Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: experience

Sheer Experience

Friday, I took a road trip to meet with one of our credit union partners. Though I’m sure they wouldn’t mind their name being used, let’s say it was “Awesomesauce CU” in the Central Florida region. The goals of the meeting were simple: Get to know the staff face-to-face, learn about how our solutions were going for them, and brainstorm ways we could make all processes simpler and more effective.

So what did they want?

The CEO wished for access to more benchmarks, guiding their initiatives with respect to other average and best performers within the industry. Makes complete sense, and is already underway. The CLO wanted more processes in place to ensure members 1) get pre-approved for loans and 2) book those loans with the credit union. Agreed, because that’s the whole point of the game! The Loan Call Center Supervisor wanted less work and more results, or, in her words, “It don’t gotta be that hard.” It sure doesn’t.

At the outset, the staff all made clear they supported the program and wanted to see it succeed, but had concerns about initial hiccups along the way. That’s normal, we explained, as our partners have the most issues in the first three months following implementation, then they find a rhythm which works well for them. But that doesn’t make struggles ok! What can we do to minimize those launch challenges?

We had an all-hands meeting scheduled to run for an hour. Two and a half hours later, everyone was satisfied with the ideas generated. Thus begins the process of seeing what can be implemented and how. But first, lunch. Three of the staff were able to join us for a meal filled with everything but business. That’s not to say these CU staff didn’t care about their work!

Between our three lunch companions, there was nearly 100 years of experience at this one credit union. Looking back at our board room meeting, if you weren’t with the CU for over 20 years, you were a newbie.

After a too-large lunch combined with stories of travel, motorcycles, and families, we returned to the branch to get cracking. When a successful initiative means your staff is overwhelmed, it’s time for some better processes. I listened as the credit union’s point person moved step-by-step through their daily effort. “That’s way more work than we intended,” I thought as she finished. However, our company doesn’t have access to the LOS or internal member lookup system for each credit union (and given the security needed, we don’t want it). As a result, it’s difficult for us to know what is involved to move, view, or edit data within their system. We made some suggestions on reducing steps and explained how other credit unions have found their stride, with an eye on making everything just take less time. I relished the opportunity to learn how it all “goes down” in a working environment.

They requested process improvements for our side as well, and those are now being organized and sent to the appropriate parties for consideration. If we can do them today, it’ll happen. For things that take some corporate cooperation, we’ve begun that endeavor.

We had 2 hours of interaction time scheduled with their team. Over 4 hours in, we were still sharing ideas and seeking to overcome challenges. When we arrived, we were vendor partners there to streamline the system and answer questions. That evening, we left as friends. And I found a fellow Whovian!

As partner meetings continue to be more common, I’d like to devote some time sharing those experiences on this blog. Since we learn the most when everyone’s participating, I welcome your comments when you see something that resonates, or is completely different from how you’re always done it. Without the “Credit Union”, this blog would just be a geek rambling. Thanks for reading, sharing, and contributing!

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Who’s the Most Benevolent of Them All?

Some may say the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference is a glorified lobbying event. They would not be wrong. But it is far more than solely a political maneuver. It’s a family reunion.

When you put a few thousand credit union executives, staff, and board members in a single room, an interesting dynamic emerges. They do not brag about loan volume, capital expenditures, or legislative pressures. Instead, topics revolve around how much their members were helped by initiatives and services. It becomes a competition of benevolence.

“Everything the credit union does is for its members. We don’t say yes to everything, but we do consider what can serve all of them best.” This refrain was far from uncommon.

Consider one credit union with a large membership of teachers. It’s tough to be a teacher. So much is demanded, and too often, so little is provided. Their solution? An interest-free new teacher loan. Just show your offer paperwork and the credit union will extend capital at no expense for classroom supplies, decorations, and more. Oh, you didn’t know? Teachers in many places pay for supplies out of their own pocket. Talk about being committed to their mission.

On the topic of education, what about the other challenge…student loans? Yeah, credit unions are helping there, too. In 2008, a number of institutions banded together under the banner Student Choice to create a better option than students drowning in debt. I spoke with some of the founders, and the passion was oozing out of their pores. Sure, the program helps create financially-stable lifelong members, but also provides access to higher education for many who otherwise could not afford it. While we were talking, there was an “ah ha!” moment when I finally got it (I can be dreadfully slow to comprehension if it’s not a Star Trek reference)…their excitement was such that I was expecting a group hug.

Stories like these flow freely out of the attendees. You’d think one article was sufficient to address their giving nature. Then this one appears. And I’m not done! Have you ever heard of a co-op? Maybe for farmers, or an electric utility, or, a credit union. Yes, credit unions are cooperatives, too. And when these entities work together, great things happen.

Look for a final roundup of the great things the credit union industry is doing, besides banking.

Are You Creating Members…or Experiences?

Mickey Mouse called. He insisted I return to the parks where I spent so much time as a younger geek. Especially Epcot. Of course, this time, he’s requesting that I run a 10K while there. Through World Showcase? Alright Mickey, I’m game.

It’s easier to stay on resort property for transportation and other logistics, so that’s been booked. What arrived as confirmation was beyond my expectations, but, then, upon thought, exactly what Disney would do.

A fabric jewelry box arrived in the mail, with the telltale embossed Mickey ears. “Guess Disney sent something out…ok, that’s cool.” Upon opening it, an even more prominent not-so-Hidden Mickey. A filler guide fit for a piece of fine art explains I will find a MyMagic+ flash drive as well as my own vacation details. Good thing, because my memory is entirely dependent on outside resources.

Disney Welcome Box USBWait a minute, that’s my family name on the booklet! Custom covers are worth a smile, but certainly they wouldn’t go further. I’m sure it’s the same booklet everyone gets when their trip is near…

Nearly every page is tailored to my hotel reservations, the exact dates I’ll be there, and even what the website will look like with my name on it upon logging in. You cannot help but be excited, eagerly awaiting the moment you get to pass under the Mickey-eared gates.

All they did was create a customized booklet, but by doing so, they created an emotional connection, an experience that leaves you wanting for more. Sure, their solution has high costs, but what can you do to produce the same feelings in your members?

To me, the best part of this package was that it arrived unannounced. Since I wasn’t expecting anything, I was giddy to unbox it, read through the booklet, and connect the Mickey ears USB drive included. There’s no question I am even more excited than before about my visit. In fact, the box is still sitting on my desk, since I’m so impressed with it. You can bet it will be saved as part of a memory collection for the trip!

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