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6 Credit Union Lessons From My Favorite Theme Parks

Originally published on CUInsight.com

Theme parks are awesome, especially Disney and Universal. Combined, I’ve been to both more times than I can count…literally. Besides making me a de facto guest services agent for other visitors, I also study how they operate. Why yes, happy to point you to the nearest Hidden Mickeys (it’s not my first mention)!

Take Universal, for example. It’s owned by Comcast, yes, the cable company with a consistently lowest-rated customer service experience. Yet at the theme parks, you would never guess they’re affiliated (besides the ample NBC and Peacock branding).

At their best, it’s a “Disney-magic” equivalent. At their worst, it’s still light-years better than the smoothest interaction you’ve had discussing your internet connection.

What has their customer relations training understood that we can adopt into our credit union world, admittedly a very-different industry? (Disney literally has a business institute to train companies in their operating style, so there’s value here)

Learn from my time at these bastions of customer service excellence with 6 lessons:

1. Not every attraction is for every person, but everyone is welcome

Joe at Universal Studios Entrance
Trust me, a Jedi I am.

At Magic Kingdom, you can expect lots of kid-focused rides and experiences. Spending time with Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood is wonderful, but maybe you want thrills and spills! Well, the trio of mountains has you covered (Space, Thunder, and Splash).

Even though these are quite different, Disney makes sure you can bring your kids to the “wildest ride in the wilderness”. And if they happen to be too small to safely ride, there’s a child swap area to let everyone take the train through Tumbleweed.

No matter your preferences, age, or abilities, both Disney and Universal take care to ensure everyone is welcome (and I can speak from experience that they fix issues when made aware).

Your credit union can (and should) have a target persona, but it’s also essential to design your services and interactions to fit a wide range of needs, life stages, and financial situations.

Most credit unions already do this to some extent (it’s what they’re built on), but ensure it’s consciously done everywhere. Make everyone feel welcome, no matter their credit score or checking balance. Recognize that different products may serve members in specific ways.

2. Protection (from sun, rain, or financial uncertainty) is important

Joe in Poncho at EPCOT - Disney
“Don’t rain on my parade!”

My “home” theme parks are in Central Florida. Most of the year, the sun is unrelenting. At the same time, it can rain on any given day, too. Between burning in the heat or getting drenched, you need protection. Both parks provide ice water for free, because dehydration is no joke.

For the rest, bring (or buy) the protection necessary. From sunscreen to ponchos, they’ve got you covered if the need arises.

The same goes with financial uncertainty. It seems like the “new normal” we have is shifting from one type of uncertainty to another. So ensure all members can access (and understand) your range of protection products.

Too often, I have meetings with credit unions where we go off-topic and they start sharing some interesting financial empowerment tools available. Very cool, but why are they so well hidden, and if I’m just learning about them now, how many members are aware?

When things go weird (which is all the time lately), be sure to roll out those poncho, umbrella, and sunscreen stands.

3. Moments of magic are where loyalty begins

Joe and Spaceship Earth - EPCOT - Disney
#NoFilter

“Disney magic” is so oft-repeated, it’s almost a cliche. Yet their cast members are encouraged to deliver these experiences when possible. Recently, a team member at Universal made their own kind of magic for my mom and I. What they did wasn’t required, requested, nor expected.

We left the park that evening excited from our experience, improved by one small gesture. And, silly as it is, I have an improved perception of Universal because of it.

How can your MSRs deliver moments of magic to members? Solving problems when they arise is essential, but expand that brainstorming to bring smiles to those already satisfied. There’s a huge difference between, “yeah, they’re fine” and “wow, listen to what they did!”

Loyalty doesn’t just stem from doing things as advertised all the time. Take every opportunity to bring magic into their financial life, from fixing issues with a smile to making the good…great.

4. Queues stink, but if they’re essential, make them interesting

Joe Through Time at Country Bear Jamboree - Magic Kingdom - Disney
Same me. Same place. Different time.

