Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: issues

How a crying baby can help you serve your members

Originally published on CUInsight.com

A few weeks ago, old friends were kind enough to host me for a short vacation. The deal was that I help entertain their kids (1 and 3). In the words of my friend, “every kid should have an Uncle Joe”. (While I was explaining the physics of rocketry to a 3 year old). As you would expect, the younger one had a few upset moments. What was the problem? Sometimes, it’s obvious: he bumped his head or wants something just out of reach. For a few days, he also felt a little under the weather. I’d be cranky too. Other times, the issue was a complete mystery. “What is it?” Since his vocabulary is roughly on par with the use of “bigly” as an actual word, clarification is a challenge.

In a way, he is just like your members. Though they probably have a better vocabulary. When your members have a problem, their frustration is not always expressed as a direct reaction to the issue. Maybe they are angry about a new fee on their account. Or that it always seems to take a while to get a support response. “This credit union is simply the worst.”

The member who was angry about a fee may actually be upset that your communication of how to avoid fees was insufficient. Or maybe they just learned about an account available with far more benefits at the same price they end up paying after fees. Yet no one told them.

Instead of giving negative reviews about long hold times, perhaps that member found it annoying they couldn’t get their questions answered or tasks achieved through the mobile app.

What people complain about is rarely the real issue. 

Sure, we could delay my nephew’s whimpering with a different book, toy, or snack, but it was only temporary. If we didn’t solve the primary issue, he would struggle against us again. And it progressively gets more intense. Just like your members. Imagine being caught up in a cycle of unfulfilled customer service. As the little problems pile up, you get more frustrated, until you’re throwing toy trucks around the house because NOTHING IS GOING RIGHT!

Let’s work together to keep them from throwing their stuffed animals in your face.  You know, your nephews…obviously.

Image credit: My friend (Nephew while watching a SpaceX Falcon 9 landing. Yeah, he’s a rocket scientist in training.)

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.

Thinking Outside The Grid

Originally published on CUInsight.com

A lot happened at the most recent CUNA GAC. Though I couldn’t attend, it was apparent even to this distant observer that an attendee couldn’t possibly experience it all. Unless you had two years to do so! Between the sessions, round tables, keynotes, and Hill Hikes, interviews took place for a variety of industry publications. I wouldn’t fault you for missing, oh, 90% of them!

One of these segments was shared by LSCU (the League of Southeastern Credit Unions, no affiliation). In it, they discussed disaster plans with Ted Koppel, namely, power grid failure strategies. As you know, a branch going down is an inconvenience. Imagine if an entire city was dark for days. What services fail first? How do you manage member funds? Do we fall back to a cash (or seashell)-based economy?

You would be correct to say the primary concerns center around medical care, providing clean water, and distributing food to the community. But what about after that infrastructure has emerged? How long can you operate on battery backups and satellite phones if only overloaded mobile cell towers (usually on trucks) are available?

The discussion raises interesting questions and requires, wait for it, outside the “grid” thinking. Being an environmentalist, my first thought is focusing on adoption of solar and other self-sustained energy sources. These can substantially increase your capabilities during a utility outage, while fostering a community-based energy economy (think local farming, except your product is electricity). Plus, reducing emissions from energy production benefits everyone.

Your goal in building disaster resilience is to ask the right questions, ahead of time. But what if the “disaster” isn’t in a loss of power or something your crisis team cooked up? The other side of thinking “outside the grid” is to look at problems from a new perspective. Instead of considering how you can deal with a situation, imagine what you can do to avoid falling in to it entirely. How can you be, “off-grid”, as it were, to the issue?

Think of any challenges that arise throughout your member experience. Yes, coming up with simple ways to address them is important, but is it possible to eliminate the problem from ever occurring? I’ve seen a lot of credit unions using a graduated rewards program. However, none of them offer easy access to a chart showing what I need to do to be considered “Bronze”, “Platinum Plus”, or “VIP Gold”. I know these loyalty systems are tempting, but maybe you’re approaching them in a way which creates complexity no matter how well it’s planned. When the original iPod was released, a famous parody video emerged showing the packaging had Microsoft’s marketing team designed it. Sure, their final product told the customer a lot more, but, in reality, did it? Was the simplicity a crutch to be overcome or a victory in messaging on its own?

You’ve heard consultants suggest “outside the box” thinking. That’s so cliche. Who’s thinking “outside the grid”?

Image credit: http://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/styles/article_hero/public/Hero_Grid_0.jpg

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