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Your Most Important Branch – Your Website

BY KENNETH C. BATOR

Having company over to our house is always at least a minor project. Even if I have invited only one friend over to watch a game my wife is frantically vacuuming, cleaning mirrors, and wiping down surfaces. It usually leads me to say something like, “They’re not even going to be in this room!” To which I get response such as, “I’m not having any of my guests coming into a messy house.” That’s the way most credit unions and banks feel about their branches…although I have come across a few that haven’t. When you have more visitors per day to your website than you do in any of your locations why wouldn’t you have the same approach with your online presence?

That’s one of the many subjects I had the pleasure to discuss recently with Eric Isham, CEO and Founder of Omnicommander. A credit union’s online presence that is…not my wife’s impeccable cleaning and hosting skills.

omnibator

One of the first points of discussion was the current issue with ADA compliant websites. Unlike some predatory law firms that choose to point out legal infractions and then extort money out of credit unions, Omnicommander pinpoints the problem areas and provides the service to resolve them if the institution chooses to do so. “When I founded the company the real reason behind it was there was an identifiable gap for credit unions, particularly small credit unions, when it came to website design,” stated Eric. “Still today there are tons, I can say over 90% of the credit union industry, when you look at their websites they’re not secure, they’re not mobile responsive, there’s not a great user interface for potential or existing members to access the sites. But one of the big things to come about over the past twelve months is ADA compliance.”

“Anybody in the credit union world knows that there’s been some ‘ambulance chasers’ and some copycat attorneys as well that are trying to shake down credit unions due to accessibility,” adds Isham. “While I don’t endorse their practices, I do strongly believe that credit unions should have their websites accessible to the widest range of members and potential members as they can.” From a brand experience perspective this simply makes sense in my opinion. You wouldn’t want a member in a wheelchair, or an older member with a cane, not be able to visit one of your branches because you didn’t have an ADA compliant ramp for people to easily access the front door. Similarly you wouldn’t want a visually impaired individual to not be able to access your website and avail him or herself to your products and services.

This is why Omnicommander has invested in two full-time ADA compliance officers as well as two blind individuals that review every site on desktop, tablet, and mobile they create. “Our credit unions know that when we go live with a website that it is 100% accessible, WCAG 2.1 – which is the new standard,” Eric proudly exclaims. “Our credit unions don’t have to worry about one of these attorneys coming around about accessibility. None of our clients have ever been sued by one of these people.”

We then talked about the fact that in today’s world the website is much like another branch of the credit union. So just as you wouldn’t have a non-ADA-complaint storefront, you also wouldn’t deliberately have a location with an ambiance or feel that would offer a less than positive experience for your members. “Some credit unions are doing a poor job of really setting their tone of building a proper virtual branch,” Eric added. “I talk to credit union CEOs every single day and they won’t think twice about spending $1 million on a brand new branch but they won’t spend a few thousand dollars to tune up the one place that will touch every one of their members. When you think about your website, it’s your 24/7, always-on, always-there digital branch.”

Eric and I discussed how for Millennials and Generation Z the first thing they will do if someone recommends a credit union or bank to them will be to look it up on their phones. If the mobile site doesn’t come up correctly or it doesn’t look right they will close it down in less than two seconds. “Almost everyone in America today pulls out that phone and says ‘Hey Siri, show me ABC Credit Union,” quipped Eric. “If they can’t easily interact and find the services and products they’re looking for they’re just not going to move forward.”

“It may be superficial but a lot of trust is simply built on look,” continued Isham. If the site “isn’t a good representation of what the (institution) is then people are going to distrust that brand and not trust the (organization) with their money.” This reminds me of one of my common phrases when presenting on branding which is the fact that people really do judge a book by its cover. Eric theorizes that “for anybody about 50 years old and younger they’re accustomed to a certain level of design. When you land somewhere and that design is not up to your standards then you say something’s not right. Something is out of whack.”

So here are a few tips on how to bring your website up to today’s standards:

  • Have a quality look and feel for you website and mobile site that aligns well with your brand just as you would have a clean and inviting branch. Just as you would see something out of place at one of your physical locations, you know when something doesn’t look appealing on your site.
  • Your site doesn’t have to be ridiculously expensive, but it does need to be inviting. A few good pictures can liven up even an old site. Show pictures of employees that look happy to be there and members being served. I did a brand review for one institution whose site was pretty bland and only had one picture. That picture was of the outside of their lone branch that looked like a dental office that was closed with no cars or people in the parking lot. Why would anyone want to go there?
  • Try not to throw everything you have on the site. This is a case where less is definitely more. Remove the clutter and have a call to action to help current and prospective members want to contact the credit union and learn more.
  • And, of course, make sure the site is accessible to everyone. This is not just to protect yourself from attorneys but more because it’s the right thing to do. In the spirit of people helping people, if you can help one person who is impaired in some manner by allowing them to easily avail themselves of your services isn’t that reason enough?

The professionals at Omnicommander are experts at educating executives on ADA compliance and building well-branded sites. I encourage you to take advantage of their expertise by giving them a call at 850-269-7111 or, of course, visiting their website at www.omnicommander.com. Now excuse me I have to go grab the vacuum as I invited two people over to the house to watch the football game.

kenneth-bator

Ken Bator is the author of The Formula for Business Success = B+C+S and the founder of Bator Training & Consulting, Inc. (BTC).  Ken helps credit unions create environments where employees actually want to come to work and members want to keep coming back. BTC accomplishes this through a combination of Branding, Culture building, and Strategic planning. This is the unique B+C+S Formula created by Bator and featured in his latest book. To learn more about your organization’s unique B+C+S Formula, contact Ken directly at 714-681-2821 or kbator@btcinc.net. Learn more about BTC’s training and strategic planning sessions at www.btcinc.net.

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