Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

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?

The Best, Most Innovative Blog Post Ever Shared

Be honest. We all exaggerate. In our personal lives and in business. Just look at an online dating site. Yeah, you’re making $250,000+ and spend most of your time traveling to exotic destinations, supporting charitable causes in each place. Oh, and you happen to look like (insert your ideal here). Weird, all your photos look professionally done.

Or, on your resume. I’m sure you did great work at that last credit union, but did you really “implement a company-wide program which resulted in a 78% improvement of job satisfaction, while increasing member engagement by 47%”?

If you’re the person to whom these are both true, we should meet. And I’m not saying exceptional people or businesses don’t exist. But that’s the thing, they’re exceptional, which tends to mean, “uncommon”. If you have to ask if you or your credit union fits the definition, it doesn’t. Sorry.

So why do we position ourselves as “the best”, “the most innovative”, or “the only”? I’ve been guilty of it, too. It’s something I try to recognize, as it immediately detracts from the message I wish to convey. We all can have great ideas, but none of us always have the best ideas. Yet doing it makes us believe we are now in a position to offer valuable insights. “Sure, you can listen to them, but since I’m the best, you might want to heed my advice…just saying.”

It doesn’t work that way. Thought-leaders become such by being thought-leaders, not by saying they are.

Where am I going with this post? Great question. If you’re reading this, you’re probably affiliated with the credit union industry. Or you’re my mom. Assuming the former, you are familiar with the exceptionalism claimed by credit unions. I get it. You know you are the better option for much of your community. I know you are, too. But the way to attract them is not by saying how great you are. Think about it this way: How many ads do you see/hear each day? How many of them implore that their service/product is the greatest ever and you need to buy it now? Exactly. As a result, you’ve grown numb to the message. “Introducing the best…”, “We’re the greatest…”, “Try the life-changing…”, blah, blah, blah.

I visit a lot of credit union websites, and interact with even more though social channels. One thing I consistently see is this exceptionalism. I know you live it and truly believe, but saying you are the “only” financial institution to “go out of its way every day to value you as a person, to make you feel delight, and to improve your life” comes across a bit unbelievable. There are around 6,000 credit unions in the US alone. Do you really think none of the others seek to do the same? I’m unfairly picking on this credit union, since they are just the most recent I’ve seen making such statements.

What can you do instead? A local CU near me (not a member, but my closest branch, so I use them for certain activities), Tropical Financial, connects with each visitor. Their home page begins, “We’re banking on South Florida to help you feel good about banking. The same way a warm cup of coffee makes you feel.” (Sidenote: A future. AI. improvement. would note that I don’t drink coffee, but rather tea, and change the text for me) The call to action is, “Help me feel good about banking.” It’s great in every way. It is unique. It appeals to emotions in a way nearly everyone can relate. Without saying, “we are the best at banking in South Florida”. They’re assuming visitors have felt that banking isn’t always pleasant, and who doesn’t want to feel like they do after a warm cup of coffee? (Point to show even good efforts aren’t perfect: Their site title says, “Tropical Financial is Miami Florida’s Best Credit Union”…though that might be for SEO – UPDATE: Tropical FCU responded that is exactly the reason!)

Saying you’re the best, hardest-working, and most caring and honest institution around feels like marketing. Asking someone if they want to feel great doesn’t. Much how you shouldn’t promote your auto lending by saying, “we have the greatest rates EVER!”, the credit union itself deserves a more thoughtful public image. It’s people you want to attract, not loans or share accounts or credit cards. People, who then will use those services you provide.

Take a look at your public (and internal) messaging. Does any of it sound like something every other credit union has said? Evolve. Be exceptional. It will be noticed.

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