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Easy new member onboarding is crucial for the survival of credit unions

 Easy new member onboarding is crucial for the survival of credit unions | EasySend blog
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9 minutes

We’ve got good news and we’ve got bad news. Let’s start with the bad news:

A recent survey shows that most generations in the US are far less likely to bank with credit unions than they are with banks. 

Here’s the breakdown of people who use credit unions, by age:

  • 55 - 64: 54%
  • 45 - 54: 35%
  • 35 - 44: 19% 
  • 25-34: 14%

Looking at these numbers, it would appear that as the US population ages, the popularity of credit unions is fading. 

So what’s the good news? 

Gen Z. That’s right - Gen Z is the good news. 


[.emph]of people aged 18 to 24 use credit unions[.emph]

The survey found that 26% of people aged 18 to 24 use credit unions - that’s an 85% uptick from the 25-34 age cohort. Clearly, more and more Gen Z users are choosing to use credit unions instead of banks, but is it enough to reverse the trend?  

According to Nielsen, Gen Z will soon be the largest demographic, and they’re already starting to dominate consumer trends in many ways. We also know that there are two things that Gen Z users want from their service providers: Values that match their own and digital usage. 

The synergy between credit unions and the values of Gen Z is clear. On the other hand, one survey found that 75% of Gen Z get frustrated if they have to go to a brick-and-mortar branch to open an account or take out a loan. Not only that - 82% of Gen Z respondents said they’d change financial institutions if they were offered a better digital experience. 

[.emph]But it’s not just Gen Z that wants a better user experience - the demand for simple, convenient online services and processes is growing in every demographic.[.emph] 

The takeaway is clear: Credit unions have a real opportunity to reverse the trend against them, but they must be willing to go provide online customer-centric services if they’re to survive. 

Start at the beginning with digital onboarding

Long, complicated onboarding is the most common reason for abandonment rates. In fact, if an online application takes ten minutes or longer to complete, there’s a good chance you’ll lose the customer. 

Opening an account is the first, most important step of a customer’s journey with a financial service provider, setting the tone for their entire experience and relationship with you. The last thing you want to do is cause frustration for your potential customers, especially when there are so many other options available for them to choose from. 

For that reason, online onboarding isn’t enough - your digital onboarding process must be easy, simple, and quick. Put simply, you need to prioritize your customer experience at every step of the onboarding journey, removing friction wherever possible. 

Make the move from PDF to a fully digital experience

Many financial institutions currently use PDFs to collect customer information at many different touchpoints, including the onboarding process. The problem is that PDFs are incredibly frustrating for customers for a number of reasons:

  • Filling out a PDF form online is a time-consuming, frustrating process 
  • The forms are difficult to navigate and fill in, especially on mobile. 
  • It’s difficult to make changes - this is a real issue when customers try to update their info
  • There’s no way for the customer to know if they filled in something incorrectly - they need to wait for someone from the credit union to review the forms and request changes, in which case they need to perform the entire process over again

In addition, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) solutions are often used to automatically upload information from PDFS into the system. Unfortunately, OCRs are often expensive and prone to errors, resulting in mistakes, inefficiencies, and delays, causing further frustration. 

So what’s the alternative?

Digital journeys for the digital era

Credit union members want a simple onboarding experience that allows them to quickly open an account, while also easily understanding the different services and products that are available to them. 

Well-designed digital journeys have multiple advantages:

  • Personalized experiences that dynamically change depending on the customer’s input
  • Ability to educate new customers on the process and different product/service options
  • Easily accessible from any device
  • Can handle complex identity validations
  • Flexible customer input options, including text fields, attachments, multiple-choice, and more
  • Happy customers!

Digital new member onboarding for credit unions improves customer experience | EasySend blog


Design a dynamic digital experience 

Personalized customer care has always been a cornerstone of credit unions, offering personalized fees and rates. While it may seem like using technology to personalize onboarding is a contradiction in terms, the right technology can actually lend itself to highly personalized processes! 

Implementing conditional logic as part of the onboarding process enables you to tailor the digital journey to each potential member. You can also take your credit union’s field of membership into account in the process, automatically providing next steps depending on the user’s input.

For example, if your criteria includes volunteering at a specific organization:

  • If your potential member volunteers with this organization, additional fields appear, allowing them to continue the onboarding process
  • If your potential member doesn’t volunteer with this organization, an additional field asks them if they would like to apply to volunteer. If they respond “Yes” you can send them to the organization’s website.

