Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

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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.

3 Easy Ways To Ensure Your Customer Service Doesn’t Suck

Oh, the customer, or member in most credit union cases. They’re both essential and the bane of your existence. They love your low rates and community-centric mission! But they also can’t stand that you serve Seattle coffee rather than Columbian in your branch. What’s wrong with you heathens?

Ok, so I may be exaggerating. But, for those of you who have worked with members, not by much. People can be, shall we say, trying. That does not mean you can discount a valid complaint or ignore a reasonable question. Like Disney Cast Members, you must address every member with a smile, a courteous reply, and a satisfactory resolution. (Side-note: Cast Members are not allowed to say, “I don’t know.” It’s part of why their training is so intensive. They either must know the right answer or be able to connect the guest with the right person instantaneously. What’s your policy?)

The title of this post promises three easy ways to ensure your customer service doesn’t suck. And, because I believe in serving you, my readers, that’s exactly what I’m going to deliver. There will even be a follow-up post where I review a few recent support interactions of my own and you can be the judge of how well they were handled. Ready?

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start:

1. Respond Promptly

Every time. To every member. No matter how ridiculous their question or comment may seem.

What I mean by prompt varies depending on how the member is reaching out. If it’s in person, I don’t suggest waiting 2 days to answer. That makes for an awfully uncomfortable face-to-face. Here’s a list of my maximum reply times based on medium:

  • In-Person: 3 seconds
  • Chat: 5 minutes
  • Phone: 10 minutes
  • Twitter: 15 minutes
  • Facebook: 1 hour
  • E-mail: 24 hours
  • Owl: 3 days
  • Messenger Pigeon: Never. Because they’re extinct.

Making a member wait beyond these times does nothing but upset them beyond their original concern.

2. Ensure Your Reply Is Relevant

If a member asks you about opening a new savings account, would you reply with instructions for setting up a 401K? No, because that’s dumb. Yet I see it all the time, especially on e-mail support replies. In the rush to achieve #1, getting a quick reply, sometimes the point is missed. Don’t do that. Take the time to understand what your member is asking. If you need, respond with a question clarifying their own. “Let me make sure I’m understanding you correctly. You are looking to build savings with a new account here. Is that correct?” It shows you read/listened to their question and then cared enough to ensure you’re getting it right.

Addressing a question they never asked is arguably worse than never responding at all. It implies carelessness and a “whatever” attitude to getting your members the help they requested.

3. Follow Through To Resolution

Once you’ve begun the conversation, it doesn’t end until your member says they are satisfied or the issue is resolved to your best ability. It is quite frustrating to start a discussion, only to have it end prematurely because the company stopped answering or gave a generic “resolution” statement.

Getting to a resolution has a few steps when you’re not the one able to do it. The first is straight-up attention. Show you understand their question. Second is diligence in action. If you know they need to talk to someone else, don’t waste their time not transferring. Third is making sure that transfer works. At least 25% of the time I am transferred on phone support, the line disconnects. And then it’s back to square one. The best companies keep the first agent on the line, connect and introduce me to the other person, and then make sure everything is ok to turn the call over. Accountability for everyone. And this personal touch does not go unnoticed by your member.

What if the member is saying things, perhaps publicly, that you’re not liking? You still have to politely reply until the problem is resolved or moved to another medium. Short the most loathsome of Internet trolls, people are willing to come to a mutual agreement. Be the more mature party.

And that’s it! Three easy ways to ensure your customer service both doesn’t suck and also rocks your members’ socks! Here’s the tl;dr of it all:

  1. Respond
  2. Be relevant
  3. Follow through to resolution

What were some recent member service challenges you encountered? And how did you resolve them to everyone’s satisfaction? Curious minds want to know! Share in the comments for all to see.

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