Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Why Credit Unions Must Stand Up Against “Alternative Facts”

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Facts are facts. If you hear any qualifier in front of that word, they’re trying to mislead you in some way. “Alternative facts” is just the latest effort. Just because the “legitimized lying” you see now does not yet affect you doesn’t mean it won’t.

Politics and daily life intersect often, moreso within a highly-regulated industry. Any of you who attended the GAC have firsthand understanding. How you are perceived is often more important than the actual realities of a situation. If nothing else, dealing with a perception problem slows down the addressing of real issues. Imagine if one or more big banks decided, “you know, we should wipe credit unions off the map” and put together a PR/lobbying campaign with the below “alternative facts”. Think about who has the largest lobbying budget. Is it your credit union?

  • Credit unions are havens for money-laundering. Plenty of people have said it.
  • Did you know: Credit unions pay their board members the money they claim goes back to you in dividends. #notforYOURprofit
  • Some studies claim that credit unions charge lower and fewer fees. But the research is not settled. It appears to be an NCUA hoax. Many credit unions collude to perpetuate the lie. In fact, banks are always the better price option. Take a look at our “study”.

How would you as an industry respond? Or individually? Could you ignore it? No. But it’s so outlandish that some people will raise questions. Even the suggestion of such activities in the media taints all credit unions. And now you’re responding on their (made-up) topic, instead of pursuing your own mission. If it were a boxing match, you’d be the one against the ropes, even though you’re just in town for the comedy shows. How did you even end up there?

I’m sure none of you reading this would consider the other possible angle, but, what if the credit union was the instigator? Poor members. Imagine this:

You close a loan on your dream ride for 3.49%. When you receive the first statement, it declares at 5.49%. When you present the contract, they ignore you, hang up, or ask you to leave. Knowing it’s illegal, you try to speak to a consumer protection agency. Your credit union threatens to report you to collection agencies and flag you at the credit bureaus. You know you’d eventually win, but are years of credit challenges worth it?

Or another situation:

You see an unauthorized charge on your account, so you call to dispute. They claim their fraud-detection finds every occurrence, and it didn’t trigger on that one. Therefore, it is obviously not fraud. After not getting anywhere, you decide to complain on social media. They issue a gag order against you, then sue you for slander.

The latter examples are far less likely. But think about how you’ve felt when you know you’re being railroaded by a company. Powerless? Questioning if you’re actually right? Yeah, you’d never suggest becoming a credit union member ever again.

For the more likely of these scenarios, credit unions are the underdogs, and thus are vulnerable to well-funded smear campaigns. But, this all seems too extreme. No way it could happen. Right? Right?

Legitimized lying hurts everyone. We need to stand up against it in all forms.

Image credit: Pinocchio, Disney

Advice Which Isn’t Great Advice

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Read this post to get a whole lot of bad advice.

You’re still here? Wonderful. Because I didn’t give up the whole story. I am giving bad advice, but then we will learn about the better alternatives. And, we will discuss why that advice was bad. Turns out, there’s a lot of it, so the discussion will be split into a couple of parts. To start…

…Let’s focus on your website, as it is the face of your institution for most of your members most of the time. It’s like a branch…does that sound familiar?

Bad Advice: Fewer clicks are better

In the early days of the World Wide Web, everything was slow. Browsers were slow. Modems were slow. Even turning on your computer was a timely process. If a website took under 20 seconds to load, things were great. And now I have to click to another one? Ugh. I have plans tonight, you know!

Today, your phone, computer, and internet connection are each hundreds, if not thousands, of times faster than those original setups. If a site doesn’t load in 4 seconds, the majority of people are gone. It’s easy to tap or click your way dozens of links down a rabbit hole of “10 best” or YouTube related shorts with almost no delay. Just ignore the fact you burnt 3 hours of your life watching a chameleon walking across a branch, then a cat wearing a hat of its own fur (this exists).

While we may waste time online, very little of it is dedicated to waiting.

Give your members the right information to set their expectations properly. If a banner directs to a program, have a page presenting what they can expect, then guide them to applying/shopping/registering. If you were on Amazon and clicking on a product took you to the shopping cart, it’d be off-putting. Don’t do that to your members. Embrace the clicks, within reason.

Bad Advice: Information Can’t Be “Below the Fold”

Back in the day, scrolling was miserable. If you were cool, you had a sticky, dirty gray wheel wedged in your mouse. Otherwise, scrolling meant clicking a tiny arrow on the side of the screen. What. A. Pain. As a result, websites were made to fit within the most common screen dimensions of the day (800×600 or 1024×768). This meant a lot of info squeezed in a small area. I’ll admit. Many of our company sites years ago were sticklers to this concept. We still try to make pertinent information immediately prominent, but if scrolling makes a cleaner, more explanatory process, we’ll do it.