Theme parks have two constants: Everything is expensive and you’ll be waiting in lines. Since your credit union drives financial empowerment, it’s probably not the most expensive choice in town. So let’s look at the latter.

For better or worse, both parks offer ways to reduce time spent on line for attractions, store purchases, and food. Like them, use the mobile tools available to assist members with their questions. Streamline processes to request the least amount of information.

If you’re in a top attraction queue, I can guarantee the line has all sorts of things to grab your attention. That’s probably not an option at your credit union, but if your phone support is overwhelmed, make sure members can save their place and get a call back.

In-branch, observe if you have busier times. When that happens, can you repurpose other staff to address certain member requests instead of having them wait? The Universal Banker has a basis in this concept.

5. It’s easy to get overwhelmed

Joe at Tomorrowland Speedway - Magic Kingdom - Disney
Please do not bump the car ahead of you. We’re very serious.

Theme parks are big, sensory-stimulating places with tons of options. Frankly, even for regulars like me, they can get overwhelming. Do we stop in for this show or set up early for the parade? Wait, then we might not make it over to the new roller coaster!

Not to mention remembering to find someplace to eat. Oh good, you brought snack bars.

Your credit union has a lot of products. Unlike us, the typical member isn’t immersed in it day-to-day. So what we consider a normal span of offerings might be overwhelming for them.

Design your website, app, and train your team to recognize this fact. Theme parks have paper and digital maps that break down everything you can do during your day. Consider emulating this approach with your own services.

Seriously, is there a single place I am able to see every way you can help members? (Our company has a PDF guide to our Mission-Focused Toolkit that drives awareness and interest.)

I guarantee you have members right now who don’t know about products that can improve their life. How can you give them a map to the nearest restroom…I mean, to enhance their financial wellness?

6. If it gets to customer service, you’ve already missed something

Joe Hugging Truffula Tree - Universal Islands of Adventure
Go talk to the tree-hugger.

None of us want to call, chat, or visit guest services. It’s good they’re available, but that I had to go to them means something was missed. My experience or knowledge is lacking in some way that needs fixing.

Why do members reach out to your customer service channels? Could you redesign the site, app, or branch to answer these questions preemptively? Are these account-specific issues?

Did they really need to talk to a live person (or does that open the door to new conversations?)

A good FAQ is fine (though not one I saw recently with over 50 answers), but that’s not where you answer questions, paradoxically. Those are your fallbacks.

The main content should address the pains, opportunities, and common inquiries. Flowery and clever marketing content is a lot of fun, but if you can read/watch it and still have basic questions, there’s room for improvement.

Bringing the (Credit Union) Magic

Joe and Figment During Half Marathon - EPCOT - Disney
“One little spark”

Stop and think about credit unions for a moment. That they exist at all is pretty magical. These member-owned places where you can safely store and borrow money, while also working to grow everyone’s finances for the benefit of the community…pretty cool, right?

Disney loves to call itself “the most magical place on Earth”. But can they help drive community financial empowerment? Ok, maybe through their credit union, Partners FCU. Theme park affiliated or not, credit unions have magic of their own!

How will you bring that magic to your members?

“We all have sparks, imaginations.
That’s how our minds, create creations.
For they can make, our wildest dreams come true.
Those magic sparks, in me and you.”

Figment, One Little Spark

Be Where Your Members Are

For the month of June, all posts will pertain to your website and how it can serve as springboard for your growth. Don’t underestimate this first impression!

“Look, there in the mural, just above the dragonfly! The wings form the Mickey ears!”

My Disney trips have always been unique. Since a young age, I was one of the Hidden Mickey hunters. If the term is new to you, that’s alright; you now count as “nearly everyone”. In a clever choice of design, Disney Imagineers added tiny Mickey Mouse ears (the three circles) into various attractions. This was part of the culture since the earliest parks, so if you look closely, every ride has at least one Hidden Mickey to find. Feel free to ask about my favorites. Right now, I’m particularly fond of the Conservation Station mural in Animal Kingdom (I’ve never seen so many in one place!).