By analyzing your data, you can also determine the best possible match for a potential member in terms of products and services, offering an onboarding flow that’s best matched to their needs. 

Help them set up their account and connect to online banking

A well-designed digital journey will guide new members through their onboarding, making it simple and easy for them to set up their account and then connect to online banking - all as part of the same process. 

We recommend breaking the process up into simple, easy-to-follow stages, with next steps that are relevant to the information they provide. This will ensure a higher completion rate and increased motivation on their part to become engaged, active members. 

Educate your new members as part of onboarding 

Your users are most likely to be receptive during the onboarding process. That’s why it’s the perfect time to educate them about the products and services you offer. Not only that, but you can tailor your offerings based on the information they’ve provided. 

For example,  if a new member indicates that they’re retired, you can trigger a recommendation that’s best suited to retirees. 

By building smart automation into the digital journey, you can both educate your new members while anticipating their needs right from the get-go!

Identity verification

It’s important to make every part of your member onboarding as easy and smooth as possible, including ID verification. By adding ID verification to your onboarding process, you’re protecting yourself from fraud while streamlining the user experience. 

Here are a few guidelines:

  • New members should be able to verify their ID from any location and on any device
  • At the right stage during the process, the new member receives a link to a secure online session
  • The new member opens the session, takes a selfie, then uploads both the selfie and their ID photo
  • A special algorithm scans the two images and determines if they’re a match 

Adding a human touch

It’s important to emphasize that digitizing onboarding shouldn’t sacrifice the human connection. In fact, a well-designed digital journey should include two-way touchpoints for contact between new members and credit union staff. 

Below are several scenarios where the collaboration and involvement of credit union employees aren’t just recommended, but are, fact, crucial. 

Provide support and guidance where needed

Even when using the best-designed digital journeys, it’s natural for potential members to have questions. Not being able to easily find answers often blocks them from continuing, and they may very well abandon the process altogether. 

That’s why it’s so important to allow new members to easily reach out to credit union staff at any point, to receive help or guidance. It’s also crucial to ensure that relevant staff are available to provide answers, so as not to lose momentum. 

Guiding new members

For new members, the first 90 days are extremely important. Data shows that if someone opens an account but doesn’t start using it within 3 months, the chances of them using it are extremely low.  

That’s why we recommend that credit union employees reach out to new members as soon as possible, helping to address any challenges or needs they may have, offering tools and tips, and engaging with them to establish a strong relationship.

Follow up with new members

For new members that are engaged and actively start using your products and services, we recommend contacting them for feedback. Then follow up with them again to explain what actions have been taken to address their input. This demonstrates your commitment to meeting their needs, setting the stage for a strong, ongoing, loyal relationship. 

Retarget potential new members

Many potential members start the process, only to abandon it before completion. There could be a number of reasons for this, and you shouldn’t assume they’re no longer interested. By starting the journey, they’ve already shown intent! Now’s the time for a credit union employee to reach out and find out if there’s a way to help, or resolve any confusion the user might have. 

We also recommend requesting potential members’ phone numbers or email addresses as early on in the process as possible. This will allow you to follow up with them while they’re still motivated. 

The challenges involved in creating smart digital journeys

While the advantages of digital journeys for onboarding are clear, there are also several challenges involved in the process. 

Building digital journeys is often expensive and requires significant resources to maintain. Multiple areas of expertise are usually needed, including product, UX, UI, and development expertise. This often turns these projects into lengthy and expensive endeavors.

But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Using EasySend, credit unions can easily create, automate, and manage a smart digital journey for onboarding. Our no-code platform means that customer journeys can be created in minutes, without any coding required. Fast, smart, and easy!

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Evolve complex forms into easy digital experiences with EasySend, trusted by Fortune 500 financial organizations. Our powerful no-code platform revolutionizes complex forms, seamlessly converting data collection processes for loan applications, account openings, and chargebacks into effortless digital experiences.

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Gitit Greenberg
Gitit Greenberg

Gitit Greenberg is VP Marketing at EasySend. Gitit is a marketing leader with a demonstrated history of working in the internet industry. Skilled in B2B marketing, analytical skills, market research, management, teamwork, messaging, and startups, Gitit is responsible for EasySend's branding and messaging.