Ever encountered a long line at the bank and wished for a way to handle simple transactions without waiting for a teller? Maybe you need to make a loan payment and don’t want to stand in line for 30 minutes just for that simple transaction. So, of course, you resolve to do it later. But later means three days slip by and the next thing you know, your loan payment is late.

Customers enjoy interacting with a live teller. Photo courtesy: First Federal.

Enter the First Federal Interactive Teller Machine or ITM.

“The ITM is interactive; you actually get to interact with one of our live representatives from our contact center in Port Angeles,” says Melissa Waggoner, supervisor of the Port Angeles center which handles ITM transactions, phone calls and contact forms.

One ITM machine has been a part of First Federal’s system since 2014. Now they boast 12 ITM’s in 5 locations, including 4 in Bellingham, 1 in Fairhaven, 2 in Silverdale, 3 in Port Angeles and 2 at their newest branch on Bainbridge Island.

The machine uses live audio and video. Imagine skipping the bank line to Skype your bank teller and getting the job done in record time. It’s banking on the fly.

“We actually have extended hours so we’re available between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday,” Waggoner says. “And the ITMs all double as an ATM outside of those hours.”

This means you can stop by and speak to a live teller on the way home from work, long past when most banks have closed for the day. You no longer need to ask for an extended lunch hour to run to the bank.

“We implemented the ITM and being open past 5:00 p.m., when traditional hours are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., so when people get off work they have a place to cash their checks or handle their banking needs,” says Tyanna Gadbaw, First Federal’s Operations & Risk Officer, VP. “Being able to offer a full suite of services after hours has been the biggest bonus.”

The First Federal Interactive Teller Machine brings a teller to the screen. Photo courtesy: First Federal.

To use the machine as an ATM, customers simply put in their debit card and enter their PIN to withdraw funds or check a balance. But for the ITM experience, a customer presses the button labeled “speak to teller.” After a brief pause, they find themselves on a live audio and video feed with a representative from Port Angeles.

The ITM machine more closely approximates the teller experience and opens up worlds of transactional possibilities, freeing up teller time and shortening lines overall. “For privacy purposes, some of our machines are equipped with a handset,” Waggoner says, allaying worries of being overheard.

For deaf and hearing-impaired patrons, the ITM is equipped with on-screen chat capabilities via an on-screen, full-sized keyboard. “It also has hotkeys,” says Waggoner. The machines are braille equipped, the right height for wheelchair users and have large print buttons.

The representative who comes on screen to help (when summoned, like a genie) is a local Washingtonian who works in Port Angeles, not some far flung place like Georgia or Florida. This is part of First Federal’s effort, says Waggoner, “to keep our jobs local.”

The Port Angeles contact center employs eight full-time representatives, with Waggoner as their supervisor. The team likes to maintain that personal experience with the customer in a timely manner. “We know customers are busy folks and have lots of places to be, so we like to keep it like a drive-up style transaction – very quick – and get them on their way.”

The ITM offers a variety of options including a handset for increased privacy. Photo courtesy: First Federal.

The ITM can accommodate the following transactions:

  • Cash and check deposits for business and personal accounts
  • Cash withdrawals
  • Transfers from one First Federal account to another
  • Loan payments
  • LOC disbursements
  • Check cashing (all types)
  • New account funding
  • HSA & IRA contributions (TYTY only)
  • Cash exchanges
  • Process coin machine tickets

Gadbaw says they “did a lot of research” when implementing the machines “on the bandwidth needed to support the conferencing and to implement the infrastructure that would allow these transactions to happen with little or no lag.”

Of transactional speed, Waggoner says, “Anywhere from two to two-and-a-half, but under three minutes,” is what they see statistically. That’s about the time it takes to brush your teeth.

Four ITMs are located at First Federal’s Barkley branch; two inside (and therefore only available during branch hours) and two in the drive-thru lanes (available 24 hours per day). The Fairhaven ITM is a walk-up machine available at any hour.

They’ve had great feedback on the machines so far, and both Gadbaw and Waggoner say they are especially beloved by local business owners. “It’s so convenient,” Waggoner explains. “They can just walk over after they close up their business for the day to make their deposits because we’re here and we have those extended hours. It’s a peace of mind.”

“The ITM is for everybody,” Waggoner says, “no matter what your banking needs are.” Thanks to First Federal’s ITM machines, that loan payment will be on time after all.

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