A “Rising Star” Right at Consumers


A photo of Jessie, Kevin and Kyle with Consumers' podcast title and dark blue background.

Tune into the latest episode of Money, I’m Home, as Lynne chats with Jessie Smeltzer, Kevin Knoll and Kyle Wyne to chat about his surprise nomination for the CU Times Luminaries Awards.



0:00:06.7 Lynne Jarman-Johnson (LJJ): Money, I’m Home. Welcome in. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union. From finance to fitness, we have it all. And you know what, we have today a very special program. And you know why is that? Well, you always get to meet our team members here at Consumers Credit Union. And every once in a while there’s a shining star, a rising meteor, if you will, that comes to the forefront. And the funny thing is, we really don’t celebrate like individualism here at Consumers. We love to celebrate team effort when we have big wins. Well, today there’s a reason we’re celebrating a rising star, and that’s because his teammates actually nominated him for a national recognition. So, you are going to meet today Jessie Smeltzer. Jessie is the Card Operations Team Lead here at Consumers. Kevin Knoll is the Senior TellerPlus+ Specialist here at Consumers Credit Union. And Kyle Wyne is the IT Operations Supervisor, also known as… Boy, this is a long introduction, a rising star. Welcome all three of you.

0:01:13.5 Kyle Wyne (KW): Thank you.

0:01:14.0 Kevin Knoll (KK): Thank you.

0:01:14.4 Jessie Smeltzer (JS): Thank you.

0:01:15.9 LJJ: Okay, we are going to start with you Kyle, because you are the rising star. We’re going to get into how and why, but I learned yesterday that it was a big surprise that you are a rising star nationally. Tell us what that means.

0:01:29.2 KW: Yeah, I just, like you said, found out less than 24 hours ago that I was nominated by my coworkers here. Basically, it means that I have a strong focus towards innovation, towards being forward thinking. And that has been noticed by coworkers and they were nice enough to put in an application and create kind of this profile, be entered into this competition.

0:01:53.5 LJJ: Wow. Jessie and Kevin, tell us about the competition. Jessie, I’m going to start with you. Who was it who first thought of, hey, Kyle would be great for this and who gives the award?

0:02:03.2 JS: I was actually reading some emails, and this is coming from the CU Times. So, cutimes.com is the panel. And I was reading about the finalist last year for the CU Times Luminaries Award, and Kyle just came up first thing in my mind because they have a section specifically for innovation. And I had been spending a lot of time with Kyle recently learning about his leadership style and the things he’s done for the credit union. And I was like, he’s going to win this thing. So, I just, there was no doubt in my mind that we had to nominate him for it.

0:02:33.7 LJJ: So Kevin, when you were nominating him, did you guys get together, put your heads together and say, okay, let’s put this puppy together and create… I mean, I know Kyle, you were so red-faced and so humbled by this. But truly what an honor. Kevin, tell us about what happened, what was the process?

0:02:52.3 KK: So yeah, Jessie approached me with the idea, and like she said, it was a no brainer. She came to me with the idea, mentioned Kyle, and yeah, right away I’m like, yes, I can think of a few things just right off the bat of exactly how he would fit into this. So not only just his skill and innovation, but the impact that has then led to with the credit union as well. So, it really came down to, yeah, once we actually had the questionnaire, we kind of just split it up a little bit and put our thoughts all together. And Jessie, with her literary skills, put the finishing touch on here and yeah, it really came out very nice.

0:03:33.4 LJJ: Well, Kyle, let’s talk about innovation because we’re focusing on you as a leader, but obviously your team respects you so much. This also has led to a Consumers Credit Union nomination for innovation. And when we talk about innovation, I mentioned TellerPlus+ in Kyle’s title. Kyle, you have really been instrumental in helping making sure member experience is number one, especially with technology and innovation. Tell us, I have fun with you going back and forth on all of the new technology that comes up, but you eat, sleep and breathe thinking about new ideas and how we can help members.

0:04:15.0 KW: Yeah, I really do enjoy, it’s not even work for me honestly, it’s just how my brain works constantly, looking at new ideas and trying to see how we can implement them. I really enjoy, I think the important part about innovation is not so much that you’re just focusing on what’s happening in your industry, but also what’s happening in other industries and how can you take bits and pieces and pull them into your industry to kind of set you apart from everybody else. So yeah, with the ITMs, we were one of the first to have them in Michigan. We have one of the largest fleets in the country. And so how do we make that experience for members who are interacting with the ITM very easy? Because it can be very intimidating if you’ve never used one before. A lot of the ease of use comes from our retail staff who help guide members through the process, as well as all the digital tellers in our DSC who interact with members on a daily basis and make it a fun and engaging environment. So, it’s been great. I enjoy it quite a bit.

0:05:20.9 LJJ: Well, we’re going to talk a little bit about what set you apart and what Jessie wrote. For those who are listening, ITM means interactive teller machine. You know what an ATM is. If you’ve ever been to our offices or through our drive through, it’s our TellerPlus+ system. I encourage you, you’ve got to come in and try these because they are truly state-of-the-art and you talk with live individuals who are living in your own neighborhood. It’s just amazing. Jessie, tell us a little bit about a couple of projects that you have worked on that really stood out to you that made you say, man, Kyle is the rising star for CU Times.

0:05:56.9 JS: Well, for me, I have the honor of sitting next to Kyle as a leader in the electronic payments department. So, I’m going to let Kevin talk about the specific Interactive Teller projects, but I just want to say that something that I’ve noticed that Kyle has done really well is, made sure to give everyone equal opportunity to learn new things and new projects and be a part of new things coming up. And so, it’s really helped people grow on our team and it’s been amazing to watch.

