In and their collections department, we sort of coined the phrase “collexting,” in the effort to make that more applicable.

Galli Davis: And so what we found was, we saw a credit union give us feedback on the fact that, hey, we’re able to get ahold of someone that we’ve been searching for, for months. We’ve called them, we’ve left voicemails, we’ve sent letters and got zero response. But they would turn on their ability to text a member, and because it’s got more of a discreet feel to it, they could send a text saying, “Hey, please give me a call, we’d would like to talk to you about your payment. We have some options for getting you back on track.” They would get an immediate response from someone they haven’t been able to get a hold of for weeks, if not months.

Galli Davis: And to actually turn that delinquency back into caught up or paying on time. So when this particular credit union wanted to move into a texting environment by starting in the collections department, and as they saw that be so effective, they moved it into member services, whereby then they were able to communicate with members on things like the progress of opening an account.

Galli Davis: They could promote new checking account offers or things that they might be wanting to drive members to. But they sort of cut their teeth by trying it out in the collections arena, and have said … That was a couple of years ago, and we have seen other credit unions utilize it in that way.

Galli Davis: So I believe that texting it has a place in every department that a credit union is going to work in. You could utilize it in your title department, so that you could communicate with members about releases of titles, or in titling perfection, or in areas where sometimes the title department is involved with insurance, and helping the member make sure their vehicle was converted over to the correct insurance company.

Galli Davis: And so they can exchange insurance information, or ID cards, or driver’s licenses. And members are so used to taking pictures of things and just sending it, as opposed to attaching it to an email. You get this sense of immediate either urgency, or immediate effectiveness. And it’s both beneficial to the member, and to the credit union. Because it keeps everything in front of you at the moment. And at the end of the day, you’ve kind of completed your days’ work as opposed to working yourself in a compartmentalized manner. You’re able to work effectively through each member’s need through the day.

Scott Heimes: That’s a great summary. So, when you think about the number of clients that you serve today, how many of them are pursuing a texting solution today?

Galli Davis: Well, I would say that they’re all beginning to hear about and realize that that is a technology available to them. Some are … The thing about credit unions, are sometimes they’re very proactive, progressive, and moving toward the changes around them, to adopt methods about which their members want to do business.

Galli Davis: And others tend to be a little bit slower about that process. Maybe they’re even a little skeptical about, how in the world is that possible? It’s sort of that new technology that people are still just learning to embrace. So I have … I guess my own, personal feeling is I don’t have any hard statistic for you, but I would say that, based on the accounts we visit, we are about making sure they know it’s available. In making reference to texting capabilities.

Galli Davis: And what we have found that, if they will do a demo, if they will adventure into finding out a little bit more about it, I would say that about one out of every two credit unions will actually turn on a texting capability. And either try it out to see if it’s a fit for them, which the majority of the time it is. Or they’re taking a little bit more of a reserved position. And I would say they’re waiting to see, I guess as things continue to unfold.

Galli Davis: I’m not sure how long texting has been available to credit unions, other than to say how long I’ve seen credit unions use it. And that would, I would say in the last two-and-a-half to three years has been this movement of businesses ability to text individuals at their cell phones, desktop to cell phone conversation. And why in the world would you not want to be able to do that when it is the way people are communicating today?

Galli Davis: I’ve heard some stats, and I believe you guys are probably more privy to this than me. But I’ve heard stats that the average response time to an email is like three days. But the average response time to a text is like 90 seconds. Something you may be able to confirm, whether that’s a little more legit or not. But I think that that speaks for itself right there.

Scott Heimes: I 100% agree. So if you get a client that is interested in employing texting and getting started, how do you … Kind of tips, what kind of recommendations you have for them, as they start to embrace the medium?

Galli Davis: You bet. So I think the best way to kind of get your arms around what all is involved, the questions that a person, that credit union officials may have in considering a texting for their business, is to first just to demo the program. See what it looks and feels like. What’s the platform, what does it look like to a using loan officer, or a front-line staff? But getting accustomed to it. And what we encourage our accounts to do is, hey, try it out. What have you got to lose? Do a demo, see what it looks like, see if it’s a fit for any one or two of your departments, and then give it a whirl for 90 days.

Galli Davis: And what we’re finding is, once they turn it on, they don’t ever turn it off. They just continue to find the best place or best fit for them. Maybe they try it in the area of collections, and find it’s a better fit for member services, because of their collecting processes. But at least they’re able to experience it in the use of their people, as opposed to a management decision. And then they get feedback from staff, who say, “That’s the best thing ever. I’m able to work more efficiently. I like being able to communicate with my members that way.” And then it’s like once you get the taste of it, you don’t want to lose that ability.

Scott Heimes: So, hey, Galli, as we wrap up the podcast today, any final pieces of advice you’d want to share with credit unions out there, that are thinking about business texting?

Galli Davis: Absolutely. You know, you think about the new thing to be doing that makes your business grow. I think that texting, in this sense, is one of those new things. And for credit unions to delay in launching or taking on this technology is a loss for them. So Zipwhip was, we were introduced to Zipwhip I think, probably two-and-a-half, three years ago. And learned how you guys work, and how Zipwhip is able to help specifically credit unions.

Galli Davis: And then as we got out in the field and learned that some credit unions had heard of texting before, and we had heard that there were other companies that produced texting as an on-the-shelf product, we would ask questions about, what does it do, and how does it work? And sort of compare. And we believe that Zipwhip is the real deal. It’s the difference between buying something brand name, or the store brand’s version. If pricing is basically the same, why wouldn’t you want to go with a company that, in my mind, built the technology?

Galli Davis: I think that the way to get started is to demo it and give it a try in a particular department or two for a while, and I do not believe that you’ll be disappointed at all.

Scott Heimes: Well, that’s some great advice, and really appreciate the time today. Thanks so much for joining us on the Zipcast, Galli.

Galli Davis: You bet.

Scott Heimes: Thanks for joining us. Hey, if you haven’t heard, Zipwhip recently published The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers. Whether your business is considering texting, or you’ve already adopted a texting tool, this new e-book has all the info you need for a successful texting strategy. For a free download, just go to zipwhip.com/ultimateguide. Until next time.

Think your credit union could benefit from a texting tool? Check out how Zipwhip works to connect you to your members by texting through your business landline, VoIP or toll-free phone number.

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