Disney has never confirmed the existence of these Hidden Mickeys, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. They don’t have to; I know they exist. In fact, an entire cottage industry of websites and books devoted to cataloging every last one speaks for itself. I was giddy when, on this past visit, while searching for a few myself, I saw a fellow couple hunting down their own. Instant bond formed. We identified a few Mickeys together, then parted ways to resume our independent journeys.

Hidden Mickeys add a layer of excitement to the parks. It’s a little thing only a small group of us recognize. Sure, millions of people pass through Spaceship Earth, but how many notice the too-perfectly-arranged coffee stains on the 1800s desk? I’ve seen it dozens of times, yet still make a point to identify it every visit. Disney and I have a special bond; just a few more of her secrets are visible.

How about your members? Most of them likely pass through your website with nary a glance at anything but that Log In To Home Banking link. Preliminary surveys of credit unions just like yours say over 90% of site visitors do nothing but log in. And you have that whole site!

Connect with members where they are. Disney put some of their Hidden Mickeys on the lines, a place you may find yourself often. Why not represent your priority services behind the log-in, along with their home banking? Just a simple banner, nothing intrusive.

I go on excursions to find new Hidden Mickeys and often find new parts of the theme park or ride I would not have seen otherwise. Give your members a reason to explore your website! A small giveaway based on collecting scavenger hunt answers throughout your site will promote new voyages. Integrate your social media team; it’s one thing to spread a hashtag on the wider Internet, another to guide members through your own products and services.

Next thing you know, we’ll be hearing about members discussing their latest Hidden CU Clues in the lobby!

Image: Me at Country Bear Jamboree, Magic Kingdom (I looked for Hidden Mickeys there too!)

Just Keep Swimming

“If you’re not being chased by a lion, why would you run?”, a friend recently asked me. It’s a good question. Isn’t that why we developed bicycles, horse-drawn carriages, and cars? There is a special feeling to covering distance on your own foot power.

Last year I decided, along with a family member, to train for a 5K (3.1 miles for Imperial folk). Our first race was in the middle of a Florida summer. Think 90 degrees, with humidity so thick you had to swim through it. Seriously, it was so humid the air was dripping. In other words, about the worst conditions imaginable. Still, we finished. No world records, just an eye towards the next event, a Thanksgiving morning 5K along the beach. It was a wonderful run which we both completed with no trouble.

Our goal was Disney.

runDisney hosts events at both of their parks throughout the year. We rushed to register for the Princess Enchanted 10K at Epcot. Even registration was a challenge…imagine every runner hitting the same site at once, plus, our internet connection went down to add stress. Somehow, we signed up despite the obstacles. But wait…10K? That’s twice a 5K! Sure is. Just keep swimming.

Last weekend, our efforts went to the test. Gathering at the Epcot parking lot at 3:30 a.m., we joined over 10,000 runners in pursuit of our goal. As the fireworks launched, we ran! If the first race was crazy hot, this was crazy cold. At least moving warms you up!

runDisney says, “Every mile is magic.” It’s true. The experience cannot be explained, from the camaraderie, to the character photos along the route, to the before and after party, it was a magical morning. My family member set a new personal record, despite stopping for photos throughout the race.

So, goal accomplished. That’s it, we’re done improving, right? Wrong! Not a minute past the finish line, we agreed to return in November for the half marathon (13.1 miles). Just keep swimming.

It’s easy to get complacent when things are good. We could have stuck with 5K races. Even 10K. You could have stopped when you reached your initial lending goal. But you didn’t. You set new ones, and together, achieved those too!

Dory may be forgetful, but she knows what it takes to accomplish anything. Just keep swimming.

Image credit: http://wac.450f.edgecastcdn.net/80450F/thefw.com/files/2013/03/Just-Keep-Swimming.gif

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