0:06:22.7 LJJ: Jessie, you know what I love about this? Is that it’s focusing in on, too, what our culture’s all about. You are not even in the section of TellerPlus+, which I just mentioned, you’re in the payments processing, which by the way, everybody, you’re using those MasterCard debit card, you’re using the MasterCard credit cards, whether it be for cash or for rewards. And Jessie’s working constantly behind the scenes to make sure that’s a smooth operating system. Kevin, what were the highlights that you just say, in the last year even, man, this really made me so proud to be able to nominate Kyle.

0:06:58.3 KK: Yeah, so probably my biggest no-brainer that I’ve had here, and this was a subject that was very impactful for me as well as I was one of our original TellerPlus+.

0:07:10.3 LJJ: Yes, you were.

0:07:10.6 KK: On the back end. So lived that and was affected by things. So, as we went through the pandemic, we had to make a major switch, which we were well ahead of the game as we already had our TellerPlus+ out there. However, directing everything through that, we had a lot of traffic, which caused our wait times to go up. So that was definitely an area of improvement, and that’s where Kyle came in with pushing NCR, who is our company that provides software for this, for improvements on here, which resulted in a product known as Round Robin, which essentially is a call routing system. And so, we reinvented the call routing and how it worked through our TellerPlus+, and it drove our wait times significantly down to where we are today to make a world’s difference really for our members and our staff here as well.

0:08:11.3 LJJ: I clearly remember you calling about wait times. And that the one thing that we all cared about was literally how do we make sure that the member experience is absolutely excellent.

0:08:25.3 KW: Yeah, I was just going to mention there that Kevin was actually the one who originally found the issue where we needed to create a different system and how calls were routing to tellers and the delay that it was incurring. And part of it was just the increased volume when the pandemic hit and how it changed the structure of how everything… Everything changed because of the pandemic, and so we had to be nimble and flexible and make changes. So, it was great to work with a company like NCR who could be nimble with us and make changes, and then led to huge wins for our members so that they didn’t have to wait as long.

0:09:02.4 LJJ: I’ll tell you, this is exactly why you’re a luminary Kyle, you just put it back in the department that it came from, the concept, the idea. But you know what that brings to the table, is how thinking of things where you’re looking at it in a bigger picture, Kevin. You saw something, you actually were there, you were a teller. You felt the member experience if they were frustrated and had to wait for more than even a minute, right?

0:09:28.3 KK: Absolutely.

0:09:28.6 LJJ: And so, what was it Kevin that allowed you to start thinking differently about how can we tackle this?

0:09:35.4 KK: Really, it’s just the way that we do things here at Consumers Credit Union. It’s we give that opportunity to everyone. And that’s something, specifically down here in the TellerPlus+ operations department, out in our digital service center, it was told to everybody that what you experience in your day, we’re learning from that every single day. And we’re using that to continually grow and to provide things for our members and to provide the better experience. And so, it really was just pulling in, here are my experiences, and being able to talk that through and to collaborate with people on my own experiences to come up with these great changes that we’ve got.

0:10:22.5 KW: I was just going to add onto that, that I think sometimes we can think of innovation as it’s got to be something that’s new, it’s never been done before, that it’s on the cutting-edge of technology. And I think that’s part of it. But I think the other part is as an organization being willing to do new things, and it doesn’t have to be something that is brand new technology, it can be processes. It can be the way we work together as a team. There’s so many layers to innovation. It’s not just technology, it’s being able to come up with new ideas and implement them, whether it’s just changing how a form works or making it automated.

0:11:00.1 KW: There’s so many ways to incorporate the culture of innovation into a company that sometimes people hear innovation, even in our own organization and think, “Oh, that doesn’t apply to me.” But it’s not accurate. It can be everybody. And I think Consumers does a great job of trying to foster that into our culture. And so, if you hear that word and it kind of throws you off, don’t let it, because you have an opportunity to make changes, if you have good ideas and a lot of people do. So, share those ideas and work with your team.

0:11:31.3 LJJ: Well, Jessie, you obviously had a great idea in nominating Kyle. What’s the next steps? So I saw there, this is a nationwide event. It’s so exciting. We’re so proud of everybody, to be able to be a part of watching this happen.

0:11:48.3 JS: Yeah. So I think now at this point, there’s really kind of big events that it goes along on the first part of November where the finalists will find out whether they’ve won the award. So, we’re really excited to find out what happens. [laughter]

0:12:01.2 LJJ: It’s so exciting. Well, Jessie, I can’t thank you enough for nominating Kyle and for also really setting the stage for what has been happening as a huge team effort here at Consumers. Not only about TellerPlus+ that we talked about, but Kyle hit the nail on the head about the culture of innovation and success, which is always driven to member experience, which we love. So,m thank you so much, Jessie.

0:12:24.6 JS: Absolutely. So happy. [laughter]

0:12:26.4 LJJ: So, Jessie, Kevin, Kyle, thank you guys so much. You have all set the stage for success. You know who’s success? Our members, that’s who. Cannot thank you guys enough. And Kyle, I got a feeling you’re going to win.

0:12:38.7 KW: Woo!

0:12:39.3 LJJ: Thank you guys.


0:12:39.7 JS: Woo!

0:12:40.6 KW: Thank you. See ya.

0:12:42.7 LJJ: Everyone, have a wonderful week. And listen, if you have an idea, maybe it’s about innovation like you just heard about, please send them our way. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson. Thank you, Jake Esselink for your production skills. I hope everybody has a safe, innovative, fun week.


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