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Demonstrating empathy and compassion for members is inherent in the DNA of credit unions. When it comes to collections, this has long been evident in the way credit unions help their members navigate health crises, career changes, and a variety of unforeseen events. Still, the sudden and severe impact of COVID-19 on tens of millions of Americans compelled credit unions to rapidly adjust and accelerate changes in how they listen to and engage with their members.
Robert Kiel, Vice President of Loan Servicing at NASA Federal Credit Union, serves as an excellent ambassador and advocate for compassionate collections, an approach that shows that doing the right thing for members is also the smart thing for institutions. In a recent Credit Union Times webinar, Kiel joined Darryl Knopp of FICO Advisors and Kris Frantzen of Temenos to talk about the changes he and NASA Federal brought about for members in the time of COVID and how he believes compassionate collections can make banking better across the industry.
The Positive Power of Omnichannel Communications
Kiel shared that from the start of the pandemic, the message he and his team steadfastly communicated to members was that “we’re here to help, to please contact us, [and] that we have resources available.” Recognizing that members were being inundated and potentially overwhelmed with news unrelated to their banking, the NASA team adjusted the mix of mediums they used to communicate collections messages. “At the outset, we discontinued a lot of our automated calling, fronting all of our collection communication instead through text and email and encouraging the use of our e-branch and mobile channels,” Kiel said.
Having the omnichannel technology to also efficiently and succinctly survey members was another key component in NASA Federal’s compassionate collections approach. Members were notified via the previously mentioned channels that “if they’d like to be considered for further assistance, please complete this survey.” One of the questions asked in the survey was “are you ready to resume monthly payments now?” and according to Kiel, “a surprising percentage of members said yes.” Others were asked how soon they saw themselves being able to resume payments, enabling Kiel and team to leverage the data for individualized skip strategies and further assistance.
Empowering Members and Personalizing Engagement
An overarching aspect of NASA Federal’s compassionate collections strategy was enabling self-service for members and making them feel more comfortable via personalization. Robert and his team understood member sensitivities about having to restate their challenges and burdens to others again and again. Their team and technology placed control in the hands of the members, allowing them to engage on their own terms and self-cure in most instances. More and more, financial institutions of all types are harnessing their data to inform member-centric communications and offers.
When asked about the net impact of NASA Federal’s compassionate collections initiatives, Kiel shared that “member loyalty has deepened as members who have truly been in need throughout this have been deeply appreciative of our efforts to assist them.”
The Future of Compassionate Collections
Thankfully, the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel is getting brighter. Kiel expects that the lessons learned in responding to changes in members’ lives will have lasting positive effects. In sharing his outlook on the future, he noted that “In terms of what we’re doing with collections and how we’re approaching members, I think that will continue- and the ideas that have been generated from what we’ve done already will play an important role in how we move our members and organization forward by using technology that we have access to.”
Originally published in CUNA on May 17, 2021, you can view the article here.
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