Did you feel a bit of a shift in auto lending recently? Two data points have emerged that have the potential to change the landscape of auto financing for credit unions. First, the Experian Q4 2022 Auto Finance Market Report revealed that credit unions now capture nearly 25 percent of new loans and experienced the highest growth within the auto lending market at the end of last year. Melinda Zabritski, Experian’s senior director of automotive financing and author of the report also stated that larger vehicles like SUVs comprised more than 60 percent of new vehicle financing, with no signs of slowing down, prompting average monthly payments continue to reach new highs.
The second data point involves how those consumers are purchasing their vehicles. McKinsey recently issued a report entitled Disruption and Innovation in US Auto Financing highlighting that auto financing is no longer a separate silo in the car buying process. Researching, buying, financing and delivery are now one experience. It must be easy on the customer and it’s likely highly reliant on digital.
These two data points should prompt you to take a close look at your credit union’s online platform. Maybe it’s time to implement a “mystery shop” on your website’s auto lending experience. Go through the process of researching an auto loan, estimating payment, submitting an application, and reaching out to your team through the website. If you have a chat feature, try it out for yourself and check your customer relationship management (CRM) tool to see what actually happens with that inquiry. Taking an unbiased view of the member’s experience can give you actionable insights that turn into revenue.
Website Messages and Tools
Not sure where to begin? Here is a simple checklist of messages and tools that successful websites utilize:
- Prominent WHY CHOOSE US messaging throughout the site – does the site communicate why the visitor should choose your credit union for their auto financing and banking needs rather than another lending institution or even the dealership?
- Information about community involvement – according to the Harris Poll, a global consulting and market research firm, Millennials are more likely than previous generations to take a company’s social responsibility into account when making purchase decisions.
- Content describing your online credit applications process – how long it takes, what is required, etc.
- Expanded consumer protection product information – product descriptions, pricing, online brochures, etc.
- Easy-to-find contact information with staff emails and phone numbers – can a member reach you easily?
- Career Opportunities
In addition to providing online answers to almost any member question, it’s also important to ensure your website functions correctly across computers, tablets, and smartphones. Navigate your website on your phone.
- Is it easy to use?
- Can you view the images and read the content?
- Do all the forms and tools still work properly?
Take a regular look at the analytics for your website to see where your traffic is coming from. You may be shocked to learn that most people on your site are not using a desktop computer to access it.
- What is your most visited page or section of the site?
- Where are users dropping off, and how can you re-market to them?
When you think of your website as an online lending storefront, suddenly knowing the member’s journey through the website gives you a lot of actionable insights with which to work.
Lastly, a website stock full of the latest tools, but with no monitoring for online inquiries will fail every time next to a simple website with ongoing monitoring. We’ve all been in that frustrating situation where we have one specific question that we can’t find the answer to, and we just need a real person to provide the answer. When evaluating your website and filling out all those online forms, pay attention to your team’s response to those inquiries.
- How quickly is the inquiry handed off to a loan officer?
- How long does it take for the loan officer to reach out to the potential member?
- Does the loan officer have access to the actual inquiry to research the member’s questions prior to reaching out?
- Does the loan officer set time expectations with the member on when they will get back with them with answers to their questions?
- Does the loan officer ask for the member’s preferred method of communication and then actually honor that person’s stated preference (email, text, or phone)?
- How many emails/text messages/people does it take for a member’s question to be answered?
- Is your team prepared to answer questions about financing or protection products?
- Are questions fully answered with an open-ended closing that prompts further engagement?
- If your website uses an artificial intelligence auto response tool, are the algorithms current? (i.e., does the right message get to the right person, at the right time?)
While the member may never set foot in your credit union, the level of engagement can still make the difference between a sale or a lost opportunity.
Sign on the Dotted Line
Closing a loan online requires attention to detail, regulatory requirements, and protections against fraud. By this point, your online platform should be sophisticated yet it should still include personal engagement by your staff. Does your member (or prospective member) get bogged down in confusing paperwork with no available guidance? Don’t let a clunky closing process turn loans into losses – and a consumer who vows to never do business with your credit union again.
At EFG Companies, our lending clients rely on our expertise to give them the edge on the competition, and we all know the member experience rules the show. Put us in your corner to maximize your auto loan business. We’re not just a provider, we’re a business partner.