Using Text to Improve the Collections Experience for Members and Staff
By Ashish Garg, CEO, Eltropy
Hughes FCU needed another channel to contact members who don’t pick up the phone. Texting provided an effective way to open communication and proactively offer assistance.
$1.9 billion Hughes Federal Credit Union was formed in 1952 in Tucson, Arizona, to serve the financial needs of Hughes Aircraft Company (now Raytheon Missiles & Defense) employees and their families. In 2001, Hughes FCU was designated as a low-income, underserved community charter, allowing the credit union to serve more members that live, work and worship in Tucson. Today, it serves over 180,000 members nationwide.
Because Hughes FCU participates in refinance programs as a reseller, it has a vast network of members spread throughout the country. This presents some challenges for the credit union’s collections department in terms of needing to contact people from all over the U.S. instead of just members local to southern Arizona.
Additionally, as anyone who works in a collections department knows, it can be difficult to connect with members who may be behind on their payments and would rather avoid those conversations. “Often, these folks are embarrassed,” says Leticia Amado, collections manager at Hughes FCU. “They don’t know that we offer help or that the help is even out there.”
Many of the members the credit union’s collections team was attempting to contact would not answer the phone or respond to voicemail. So, in spring 2022, Hughes FCU started using Eltropy’s text messaging platform to address this communication breakdown.
A Solution for Collections Communication
“Everybody knows how to use their cell phone,” says Amado. “Having the ability to text someone and offer assistance has been a game changer. We can send them a link to our loan extension request via text to get the conversation flowing.”
Being able to lead with options for assistance and resources via text has helped Hughes FCU overcome the challenge of struggling to open that initial line of communication with its members. “As soon as we started using text with Eltropy, we saw an immediate difference in our response rates,” says Amado. “We have such high volumes of collections, and the bottom line is that people are more likely to respond to text.”
At first, some of the collections team was hesitant to use the texting feature, Amado shares. “Some collectors don’t like change,” she notes. “But as soon as they started using it, they realized how helpful texting can be. It’s an easier way to communicate. And the collectors are happy that they can actually make contact with people.”
Results were notable both in response rates and efficiency, reports Mary Burruel, credit union efficiencies manager at Hughes FCU. Based on feedback from Amado’s team, “on average one out of 10 members will answer phone calls, but three out of 10 respond to text messages immediately. So, this was a 20% increase in response rates,” she says. “Texting also allows collectors to see when the member reads the message versus wondering if they received the voicemail, and they are able to make contact with more than one member at a time.”
Texting and Beyond
When Hughes FCU first started using the Eltropy platform, it was in the market for a texting solution that could be used across the entire credit union, not just collections. It needed a platform that could accommodate all departments and provide all required texting functionality in one system.
Hughes FCU recognized the potential of how the Eltropy system could be used in many of its departments in an effective way, but the collections department was a great option for piloting text communication and testing out Eltropy’s services.
The credit union team was so impressed with the collections texting results that it quickly started to roll out texting functionality within its other departments. For example, “we are using the Eltropy/MeridianLink (a digital lending platform) integration to text applicants applying for loans and/or deposit accounts to collect required documents and communicate next steps. Being able to text applicants for information has decreased processing times and allowed processors to get answers to their questions faster,” says Burruel.
The credit union also recently signed up for additional services through Eltropy, including online chat and skills-based routing. Skills-based routing allows organizations to grant access to specific communication channels for individual employees that can meet that communication need. For example, all support staff of a credit union may have the ability to text with members, but only half will have texting and secure chat, and perhaps 25% will have text, secure chat and video. When a member wants to text, secure chat or video chat with an employee, the Eltropy system looks for a user that is online and available to assist as well as routable for the member’s preferred communication method.
“We’re excited about the future,” says Amado. “We realize there’s so much more we can do to utilize Eltropy across other departments here at Hughes.”
Ashish Garg is the co-founder/CEO of Eltropy. Ashish lives by three mottos he has implemented across the company: unwavering focus on the customer, no fear about telling the truth and commitment to perfection. Ashish founded Eltropy to create a digital communications platform that empowers credit unions to deliver a seamless digital experience to their members anywhere, anytime, while helping to decrease operational costs.
Eltropy enables credit unions to communicate with members over text message in a secure and TCPA-compliant way. Using Eltropy’s platform, lending, collections, sales, marketing, service, risk management, internal communications and other teams at credit unions can leverage text messaging to boost member engagement and enhance the member experience. Eltropy also integrates with IT systems, such as Symitar and Corelation, and provides member engagement insights.