04 October 2007

Maybe I should be a shorter post advocate....

Wednesday, I had the honor of listening to Denise Wymore and Ron Shevlin speak during a session at the Partnership Symposium in Fishers, Indiana. In a lively debate (Ron and Denise ROCK), they discussed how to most effectively measure a person's propensity to promote/advocate an organization based on his/her associated relationship. I am convinced they'll never agree on the best mode of measurement, but they generally agree that there is immense value in evaluating and determining the factors that wow consumers enough to a) create brand loyalty; b) generate word-of-mouth referrals; and c) support a sustainable business model. In essence, if customers like doing business with an organization and feel confident enough in their related experience to tell their friends about that experience, you have the makings of a pretty good thing.

Generally speaking, do you enjoy doing business with your credit union? What do you like about it? What do you hate about it? What would make you like your credit union so much that you would tell your friends and family, "you just HAVE TO join my credit union - it's awesome!"? What would make you tell all of your friends "my credit union sucks"?

One of the hardest things for people inside an organization sometimes is understanding that their customers/members don't always have a strong emotional response to their relationship. It's also one of the hardest things to overcome. That numbness comes from the errand-izing of that organization's business offering. If doing business with an organization is just an errand to a customer, a chore that is done simply because it must be, what's the likelihood of that person telling his/her friends positive things about that organization? How probable would it be that this customer base has any loyalty whatsoever to that organization?

To me it's all about the expectation creation. If a customer expects something to suck, and their experience is even marginally better than sucky - you may very well have a satisfied customer. If a customer expects first-class, top notch service and receives very good, but not out of this world, service - you may very well have an unsatisfied customer. Marginally better than sucky could, depending on the expectation of the unique customer, be more satisfying than very good service. It's all about what the customer expects to get out of a relationship.

I think credit unions have largely done a very good job at serving members' current needs and setting service standards based on the loftiest common denominator of expectations. I am on the inside, though. So you tell me - what can a credit union do to consistently evoke a positive emotional reaction from you when you visit? How can we "wow" you into becoming a stronger credit union advocate/promoter?


Elaine Nelson said...

Here's my take from my days before I became a credit union employee....

I used to bank with a small local bank. I started going there because (a) 1st Interstate got bought by Wells Fargo and that was teh sux and (b) their main branch was less than a block from where I worked.

But I became a rabid fan of that bank after I had my debit card number stolen. I didn't notice it for a while, until I went to an ATM one day and didn't have any money! (I was 22 and never balanced my checkbook.)

I went in and just bawled in front of the bank people, and they were incredibly nice and helpful. Refunded more of the fraudulent charges than they were legally required to -- it was all small charges, and some went back before when I ought to have noticed. They helped me through getting a new card, were very reassuring, etc., etc.

I switched from that bank to my current credit union (not my employer) because my husband had heard good things about them from one of his oldest friends...and their nearest branch was closer to where I lived then (IIRC) than the bank's nearest branch.

I became a fan of the credit union after two things happened.

1) My old bank started charging an ATM fee to non-customers. No, it didn't affect me, because I still kept money in that account, but it bothered me on principle.

2) We got a mortgage. That was such an insanely stressful process, and the mortgage guy was close by, helpful, and they didn't sell the mortgage.

Also, pretty much every interaction I've ever had with them has been uniformly positive and friendly.

I think how the institution reacts in stressful situations is a key component of what makes someone a fan. Loans, theft, moving, loss, etc. If you can make someone feel safe and supported in those situations, then you may end up with a fan for life.

Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...

@Elaine - I think that should be our goal as an industry. Making sure that once we get someone to join a credit union, we do everything humanly possible to maintain and develop that relationship. A "fan for life" is as noble of a goal as you could possibly have. CUs are a better option - we must continually prove that.

Travis Carnahan said...

We started a program that we call EMET (Every Member, Every Time). It is still under development, but our goal is to emphasize that the staff is individually responsible to exceed the goals of each member (or potential member) who comes into our CU. We have also instituted a "can't say NO" policy for our front line staff to help our managers discover which "problems" are causing the most issues and to find solutions for those problems. Great post!

Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...


You've hit the nail on the head with EMET! To me, doing well occasionally is only marginally better than just ho-hum all the time. Members want a consistent experience. If you can knock a member's socks off each and every time you make contact with him/her, you have a service mentality that will breed member loyalty and advocacy as well as employee satisfaction.

Great work!

Darkwolf569 said...

Look let me tell you about my credit union. It is Superior Tube Credit Union in collegeville pa. I have had the account since I was 12 years old. I had a line of credit with my credit union and being part of the economic crisis wasn't always able to make my payments on time sometimes I would go 2-3 months without making a payment However I always contacted them to explain I am a father of 2 and I have 1 income and I've been laid off 6times in the past 9months. However if I didn't make my payments each month I always made a lump sum payment to my credit union sometimes in the upwards of 6-700$ at a shot. Not once did I just let things go and never say anything.
In january of this year I got an unemployment payment into my account and wrote my rent checks from that payment. When I wen't to check my account the day after I sent out my check my balance was 0 and the rent check hadn't cleared yet. I never recieved a phone call from them saying hey we are going to take the money from your account to make it current. When I called them they basically said oh well guess you should have made your payments. Now we will cover your checks for rent which they did and charged me 15$ a check to clear and also put my account in the hole by hundreds of dollars. Through all this all I said is I have 2 children at home 1 and 3 and I need to keep food in their bellys and a roof over their head. They said maybe you should find a better job. They had no concern about what they had done to my children or me. They didnt care if we ended up out on the streets in the middle of winter if my children wen't hungry. Then once I got my income tax refund I had made plans to move from the beat up apartment I live in now to a nicer one. I set a amount aside for that and we started looking for a place to live. When I went to check my account for the amount I could afford MY balance was $4056.91 short. I called the bank and was like what is going on. They said we took the money from your account and closed out your line of credit. It was in danger. was what I was told. because I would go months without paying. The guy told me that it didn't matter what I said the account was closed I would never be extended another line of credit again and if I chose to come close out the little bit that was left in my account they didn't want me as a customer again.
Well sir you want to know what will make people tell others that their bank sucks. What do you think. Any time they took from me they never once said anything to me. If I made a payment it was on how much was left that I owed. My credit Union messed up all my plans to better my childrens and my own future. Superior Credit Union Collegeville pa. or superiorcu.org . hope this give you an idea of what a credit union shouldn't do to its customers.

Anonymous said...

I walked into my local credit union (not yet a member) this morning. Told the lady I would like to discuss a home equity line of credit. She had me sign in and have a seat.

She then called me up in a few and asked if I were a member. I told her no and she said "we can't talk to you unless you're a member". Not "why don't you fill out an application so you can take advantage of our great benefits", but "we can't talk to you". I explained to her I would become a member if I had interest in the LOC terms. She said to have a seat again and she would get someone to talk to me.

She IM'd a guy helping two women. He came out, called me by name. I said yes and was preparing to shake his hand when he said "I understand you are not a member, I can't talk to you if you are not a member". He didn't even reach for my hand and I'm pretty sure he didn't even bother introducing himself. I said I would open an account if I qualified for the LoC. He said he could not help me. I said you can't even talk to me about your products so I can decide if I want to become a member? He said "that's the way credit unions work" and walked back to his office.

WTF?!! Is this a credit union or a Scientology office? I know my top secret clearance has expired, but really?! What is this all about?

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what is happening at the CU where I used to work. They charge 50 cents per pin transaction, their rates are worse than banks, they treat people like shit. One is Partners 1st FCU. Did you read FCU? That basically means (fuck you) but really stands for federal credit union. They arent competitive because they are not for profit so they don't have to give you a lower rate. They suck and they make the middle and lower classes think they are on the inside by being for the little guy, when in reality they are wolves in sheep's clothing. Partners 1st, i would never recommend them to anybody. All they are is a workplace check cashing place. Thats it.