Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: partners

Clarity. It’s Pretty Obvious.

Originally published on CUInsight.com

The topic for this post emerged while I was at a vendor expo prior to a major run. Ok, you got me. It was at Disney. Readers, “every mile is magic”!

One of the vendors was a title sponsor you may have seen mentioned on this blog: Misfit. They are an activity tracker/watch/smart device company owned by Fossil. I’ve used their original device since release: basic but functional. Since then, they have released a number of more advanced wearables. The evolution of the device I have now interacts with your phone as a camera remote, a “get me out of this awkward situation by calling me” feature, ability to control music, and even turn on/off smart lighting. And I thought mine was cool when it knew I was sleeping!

Their other devices range from a full-fledged smartwatch (like an Apple Watch) to one called the Phase. It’s marketed as a “hybrid smartwatch”. If you’re being honest (and isn’t that why we’re all here?), you don’t know what that means. It’s ok, I didn’t, either. Does it run on two power sources? Can I make it a normal watch, then flip a switch and have a screen turn on? Is it a tiny Autobot? I even picked up a brochure, and the only guidance it gives is that “it’s more than time”. Luckily, the company had representatives at the event to explain. Us charlatans were all off the mark. A “hybrid smartwatch”, as you obviously should know, is a device with a normal watch face, physical moving hands and all, yet inside, it has all the computers you’d expect out of something much more impressive. Instead of using a power-hungry screen, the watch moves the hands around in different patterns, which you have to remember their meaning. It’s like morse code for the tech world. (Was 10 o’clock Mom or Steve texting? Oh, it’s actually just 10:00.)

Now we are all on the same page when it comes to hybrid smartwatches. They’re normal watches that can do some “smart” things. Couldn’t you figure it out from the name? No? Psh, what are you, a normal person or something?

Misfit did that little thing we all fall victim to sometimes; they assumed. If you make up a new term, it needs to be repeatedly explained until it becomes common knowledge within your target audience. Otherwise, all you’re doing is confusing your readers and maybe even scaring them out of making a decision. “I don’t know what they’re talking about, but since it’s not explained, I bet everyone else does. If I ask, I’m the dumb one, so I’m not saying anything.” I’m sure within the industry, “hybrid smartwatch” is a common term with broad understanding. But did anyone check the real world?

There’s a possibility your own credit union is making this same mistake. As with most industries, we do love our proprietary terms and acronyms. VSC, GAP, CPI, PPI, AD&D, and more. You’re right, some have general understanding in the public, but not all. And aren’t you about educating your members to make better financial decisions (which may involve you making more money)?

All of your member-facing services should be presented in a simple, easy-to-grasp way. If a member wants the full details, that’s fine, but initial encounters must be instantly understandable. Take, for example, PPI (Payment Protection Insurance): “Get hurt or sick and can’t work for 30 days or longer? This pays your loan.” Everyone will get what it offers. GAP: “Totaled your car and insurance didn’t pay the whole loan? This pays the rest.” VSC (or Warranty for some CUs): “Car breaks? This pays to get it fixed.” In the latter example, you need to be offering a top-tier warranty service to say something so simple.

And that brings up a good point. Besides missing member purchase opportunities due to a lack of clarity, you could also be making things difficult for everyone by partnering with a challenging provider. Remember, my business works with CUs. No matter what we offer, we aim for it to be easily digested by staff and members, without lots of exclusions, loopholes, or other places where relationships break down. Your MSRs want solutions which can be quickly presented to members. Once you have to start clarifying where it does and does not apply, the sale opportunity is gone.

Ok, there was a lot in this piece. Let’s bring it all home.

  1. Hybrid smartwatches are normal-looking watches which do cool stuff. They show you by spinning their physical hands.
  2. Assuming always gets you in trouble.
  3. Every member service should be instantly understandable (if only at a, “that sounds useful, tell me more” level).
  4. All offered products, in-house and partnered, must be top-quality to ensure you don’t need to start presenting where they don’t apply (ie. A warranty which doesn’t cover sales tax).

Credit unions exist to help members make smart financial decisions. If we’re stuck with industry jargon, assuming everyone understands, while presenting complicated solutions, are we really fulfilling our mission?

This leads me to a future post which will discuss the idea of selling. Yes, you should be selling to your members. Why? And how? You’ll just have to wait and see!

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!

Image credit: http://www.zedonbusiness.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Business-Partnership.jpg

Trusted Partners

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Depending on the audience, I have a variety of secret lives. Here, my secret life is that of a credit union marketing partner. When working with CUs, I’m a secret ninja and industry blogger.

Now you’re wondering about the ninja part.

As a strategic partner, it is in everyone’s best interests to work closely together. A credit union is never “just another client”, whereas, we strive to never be “just another vendor”. Some of our relationship partners are real friends, and discussions can evolve beyond weather and sports into family. We are in it for the long term to help every partner (and individual staff/member) exceed their goals.

This is often not how we are received.

We understand. All of us have been in a business relationship that felt one-sided up-front or started out great, then fell apart over time. How can we know which to trust and which to cast away? Better off just keeping them all on a tenuous balance: Work together, but don’t share enough to give them any “power” over you. Ensure the contract protects you, then protect your members just the same.

Thing is, I can’t disagree with anything in the previous paragraph. Ensuring every member’s safety, privacy, and satisfaction is top priority, and nothing should ever compromise this approach. Yet your partners are how you expand member offerings, and any barriers you place can affect the member experience. Where’s the balance?

As part of our offerings, we assist credit unions to place landing pages on their sites linking to a partner portal for their members. The linked site is owned by a third-party, but contractually covered for privacy, due diligence…you name it. Despite this, some credit unions still pop up large warnings when navigating to the pages; we call them speed bumps. Not a great way to inspire confidence for your members.

None are doing this out of spite. All believe it is a requirement from NCUA, and their own counsel or examiner reiterates this idea. Hey, when the regulator says to do something, you don’t argue!

Trouble is, this is all based on a non-binding piece of guidance from 2003 (PDF). Remember the web back then? We all had sparkling unicorns and weather banners adorning our sites. Because, Internet! Given these were coming from unrelated third-parties, it made sense to inform your members of potential risks navigating there. Today, portals are custom sites designed specifically for the institution, with specifications laid bare in lengthy contracts. If that isn’t a trusted site, I don’t know what is. Even more odd, many credit unions have warnings when clicking the NCUA icon…or their loan application!

Each speed bump warning may seem innocuous, but they create falloff in member clicks, and generate suspicion in your members. “If my credit union doesn’t trust them, why should I?” It’s a valid question.

Whenever you engage in a partnership or contractual agreement, I believe it should be to each other’s benefit. Both parties gain equally and with mutual respect. If you ever feel that is not the case, it’s probably not a great partnership. Putting barriers in the way of these efforts tilts the balance of trust. If your MSRs were recommending a service, they wouldn’t say, “We have this great program, and it would be perfect for you, but be careful, since we don’t really trust them with any of your information.”

Why do it online?

Disclosure: Credit unions working closer with their partners may include my company. Therefore, I may benefit financially from their changes.

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