Beyond Efficiency: The New Back-Office Imperative

By: Denise Stevens, SVP, Product, EPMO & Strategic Partnerships

The mainstreaming of efficiency is here to stay, and it applies to more than just financial services. Everywhere you look, people are getting better at getting better. This so-called “performance revolution” represents a systematic way that organizations are becoming more effective and more productive.

For our purpose as a CUSO, at PSCU, we call it back-office efficiency, and define it as the way we make decisions that better serve our credit unions. We’re looking at things like human capital and manual processes and asking ourselves how we can improve the connectedness of applications and operations to deliver a better member experience. Furthermore, we are encouraging credit unions to do the same! It’s an inherent human behavior to take on growth, but not invest in it or improve the tools needed to sustain it. We want to empower credit unions everywhere to take a careful look at existing processes and procedures, and see where consolidation and/or sunsetting can occur to have greater impact on members.

Using ourselves as an example, PSCU’s back-office operations today are immense; Implementations, Fraud Operations and the Call Center are just a few of the back-office pockets, rich in process, that we are investing in for the purpose of scale and evolution to the next level of service excellence. We know that every credit union out there can follow in pursuit and, collectively, raise delivery levels for the industry as a whole. The goal is not to eliminate human intervention, but to reinvest existing resources to support growth – to allow humans to focus more organically on intelligent tasks than repetitive ones, which can be easily performed by artificial intelligence and robotic processing bots.

Considering that all of us have become digital consumers in need of answers now, it’s fair to say that bots are not just the future of business, they are the present. A chatbot, for example, has the capability to drive a call center experience or the digital navigation on a mobile app. Many within the industry are using their own call center to take advantage of chatbot capabilities. This form of AI has different levels of intelligence; they can be digital- or human-driven, they can learn, or they can be programmed. The important takeaway is that there is a wide variety of options to meet all member needs.

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology is another very popular way to improve back-office efficiency across multiple industries of all shapes and sizes. This technology provides automated interaction with customers and/or members, to elevate the service experience and improve response effectiveness. The smart-call routing functionality in these systems can help streamline the journey of credit union members, in addition to reducing operational costs and improving the image of your credit union.

Perhaps some of the best news is that IVR and similar robotic-processing technologies are easy to implement. The key is to work with a strategic partner that has made an investment in these areas to help you be most efficient. Since the improvement of back-office efficiency drives costs down, we see this as an opportunity for the credit union industry as a whole. Today, at PSCU, for example, we are beginning to automate steps that would address chargeback and dispute experience for members. This automation will not only expedite chargebacks to Visa and Mastercard, it would also allow for better reporting and bolster member satisfaction.

Fundamentally, PSCU strives for operations that are best-in-class and scalable. At heart, we are a service company. So speedy delivery of satisfaction is the goal. Efficiency, in most cases, is not an on-demand outcome that can be summoned at will, but rather one that credit unions can and should work towards through continuous, small improvements. We hope that in leading by example, credit unions will join the movement to improve back-office efficiency, and look to PSCU for holistic support in optimizing all available robotic options.