Today, who doesn’t scroll? Touchpads allow easy scrolling. All mice have a wheel or swipe area. Phones and tablets are built on scrolling. It’s second nature now. Which means your members are accustomed to doing it. Your webpages can go down, it’s ok.

General rule: If it’s essential, put it up top. If it’s explanatory, let it go below.

Bad Advice: Changing Passwords Often Improves Security

Wrong. Wrong1. Wrong123. Wr0ng2017. Fido.

How many sites do you sign in with the same password? If the answer is “none”, then you’re obviously using a password manager, or they’re written down on your desk. If the latter, get rid of that list. More than likely, you reuse your favorite password everywhere. It’s ok. You’re not alone. Passwords stink.

This piece of bad advice is my biggest pet peeve. Until recently, it was the official recommendation of the Federal Government, and is still policy at many credit unions (kudos to VyStar, who only offered partially bad advice…smiles!). I actually got into an argument with one of the largest CUs in the US for suggesting it. I’m sorry for their members.

If I asked you to make a complicated password, what would it be? Random letters and numbers (impossible to remember)? A common word with a 1 at the end (possible)? A pet’s name (likely)?

Now, imagine I told you to change it every three months, “in the name of security”. Would you come up with a more complicated password, or a simpler one? Research has shown the latter to be true. If “MyPetIsTheMostAwesome2016” was your original, perhaps the new one would be, “MyPetIsTheMostAwesome2017”. Until they say it has to change more than that. So then you use, “Pet2017”. For the next cycle, you use “p3t2017”. And few months later, you just gave up and wrote it on a post-it note stuck under your desk.

Security experts” (despite being Norton, their advice is awful) claimed that changing your password ensured it was safe. As if passwords are slowly degrading over time. Wrong. They’re either compromised or they’re not. If you have a long, complicated, but easy-to-remember password, stick with it (unless that service said their data was hacked). My favorite comic, xkcd, has a popular post about this topic. Go there, then tell me your password doesn’t include a correct horse with a battery staple. Do it.

In the interest of time, let’s end part one here. Did any of this advice surprise you? Have you been told the opposite by your co-workers, superiors, or trade associations? Comment here, and I’ll help connect you with the resources to educate them the right way. Hey, we can all be wrong. It’s what we do when realizing.

What other bad advice do we have to look forward to? Option overload, one final point about password strength, and those annoying “are you sure you want to continue” pop ups on your website!

Why My Credit Union Is No Longer My PFI

Originally published on CUInsight.com

A few months ago, I slipped a mention of my own credit union relationship. My CU of many years was no longer my PFI. Banking shouldn’t be an exercise in compromises and hassles, yet that was what it had become. My PFI is now an institution which is so seamlessly easy and tailored to my needs that I often forget what it was like to have problems (Anything that has come up was handled within a few minutes, no matter the medium).

So, not all credit unions are the same. Besides being designed for differing memberships, they can also have a varied capacity for improvement. It’s why I keep talking about finding the right partners. Maybe a dozen CUs can afford to keep up with innovations on their own; the rest must find strategic partners. However, I digress. My CU wasn’t doing either.

During my time as an active member, here’s some of the challenges I encountered:

  • My debit card was compromised. It happens. But replacement taking 2 weeks? I asked for sooner and they wanted to charge $25 for a 3 day timeframe. The Big Banks replace overnight. Build the cost in; the alternative will only upset members.
  • A $100 member reward program failed to deposit funds when promised. Noticed a month later and had to speak to them to get it resolved.
  • Customer support hold times have never been less than 5 minutes. Typically, it was up to 45 minutes, with no system for callbacks in place.
  • No service on weekends after 1
  • Poor support on their mobile app (see post about the security issue, still unresolved)
  • Hard limit on mobile check deposit amounts less than 10% that of competing institutions. Their suggestion was to visit a branch to deposit instead.
  • Online secure contact form takes 48 hours to get a reply

I’ve actually had a number of other issues, but have forgotten the details for inclusion here. The credit union mission is special amongst banking institutions, but it’s not the only thing which matters. You still have to be a top-quality solution for your members. And, if your members have a problem, your resolution process needs to be seamless. It’s as if I’ve written about these things before.

After sharing some of these things on Twitter, I had more than one credit union trying to gain my membership. Unfortunately, I was not eligible by geography or work. However, they were on top of member recruitment and ensuring they were serving not only their members, but potential ones anywhere. Alliant still wants my loan for that Tesla I’m totally getting eventually. 🙂

What are you doing to ensure your members adopt you as their PFI, and not, as I did, fall away from the relationship?

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