Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: expectations (page 1 of 3)

The CU That Could Be

Originally published on CUInsight.

Think of all the greatest parts of your credit union. You know, the things which stick out in comparison to the entire industry. If none come to mind, look to others you have recognized for their leadership. Now go back and immediately implement at least one of those innovative concepts.

I could actually end this post right here and have still provided some useful information. But I’m all about exceeding expectations, not barely meeting them.

The reason I asked about a great idea was to begin building a picture. One which goes beyond any single institution. You see, there’s a credit union which doesn’t yet exist. In the future, it may never be. But it still thrives in the hearts and minds of a lot of people. It’s the credit union that could be.

What do I mean? It is the product of every amazing member service strategy, financial solution, loan growth effort, and much more. To quote one of my favorite films, it’s the “best of the best of the best, sir!” Only, banking services, not potential alien-policing agents. They’re clearly similar.

Imagine if every hurdle to improvement at your credit union could be removed. No regulations slowing new product introductions. No board overstepping their role to dictate day-to-day activities (most are great, but I’ve run into some who just stifle all forward movement). No middle management seeking credit or blame for some effort. Just pure action of the most innovative ideas, using the latest technology, supported by a 100% all-in team.

That’s what this series will be. I want to look at a variety of areas of traditional credit union operations and imagine what the best version of that would look like.

Think of it as a case study. Of a credit union which could be.

Disclosures everywhere! …except for there.

Originally published on

You’re all about openness.  Your new branch design includes sweeping halls, natural lighting, and big windows to provide a welcoming atmosphere.  That snazzy new website encourages whitespace with at-a-glance information on your latest promotions.  Of course, your staff are available to answer any questions members might have, as well as help them create a brighter financial future.

Then there’s your legal team.  An open field isn’t clear enough for them.  And that’s ok, because having an examiner woefully shaking their head is not your idea of a great day.  The lawyers want disclosures on top of disclosures, with a healthy dose of clarity, just in case something could be misinterpreted.

I’ve written about these concepts in previous posts.  Remember that “speed bump”, or website exit warning?  You don’t need it, never did, yet I still encounter them on a regular basis.  It’s tough when your in-house counsel says, “yes we do.”  If it’s between listening to me or them, I’d choose your person.  Clarity on your offerings and operations is essential as well.  We as an industry have a hard enough time getting members to even understand what a credit union is.  Don’t need them confused about what theirs can offer.

Which brings us to member understanding in the face of marketing and legal, combined.

I follow a large credit union on Twitter which embraces the idea of no fees and free accounts.  It’s a main part of their marketing.  While I’m more about finding unique ways to attract members, do what works for you.  “Free everything!” feels a bit “me too” to this geek.  Anyway, this credit union tweeted an image of two wrestlers with the copy, “Stop wrestling with fees.”  It links to their Truly Free Checking details.  The page talks about how awesome the account is and why you should just apply already! (Not quite, but that’s the idea.)  This is what appears when you click the Fees and Terms tab.

“This account doesn’t have any fees tied to a minimum balance requirement.”  And that’s it.  So there’s really no fees at all?  This is amazing!  What a super account!  Oh, wait, “…tied to a minimum balance requirement.”  This reminds me of the phone call with someone which goes, “I hope you’re enjoying your vacation!  I checked in on your house and the garage door totally looks great.”  And?

The account page has no link to the full list of fees (there aren’t any, remember?) or terms.  I dug around on the website and, after more searching than you’d expect, found a Fees page.  Unsurprisingly, it contains the standard laundry list of fees for all the items you’d expect, from check reorders to overdraft.  I’m not putting down the account.  It’s your run-of-the-mill $0 minimum balance free checking account.  Which is fine for many people.  But…

What would legal have to say?  Do you think they saw this page?  I clicked around and, yes, they do feature speed bumps on links to 3rd party partners (partners, because it’s a two-way contractual relationship).  So legal mandated this unnecessary feature, but let a checking account description get away with no disclosure of any fees or terms?

On top of the legal issue, this credit union is only setting themselves up for disappointed members.  Consider the member who wants a no-fee account.  This looks perfect, and if you’re not reading carefully, that one line sure sounds like there are no fees at all.  Imagine their frustration when they get hit with fees for checks, an accidental overdraft, or any number of other actions.

We all want to help members become more financially secure and knowledgable.  So let’s make sure our efforts don’t conflict this goal.

Image credit: Me, showing my mom demonstrate openness and clarity in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Squeaky Wheels Getting The Grease

Originally published on

Change is tough. And not just for your own team. Your members get comfortable with a product, process, or service, too. Even if it has some obvious issues. Here’s the wildest thing: When you improve, some will hate it. Because comfort and familiarity is easier than change.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should never look to change anything. Evolution is a natural part of your operations. There will just be members (and staff/board members) who don’t like it. Solicit their input and apply improvements where necessary. You did ask what everyone thought first, right? If the project threw a lot of people outside their comfort zone, it’s going to be a long haul to get it right for most. But not all. You can’t satisfy everyone. If you are confident the change is a necessary and beneficial step for the institution, then that’s the end of the story.

You will receive complaints. And that stinks. Address those you can. The rest? They might be different members for a different credit union. We’ve worked with credit unions where they feared potential member complaints (by their admission, less than 1/100th of a percent) enough to abandon great improvements. Improvements which would have brought them in significant revenue, but, more importantly, helped their members in numerous ways. In their case, it wasn’t even squeaky wheels getting the grease. It was the thought of a squeaky wheel convincing them to avoid driving.

As a partner with many credit unions, I understand how important it is to build and maintain relationships. That’s the core of our success and of yours. Earning the trust of your members is paramount. It’s also essential to realize when you might be sacrificing the needs of the many, or the few, for the one. (I had to. I’m sorry. Mr. Nimoy, you’re still missed.)

If you roll out a program to your membership and 0.001% complains, while 95% express high satisfaction, you work with that small group, then continue forward.

Just keep some WD-40 on hand.

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