With the increase in digitalization in most every part of our daily activities, there are still those areas where we need to interact with an actual person.  And many of us miss those days when we could pick up the phone and call any number (even a 1-800 number) and a real person would greet us on the other end of the phone. 

It is a welcome relief when we can experience that friendly 'Hello!', but there is certainly a mounting frustration when we get the wild goose chase of press 5 for this department ... then 3 for that service .... then 1 ... for a representative ... and wait for an additional 10-15 minutes with elevator music in the background. 

The longest wait time I've ever experienced was when inquiring where my Canadian passport was when I requested a name change, and the cheery welcoming voice that ensured me that I wasn't forgotten ... with, 'Thank you for calling ... your call is number 362 ... but please hold as your call is very important to us ...."

Customer service is very important to our financial institutions, but the automated greetings and direction when we call in for assistance isn't going away anytime soon.  In fact, we can expect more of this as technology increases at an exponential rate.

"I think we're going to continue to see the evolution of digital, especially if you pay attention to the news," shares President and CEO of Westoba Credit Union, Jim Rediger. "Amazon made a $4 billion acquisition around the area of artificial intelligence (AI) just a few weeks ago, so I think what you're going to see is more and more of those concepts coming into people's everyday lives."

"Things that are already happening today are going to continue to grow where you're interacting with an artificial intelligence over the phone as an example, and sometimes you don't even realize that you are," he adds. "I think those things are going to expand."

"But I think at the member end you're really going to see much more focus on the higher end of support services that people are looking for," he says, "because people are still going to want loans, people are still going to want guidance around their financial planning, and I would argue that perhaps over the past year to year and a half with the high interest rate and high inflation there are more and more people looking for help and for guidance with their financial affairs because that's becoming a real challenge for a lot of people."

"This is showing that we need to put a lot of effort and education into our staff to be able to deliver all the services, and all the help, that people are going to be looking for," adds Rediger.

When folks are paying between 30-40% increases in loan payments due to higher rates, Rediger says it's important for members to know their options, and not be afraid to reach out for help. 

He notes higher interest rates are going to be with us for a while and as an organization, he feels it's important for their staff to not just sit back and wait for people to come in or call in for guidance, but to be more proactive and offer guidance to their members, to provide options that are available to them.

Rediger says more people have expressed their appreciation of Westoba staff reaching out with a friendly phone call to offer their services when it comes to navigating through the changing financial landscape.

"We certainly encourage our members, if you're struggling, come in and see us," he adds. "We will be reaching out but don't wait for that. If you need some help, please come in and talk to us. Our people are willing to help, and I would suggest that over the last few months, we've had lots of good conversation, and we can provide a lot of help and support for people right now." 

Please listen to more with President and CEO of Westoba Credit Union, Jim Rediger below

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