Sherpa Technologies

These days, consumers expect companies to cater to their needs through multiple channels and payment methods, and so-called “contextual member service” refers to the process of providing exceptional service, experiences and transaction opportunities through multiple delivery or support channels. The universe of instant digital interactions will create billions of “segments of one” and contextual experiences at their finest. 

This is a glimpse into our collective future. But what are the trends driving this?

Data is the new oil. Data is the foundation stone to the transformation of financial services. The amount of structured and unstructured data that financial institutions need to analyze has grown – and will continue to grow – exponentially. The now frequently heard metaphor that “data is the new oil" acknowledges the important role of data to fuel future advances and innovation. If data is indeed the new oil, then advanced analytic technologies are the way to refine it!

Online interactions and payments feed a wealth of member data. The depth and breadth of the aggregate personal information coming from all the digital interactions, transactions, and real-time feedback loops from apps and devices is simply unprecedented. Also, smartphones and other personal digital devices can automatically capture massive amounts of “live” data. For example, mobile devices may clearly pinpoint the actual location while cameras and digital sensors connected to artificial intelligence algorithms may sense the mood and estimate the age of the individual using the device. Additionally, personal apps gain intimate insights about the agenda, friends, and whereabouts of the individual.

Digital device types go well beyond personal computers, laptops, tablets, or smartphones. Consider these examples: gaming consoles with multiplayer games that may reflect the behavioral patterns of a gamer within a team or under pressure; personal health-monitoring wristbands with sensors that capture heart rates and other personal vital indicators. Individuals may also connect their medical devices for monitoring and tracking special conditions; or, the most recent expressions of mixed-reality headsets that allow a person to interact with a combination of real-world and digital holograms. 

Machine learning algorithms can learn about the individual interaction patterns and recommend most effective actions in real-time. Cognitive services can help visualize, classify, cluster, and interpret images interactively and with utmost accuracy. For many professions, such as healthcare workers or high-stakes traders, where specialized knowledge must be applied live in mission-critical tasks, personalized artificial intelligence would augment the capabilities of an individual and increase the level of talent across the workforce.

Cloud processing can scale efficiently to process such multitudes of personal digital signals in real-time. Such an ultra-fine level of analytics empowers both digital service providers (like credit unions) and people to get personalized insights at the point of decision, even to inform everyday activities. For example, artificial intelligence allows the mining of millions of real-life situations to model “next-best-action” and “next-best-offer” hypotheses to suit the instant needs and preferences of an individual most accurately and effectively. And the granularity of personal-level analytics will thrive on individual mood, behavioral traits, social media, and situational context. 

Deep insights about personal preferences can reveal unmet, unarticulated needs. Providers may then instantly customize product and service features that may “wow” virtually each individual, every time. A largely untapped field of opportunity for credit unions and other financial institutions rests in combining personalized financial products and services with commerce and lifestyle needs. For instance, mixed-reality technologies, such as Microsoft HoloLens, enable individuals to interactively explore their financial “health” and spending capability while picturing themselves in the car, at home, at college, or on the vacation of their dreams.

Credit unions will need to form strategic alliances with an ecosystem of digital service providers and payment companies. As you will have heard many times, arguably, credit unions (and banks) have more data on their members (customers) than anyone else. But, on their own, they will struggle to extract meaningful information and use it to its full potential. In order to develop and deliver contextual member experiences, credit unions must tap the vibrant ecosystem of digital services and technology partners, which could also allow them to leapfrog ahead of larger players that struggle to overcome legacy cultures, operations and technologies, and tend to compete mostly with their own internal and proprietary resources.

Bring out the “Amazon” in your credit union! Renowned technology companies, such as Amazon, Apple and Netflix, have set the “customer experience bar” very high. Regardless of how consumers choose to interact with them, the experience of working with most of these firms is usually outstanding. More than 70% of today’s customers make their buying decision without speaking to anyone from a company’s sales or customer service departments. So, securing a sale increasingly means serving up relevant information to the right person at the right time — their way, not yours — during their buying window. It’s no easy task in our digital world, where a member’s attention span is minimal, and competition is but a click away. 

For credit unions, the challenge is clear: Examine your delivery, support and payments services, and get rid of the processes creating friction for your members and/or are slowing you down in serving them. Bring out the Amazon in your credit union!

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Mark Sievewright


Sievewright & Associates