* Brick and mortar branches are warmed by the caring credit union staff inside them. That personal touch, however, may be missing in Web sites and online branches. Several credit unions recently have added smiling faces and an interactive friendly voice to their Web sites with CUNA & Affiliates' Anytime Adviser.
"Anytime Adviser is a 24/7 tool that 'coaches' members on personal finance issues," says Joanne Sepich, managing editor in CUNA's center for personal finance.
This unique online consumer service helps members make better choices through an audio track, interactive games, and simulations. It joins a series of other successful online member services, including Home & Family Finance Resource Center and Googolplex.
Anytime Adviser will feature five coaches. The first two coaches, New and Used Car Buying, debuted in May. The other three, Home Buying, Checking Account, and Credit Management, go online this summer.
"People look for this kind of advice," notes Becky Stapleton, assistant manager at Salem (Va.) VA Medical Center Federal Credit Union, about the New Car Buying Coach in Anytime Adviser. The $50 million asset credit union rapidly expanded its online offerings in the past year, including an online branch with Web payments. Online loan approval is next, which will work well with the links from Anytime Adviser coaches. Each coach offers two customizable links to specific credit union pages.
"It's a good product with good tips," Stapleton says. "The coach even tells members 'Now that you're ready, see your credit union for preapproval,' and there's the link to our online application.
Beyond sending members to the credit union for services, the coaches demonstrate why the credit union is the best place to do business. For example, the Home Buying Coach puts members through a dating-game-like simulation to select one of three mystery lenders. Lender No. 2 is a credit union, and through the game it becomes clear the credit union will provide the best service.
"There's no such thing as credit union marketing, only credit union education," says Carla Swift, marketing director at Sesloc Federal Credit Union, San Luis Obispo, Calif. "Once people are educated about credit union products and services, the marketing takes care of itself."
That's one reason why Swift added Anytime Adviser to the community credit union's Web site. The interactivity appealed to Swift, who also teaches at a community college. "When people learn with hands on, they remember," she says. That's important for Sesloc Federal, which serves many college students.
"Anytime access" is part of the appeal for Jodie Bartnicki, marketing manager for Ledge Light Federal Credit Union, Groton, Conn. "Our members span the U.S. Anytime Adviser will make it easier to provide great member service and consistent educational messages."
For an introductory offer that saves qualifying credit unions $200, visit buy.cuna.org and select Online, then Anytime Adviser, or call 800-348-3646.