How Towpath Credit Union Used Texting to Improve Their Close Ratio by More Than 10%

We all need a safe and secure place to keep our money, with easy access to it and where it will earn interest at a percentage that is higher than the rate of inflation. In a consumer-driven marketplace, we have many choices when it comes to where we store our nest eggs for safekeeping, including under a mattress (not recommended), in a bank or other large financial institutions and credit unions.

For consumers looking for a member-owned financial cooperative operated on the principle of people helping people, a local credit union may be the best choice. And if two-way conversational texting is something you desire and are looking for when interacting with a business, you’ll understand why Towpath Credit Union in Northeast Ohio chose Zipwhip’s texting software platform to engage with its members.



Formerly called the Akron Teachers Credit Union, Towpath was established in 1936 for employees of the Akron Public Schools. The Towpath name was later chosen in honor of the historical significance of the canal and towpath in the birth and growth of the city and surrounding communities. While it has since expanded its membership well beyond the classroom, it still prides itself on maintaining that close-knit community feeling reminiscent of its early days.

Helping a credit union connect with members via text

When Towpath began looking for a better way to connect with its members, its primary goal was to communicate in a way that would yield the best response rate and be convenient for everyone. Texting turned out to be the right solution. According to Zipwhip’s Generational Texting report, 73% of consumers wish more businesses would text them.

The credit union also needed a solution that would work within its current setup and workflow, including its existing software tools and daily processes. Of utmost importance was finding a way for members to engage with the organization but not feel that it was super intrusive. They also wanted the ability to follow up with people who had initiated a conversation with them, so maintaining accurate records and collecting and storing contact information was very important.

Prior to adopting business texting, the credit union relied on the industry-standard method of calling and emailing individuals but knew there had to be a better way. After conducting extensive research, they found texting to be the perfect option because it’s something that most people already do every day. They also looked at chatbots, but the software was very expensive, and the technology lacked the personal touch they were seeking to provide to their members. When it came time to decide, the organization chose Zipwhip’s business texting platform. Michael Sferro, senior vice president of Towpath Credit Union, said, “Zipwhip’s features checked a lot of boxes for all departments.”

Money is a sensitive topic and texting is discreet

Texting is the medium their credit union members prefer to use. Not only is it discreet and convenient, it allows them to communicate with a representative from the credit union whom they had formed a relationship with during previous interactions. Members can easily identify who is texting them because of the personal signature included in the message, and the 10-digit number used to send the text is associated with the credit union, a number they recognize and trust.

Towpath also needed to find a problem to solve in order to justify the expense of adopting business texting software. While their primary objective was to be more responsive to their members, at times they needed to nudge people to take action, such as when they missed a loan payment or to request that a document be sent to the credit union in a timely manner. In the past, employees had to follow up repeatedly with people who didn’t answer the phone, reply to voicemails or respond to email.

Texting solved that problem to the delight of credit union employees, most notably in the lending department. According to Michael, they loan money to individuals with all colors of credit (meaning a wide range of credit scores) so they needed a way to reach people quickly and stay top of mind to get them to make a payment to their credit union before paying other creditors.

“Since using Zipwhip, our close ratio improved 10-15%, which is huge when you’re funding $35M a year in loans.” — Michael Sferro, SVP

By texting members and gently reminding them that a payment is due, Towpath is able to maintain a healthy balance sheet and continue to offer competitive interest rates to their members. In the 18 months since adopting texting for business, the credit union has enjoyed positive feedback from its members and employees. For credit unions and other businesses on the fence about the power of business texting, research shows that 76% of consumers are already receiving text messages from businesses. Those that don’t embrace this technology will miss out on an opportunity for competitive differentiation.

Towpath Credit Union employee using Zipwhip Texting Software

Letting members know they can text their credit union

“Extra! Extra! Text all about it!” Spreading the word about their texting capabilities has been an important part of Towpath’s customer communication strategy. Their website reads, “Text Banking is now available and it’s the easiest way to access your accounts!” The message is also conveyed on email signatures and business cards, as well as other collateral with the words “Text or Call” written next to a single phone number. “We really try to integrate the texting ability in touching every member-facing channel we can. With any type of cellular phone, you will have access to your accounts in an instant,” says Michael.

Towpath members can text a representative for the following services:

  • Apply for loans
  • Quick answer to loan status
  • Verify the lowest loan rate when comparing with other lenders
  • Check hours of operation

Popular texting features for credit unions

Photo-sharing and group texting are two of the more popular texting features the credit union utilizes. Photo-sharing is often used when proving insurance coverage or when someone applies for a loan. When income verification is needed to confirm employment, the loan candidate simply takes a photo of their paystub using their smartphone and texts it to the loan representative. Within seconds the credit union has what it needs to proceed, and the member has saved themselves a trip to the credit union to deliver a copy of the document in person. In the past, when such documents were requested by email it turned out to be a struggle. Members often had difficulty attaching a photo to their message, or they worried about sending personal information over their email provider’s network. As it turns out, with secure business texting that is no longer a concern.

Secure and reliable for texting documents

Zipwhip takes the security of its business texts very seriously, ensuring that text conversations stay within company systems. We connect directly to Tier 1 and Tier 2 wireless carrier networks, so texts are sent and stored securely with industry-leading anti-spam protocols. Zipwhip recently completed its Service Organization Control (SOC) 2 Type 1 examination, affirming that the company’s information security practices, policies, procedures and operations meet the SOC 2 standards for security.

When asked how Zipwhip’s business texting platform is viewed by their organization, Michael replied, “Well, it’s obviously very, very positive. It is a critical part of our go-to-market strategy to have the ability to communicate with members in the way they want, which is text messaging.”

And Towpath isn’t alone. The Credit Union Journal reported that with more than six billion texts sent each year in the United States, some credit unions are realizing that members aren’t looking to just talk, they’re looking to text as well.

Check out additional stories that show how Zipwhip is helping small businesses reach more customers with texting.

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