I was walking on the trail a couple days ago when my son Face-Time’d me from Portugal. It was just to touch base and let me know everything was fine. From 3,500 miles away it was like he was right next to me. That still amazes me. On the flip side, I made a call the other day from my office phone and had to leave a message. In that message I asked they call my cell phone and left that number, three times, only to have the call returned to my desk phone because that’s what popped up on their caller ID. Forget that I left a detailed message with specific instructions to call my cell. Their systems provided a number so why actually listen to my message?
Technology can be great. It can make life easier, convenient, help get things done faster, and so on, but it can’t replace good old-fashioned human interaction and attentiveness. We have the capabilities that allow members to do pretty much anything they want without interacting with a human being, yet they continue to do so. They call on the phone, they come into the branch, they send emails because they have a need.
Sometimes the technology alone can meet a need, but other times the need is more than transactional or informational. Members want understanding, compassion, someone to give advice or talk over options with. We are more than order takers; we are financial representatives, experts in our field, people that help our members make better decisions that can have a positive impact on their lives.
There are tremendous benefits to technology. We all need it, and depend on it; but we never lose sight of how important our members are. A cell phone can’t shake a hand or show appreciation; a PC can’t help you deal with an unexpected life change; a loan system can’t explain the benefits and risks of a purchase. There is an art to conversation and a physical and emotional benefit to engagement. Technology is just one tool we use to create the Freedom experience, but we never lose site of the importance of conversation.
I was recently sitting in a restaurant. At the table next to me were a father and son. It was an average scene with seemingly nice people; the father apparently just off from work or on a lunch break and the child was about 5 or 6. What caught my attention was the dynamic between the two.
The father sat quietly looking down while eating and the child, with food of his own, stared down at a tablet playing a video game. I watched and waited. Minute by minute the scene played out the same way with only one variation; a request for ketchup which was quickly supplied. There was no interaction, no communication, the entire time.
This is not to say the man wasn’t a loving father or the child a devoted son. What it said, to me, was that something fundamental has changed in our society and I found myself wondering what the future held for us all. We can blame the technology, even though it has benefits. We can blame the people, even though they may be the kindest of souls. The blame is not the issue, the choice is.
It’s the same for Freedom. We push technology to make things quicker, easier, convenient, but it can never replace the human interaction necessary to forge a lasting relationship. Both people and technology, whether utilized or not, must be accessible for members. It’s not a question of one over another. It’s a service choice the member will make. ome members feel better when they deposit a check remotely; others feel better when they interact with an individual. The focus then in either case is the member experience and what we do to ensure that is positive. That’s what is remembered. Not that we have automation or people, but that we are there when you need us. So when we think about the convenience of technology also consider that if someone comes into a branch or calls us on the phone, it’s because they want that interaction, that connection, and that shows the important role we play in the credit union experience.
I don’t know how many of you are X-Files fans or if you ever even heard of the show, but it was always one of my favorites. I don’t know if it was the story line, the conspiracy theories about otherworldly encounters or the characters themselves. Probably a combination of them all. The tag line of the show, “The Truth Is Out There” was all about the idea that there is more than meets the eye. That we must put aside the things we had believed in to look for a greater truth. We’re not searching for extraterrestrial life at Freedom, but we are looking for a certain truth.
Our truth is our purpose. Something we think we know, but are proving is so much more. The truth about Freedom as a financial institution is that we do loans (mortgages, business, auto, anything, etc.); we provide a variety of saving products and high earning deposit accounts; we have mobile and online banking; we have a nationwide ATM network; and so on and so on. This is obvious to anyone who bothers to look. The deeper truth, our greater purpose, is the service we provide to, and the partnerships we forge with, our members and the community. Moreover, this truth is something we should never stop pursuing.
Banking is what we do, NOT who we are. But don’t take my word for it. Talk to us, do business with us, discover your own truth and experience the Freedom difference. After all, why bank at a Bank when banking is better at Freedom.