Mobile-Friendly CRM System Empowers Credit Union

Elements Financial, a federal credit union based in Indianapolis, has a lofty goal: to help its members achieve financial wellness. Smaller than many of its competitors, the organization relies on technology to level the playing field. A cloud-based customer-relationship management (CRM) system designed for mobile devices is a key tool in its efforts to fulfill its mission.

“We’re a small organization with big aspirations,” says Brad Kelley, assistant vice president of information technology. With $1.3 billion in assets, the credit union has 180 employees, six branch locations in Indiana, and 80,000 members in all 50 states and 40 foreign countries. Members also have access to 5,500 branches shared with other credit unions.

In 2014, Elements Financial began using Salesforce, a cloud-based CRM system that was “a great strategic fit,” in Kelley’s words. “It brought all our departments together into one view, where employees are looking through a single pane of glass,” he explains. “That eliminates silos in which the lending people might not know about savings, checking or deposits, or marketing info.”

The ability to customize the interface and platform, as well as the standardized use of the Salesforce development languages, were also pluses.

Though the organization was “very happy” with the CRM, there was one major issue. “Many of our employees need to access the CRM away from the office, and the interface wasn’t mobile-friendly,” Kelley recalls. “The text-based user interface [UI] was designed for computers, and content is difficult or impossible to read when shrunk down to fit on a small screen.”

That posed problems for the many employees who access the CRM on their company-issued iPads or on their smartphones. As an at-work financial provider that partners with businesses, Elements Financial employees often meet with members at their workplace. “Our tellers hold a lot of events at members’ offices, and our business developers and mortgage loan officers spend much or all of their time in the field,” Kelley explains.

Switching to a Product Designed for Mobile Use

In early 2015, Salesforce announced Sales Cloud Lightning, a new product designed for mobile use. “The product is built for mobile devices, so the UI is much more appealing, and it rearranges and resizes content to fit smaller screens in an attractive, usable way,” Kelley says.

Elements Financial decided to switch completely from Salesforce to Lightning, rather than adding the latter as a second platform for mobile use. Though designed for mobile, Lightning works well on computers, too.

“We didn’t want to develop content for two platforms and have to maintain both versions,” he explains.

The IT team put content-development plans on hold and spent about six months preparing to move all Salesforce users to Lightning. It migrated some custom objects to standard ones that would work on Lightning and also created new customizations for the mobile platform. Along the way, regular training sessions introduced users to the new system and let them try it out.

“The overall reaction was positive, and we got great user input that enabled us to fine-tune things,” Kelley remarks. Training that was customized to the needs of specific groups in the credit union also paved the way to the transition.

In September 2016, Elements Financial flipped the switch and moved over to Sales Cloud Lightning. There were a few minor issues, which is typical of any major transition. “A triage team was able to quickly resolve problems for our users, such as how to do specific tasks or where to find something in the new system,” Kelley remarks.

Lightning has eliminated silos that made it harder for one team to see other teams’ information. Previously, a member of the lending team, for instance, couldn’t readily access savings, checking or marketing information. Now, employees in all departments have a full view of member information, no matter where or when they need it.

The benefits are most noticeable in the field. Employees can instantly pull up a member’s information on an iPad or smartphone, and can get needed answers without firing up a laptop and going through several steps to find information. In addition, the business development team can take applications and member signups from anywhere with mobile-ready applications.

Kelley estimates that Elements Financial saved about 43 percent on costs by developing directly on Sales Cloud Lightning, rather than developing content first for Salesforce and then adapting it to mobile devices. He said the credit union expects to implement new features as they are introduced and customize products to suit evolving customer needs.

The main benefit, he concludes, is getting support for the core mission. “Now we can do an even better job helping members make good financial decisions,” Kelley says.