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Trusted Partners Don’t Need Barriers

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Updated with 2021 data from Bloom CU’s research with one of our clients, Freedom CU.

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?

Speedbumps Do More Than Slow Members Down

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.

We dove into this topic even deeper on our Learning Library.

Wave Goodbye to 70% of Your Members

Our friends over at Bloom CU, website designers for the credit union industry, looked into the interstitial impacts. They happened to work with a client of ours, Freedom CU. We had been discussing the removal of their interstitials for years.

Bloom’s study discovered that the conversion rate through their speed bumps across 4 different products was only 35.1%. That means 2 out of every three members who express a desire to use a service of yours give up when shown the scary screen.

Why be your own worst enemy?

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. And the study mentioned includes my own client.

Your Old Website Is Still There…Learn From It!

Look to the past and gain insights for tomorrow.

Sounds like a telecom company’s tagline from the late 90s, right? For all I know, it could be (and my apologies for the infringement). Oddly enough, that’s part of the point. Think back to the turn of the century. Yes, we’re in the 21st, yet it still feels like someone is referencing 1900 with that line. #GrowingUpProblems In the 90s, the Internet was a thing, but not in the way a Millenial would recognize. YouTube didn’t exist. No dial-tone, no web. Wireless was Star Trek tech. Geeks like me ordered products through the web, but Amazon was only a few years old by then. The Internet was a fantastically different place. Animated GIFs were all the rage (oh, wait…), every website just had to have a weather forecast, and if you didn’t display a Netscape Now! or Get Internet Explorer box in your footer, you weren’t a proper denizen of the digital realm.

Ah, the good old days. Who doesn’t miss a little bzng-hiss every now and then? I had personal websites, the forefather of our current company used one, and they were glorious for their time. Of course, with a 28.8kbps connection (that’s 0.056% the speed of my current cable internet, or, conversely, my current connection is nearly 1,800 times faster), you had to be careful about load times. Today, if a page doesn’t load in 4 seconds, we give up. Back then, a page taking 30 seconds was normal. If you added too much, it would push a minute, or more. So, we kept it simple (but no one is taking my weather ticker!).

“Hold up, Joe. You made some sage statement at the beginning, yet have just gone off on a reminiscing tangent…is there a point?” Glad you asked. In those formative days, corporate sites were bare essentials. What else could you offer? A sparkling unicorn had no place on a banking site, even if you couldn’t resist the “Under Construction” graphic. You put what members needed, and that was it. Contact information, rates, services, membership eligibility and, if you were really high-tech, a loan application.

The world has evolved, but do we really need any more? Attention spans have diminished, yet information has increased. Think about it: Have member needs really changed?

One of my favorite sites is the Wayback Machine, powered by the Internet Archive. Think of it as a DVR for our online history. Every version of every site ever made is accessible, sometimes back to the early-90s. I’m amazed at the breadth of data available, and can spend far too much time browsing long-lost companies, early site versions, and more. Among the searches, I pull up credit union sites, then compare to their current pages. Often, they don’t change significantly until I’m more than a decade back. Protip: That’s too long. When they finally do, they’re often a simpler version of what they have now.

If your credit union has not changed your website in more than 10 years, you need to update it. Responsive design, mobile capabilities, and standards compliance are all necessary today. Before you do, check how it appeared at launch, and then even before. Take notes from the limited content shown, and then have a serious discussion on what you will need in the new site. Remember, it’s another branch, so it should exude the same feel: warmth, openness, and simplicity.

Sometimes, we can learn the most by looking back. Maybe that’s what your members really want…a place they can visit to get the answers they need, the support they expect, and the feel only a not-for-profit financial institution can provide.

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