Take a read through virtually any 2023 trend report, and you’ll spot operational efficiency as one of the top priorities for today’s financial institutions (FIs). Banks and credit unions that run like well-oiled machines are rewarded with not only reduced operating costs but also higher satisfaction and loyalty scores.
According to Aaron Young, SVP of Branch Operations and Retail Banking at Credit Union of Southern California (CU SoCal), the key to delivering smoother experiences is feedback from their Members. “Foundationally, everything we do is about our Members. They’re what makes us tick,” he explains.
However, it’s difficult to find efficiency opportunities that can lead to better experiences without tracking the right data first. We asked Aaron which metrics he tracks to understand and improve operational efficiency at CU SoCal. Here’s what he said.
Metric #1: Member Satisfaction
One of the top indicators of operational performance is customer satisfaction score. At CU SoCal, Aaron and his team track this metric by surveying Members through a partnership with Member Loyalty Group (MLG) after they complete an in-branch or digital interaction.
In each instance, CU SoCal asks Members to rate things like their overall experience, whether they feel valued, and whether they received service promptly. As Aaron says, “It’s really about understanding how we made them feel.”
Satisfaction is the most frequently monitored metric by Branch Operations. Aaron and his team analyze their overall satisfaction score daily because, as he notes, “It’s the foundation of who we are, and closely tracking it allows us to celebrate success and look for opportunities to fine-tune our processes and products in real-time.”
Metric #2: Average Handle Time
While customer satisfaction is a function of how the customer feels, it’s also important to track performance from a purely operational perspective. That’s why Aaron and his team also track average handle time through an appointment scheduling solution, i.e., how long each Member interaction takes to complete for advice-focused conversations in-branch.
CU SoCal compares their reported average handle time to the internal benchmarks they set to assess their performance. For example, they estimate that opening an account should take about an hour, so they work to hit that target for every Member.
By tracking this metric over time, Aaron can flag issues if they arise. “If things are taking too long, that means there’s either a process issue, or there’s something we didn’t train someone effectively on.” In other words, changes in this metric are an early indication that something may need to change to better serve Members.
Metric #3: Digital Adoption
Of course, digital transformation is a big part of managing operational efficiency for FIs. If you can set up Members with mobile banking or a debit card, you can also empower them to use self-serve options to help with day-to-day banking questions. This will free up branch time for more advice-focused conversations. “We want to make sure our Members can self-serve easily and connect in the way they want,” says Aaron.
Aaron and his team use an appointment scheduling solution to measure digital transformation by tracking penetration on digital products, such as mobile banking registration at account opening and debit card activation. This data is fed into a monthly report that visually depicts digital transformation for that period.
By looking at this metric monthly, Aaron and his team can see how effectively they’re converting Members to digital services at the point of sale. If that number dips, then Aaron and his team devote attention to boosting that metric. Aaron adds that, “digital adoption is pivotal in providing Members increased access to bank when and how they want. It helps foster a balance between the physical and digital aspects of branch transformation, as we shift branches to be more advice-centric versus transactional.”
Metric #4: Loyalty Program Penetration
Similarly, Aaron and his team use an appointment scheduling solution to measure loyalty program penetration by looking at existing Members who are active in the program relative to the number of overall Members.
CU SoCal’s loyalty program lets them provide perks to their Members, like a waived Membership fee and interest rate discounts on loan products.
As Aaron explains, this metric tells him whether his team is delivering value for Members. “If penetration is high, we know we’re returning value,” he says. “If it’s low, we would ask ourselves whether the package we offer our Members is actually valuable to them.”
Metric #5: Deposit Growth
Finally, Aaron keeps a close eye on deposit growth for Members using CU SoCal’s data warehouse tools. They calculate deposit growth by looking at new funds (in dollars) deposited by Members on a monthly basis. “This metric helps me understand how and where growth opportunities exist, as well as how to build features and benefits around current products or the design of new products to take advantage of opportunities,” he says.
Generally, operations managers can compare their own deposit growth rate to the national average (for example, the National Credit Union Administration reported that total shares and deposits rose by 3.4% in 2022.)
For credit unions, deposit growth and Membership growth are deeply linked. As Membership grows, deposits grow, which provides the ability for credit unions to continue to return value back to Members by offering higher than industry deposit rates and lower loan rates. So greater deposit growth means more opportunities to give value back to the customer.
How metrics inform decision making
Overall, CU SoCal — and many other FIs — compare their metrics to their own internal benchmarks and goalposts. After all, many of these metrics point to how well an FI is serving its Member base, which will change from one institution to another.
Aaron and his team often compare each of the above scores from one CU SoCal branch to another. “We look at places with higher scores and ask, ‘What’s their average handle time? Does this branch have more staff on some days than others?’” he explains.
Looking at the whole picture from one branch to another makes it easier to design solutions if one branch is lagging. “We leverage data to see top performers and then sort them by characteristics,” he says. “We can then map those characteristics onto branches that may not be performing and come up with an action plan to improve that metric based on what top performers are doing well.”
Ultimately, Aaron stresses that tracking metrics provides an opportunity to “fall in love with the problem,” as he puts it. “If one of our metrics is off-track, it may be a process or training issue. Really taking the time to take stock of that, rather than trying to throw a solution at it to fix it, is what allows me to create better experiences for our Members.”