Credit Union Geek

Marketing, Strategy, and The Force by Joe Winn

Tag: relationships (page 1 of 2)

Member Relationships Which Could Be

Originally published on

This is part of the “CU That Could Be” series.

You pride yourself on amazing member service. If anyone has an issue, your entire team is equipped to handle it promptly, politely, and with a minimum of effort for everyone.

E-mails are answered within a few hours, and members get only personalized replies. No one deserves a generic response! If an issue will take longer to resolve, your team sends out a quick message informing of that fact, along with an estimated timeframe for the next reply.

Your credit union embraces a phone platform which automatically routes calls to keep hold times low. And, if someone needs to be transferred, it’s always done while the original agent remains on the line. Having to start over with the 2nd (or 4th) person stinks! This also ensures no one gets disconnected and left for a lurch. On top of that, the menu system never says, “please listen carefully as our menu options have recently changed.” That’s old school. Your system lets members press a number or say a simple word (which it recognizes easily) to accommodate those driving or otherwise occupied.

All social media platforms are centrally monitored 24/7 so complaints and compliments alike can be answered within a few minutes. Sure, you’re not solving a detailed account issue on Sunday, but you feel it is important to let the member know you are ready to help at any time. And Yelp reviews? You’ve seen how many people view your credit union’s business pages (yeah, you check the stats); every single review gets an answer. You’re not going to be part of the 98% who never reply. If it needs follow-up, that begins right now.

Then there’s the interactions which don’t involve a person. Your member is looking to do something on your website, or in your mobile app. You realize they’re using those systems to make life easier. So everything those platforms do is easily shown in device-specific interfaces. They’re fast, secure, and updated regularly. Feedback is encouraged, and suggestions are embraced in future revisions.

You may notice I didn’t discuss in-branch interactions. There are a few reasons. One, branches are no different from other lines of communication. Sure, you are face-to-face, but waiting there stinks just as much as being on hold (depends on if you listened to a previous post and set up Mario Kart 64). If you treat people well “virtually”, you’ll treat them fine in person. Two, with web-based everything, there’s nothing a member can do which can’t be done online or over the phone. Three, I’m not sure branches will be a standard feature of the credit union that could be. In my mind, if physical locations stick around at all, you might eventually see an extension of the “shared branches” concept take hold. Instead of banking at any credit union, there will be an unbranded CUSO operated “branch” where physical-contact holdouts can go to accomplish the same thing. Branches simply cost too much for every institution to maintain them. A credit union near me just expanded their membership into new counties and stated they have no plans to extend their branch footprint to match. They are no longer necessary to provide the member relationship of the future, or, that could be.

We will continue expanding on the “CU That Could Be” case study with technology integration. Stay tuned!

Clarity. It’s Pretty Obvious.

Originally published on

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!

Millennials (And More) In A Time Machine

Originally published on

Market to Millenials! Market to Gen Z! Are we repeating what has been done time and again?

We tend to look at generations as a snapshot in time. Let me explain: The oldest Gen Z (or whatever we call those youngsters with no knowledge of pre-Internet days) is not more than 20 or so, at the most. Millenials are in their 20s to mid-30s. Gen Xers are what we would call middle age. Boomers are close to or enjoying retirement (or lifelong work). Their parents are focused on the “golden years”, as we would say.

But what if we looked at them all from the same perspective, at the same point in time for each?

Let’s take a Millenial, Gen Z, Boomer, and Gen X and put them in a room together. The catch: They are all 25. Ok, we’ll say the room is bigger on the inside to address any temporal crises this may cause. So we have a gathering of identically-aged people, yet they are each from a different generation. The Boomer’s “present” is 1975, the Gen X is living in 1995, our Millenial is from this era, while the Gen Z representative has been plucked from 2025. Once we get over those awesome pants the Boomer is wearing, it’s down to business.

We could imagine asking them the same questions posed in publications today. “What can a financial institution do to appeal to your generation better?” “What are you looking for in a banking experience?” “Does feedback from friends and family influence your decisions, and in what way?”

Leave the social media, mobile banking, and other technology-based solutions on the table. These are tools, not strategies. Focus on the responses, the emotional aspect of decision-making. I wouldn’t be surprised if their answers are similar. Yes, feedback from friends is important (despite needing to actually call, write, or visit for some of our time-travelers). Having a safe and secure experience is essential (whether it be chip cards and a secure mobile app or a branch representative who respects your privacy). Appealing to all of them would be based in education, convenience, cost, and service. For me, a great customer service experience is #1 when choosing a business. Would anyone argue this has changed? Whether I’m corresponding by Pony Express or being guided through FaceTime, I expect top-notch service that respects me as a member.

We put a lot of time and effort into learning what it takes to appeal to the latest generation. I agree this is important. However, why reinvent the wheel, so to speak, if this task has been done time and again? How did you appeal to 25 year-olds 25 years ago? 50? I’d be willing to bet the fundamentals are unchanged. It’s just the means.

This sounds like a conversation for your upcoming board meeting. Ask your long-serving members to think back. Dig into the archives and pull up marketing plans from 1975 (or further!). What can you learn from this exercise? Have you been appealing to Millenials all along?

Hey, what’s old is new. NES Classic, Pokemon GO…even Tamagotchi has an app. Take your own old. It may just work great in today’s world.

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