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Get Up & Change Your View

Originally published on CU Insight.

This is one of those articles that make little sense if you don’t consider the publication date.

2019? “Huh, I mean, obviously.”

2025? “Oh, they’re talking about those dark times. Things are so fantastic now, it’s almost hard to remember!” (Hopefully)

2020? “Go out? Ha! You Zoom-hack our meeting with many clever jokes!”

Here in mid-2021, I hope the topic will land on understanding minds.

2020 Was Unique for Everyone

Each of us had a different experience through the pandemic. Some made radical changes to lifestyle, with stressors increasing, family dynamics strained, and finances depleted. Others had the “pleasure” of adapting to work from home (hi Zoom!) with social lives crushed.

In my case, little changed. I’ve been WFH for nearly a decade, and 98% of business interactions are over the phone or Zoom. Yes, we were the ones explaining the system to credit union staff before you had to do the same with your parents.

Sharing the Sameness

Cat on Sofa
Do you ever really “share” a sofa with a cat?

So I’m used to my immediate environment being constant. Which was both a gift and a, well, you know the rest. At first, the realization that others were facing what I considered normal spurred a creative rush. It was a perfect time to share how I’ve made it work for me.

Remember all those videos and articles? My Jedi robes? Creative they were, mmm? Mmmm?

Something was Happening

During the year, a change slowly progressed, consciously unnoticed. My creativity was lagging. We still put together interesting ideas for business, and I continued to get a few more articles out. But most of it was tweaking existing material to fit changed norms.

While this was all necessary, it shouldn’t have been the bulk of my effort. Why the shift? I’d attribute it to all of 2020. With a wealth of stressors, political insanity, health scares, and a restricted social circle, it’s the excuse to beat all excuses.

When you’re operating in crisis mode all the time, you’re not at your best.

No one should ever have to apologize for how they made it through 2020. You’re still here? Congratulations. And encourage everyone you know to get vaccinated.

It wasn’t until this week that I recognized the change. Why?

Other Humans!

Joe Winn Pulling Child on Board Through Surf
As hard as it looks. As fun for the smaller person as it looks.

Long-time readers will recall my visits to nephews. They love space, science, the ocean, and calling me “Uncle Joe”…a lot. (I’m not complaining!)

For the first time in forever, I’ve visited them again. Sure, I’ve been to Disney and Universal since the pandemic started, but that’s an exercise in schedules, wait times, and distancing from other people. A relaxed connection with others it is absolutely not.

This was a full-on life with a beloved family. A change of people and scenery from when you wake up to fall asleep. For someone who loves traveling and visiting friends as much as me, not having this for over a year was rough.

And the waterfront home doesn’t hurt. These sentences were written to the sight and sound of waves gently flowing against rock walls and wooden docks. Songbirds are celebrating the flowering trees, and destructive yet adorable rabbits bound about the yard.

In the realm of “changing your environment”, this is about the best you can do.

“Oh, hello unique thoughts.”

Person Writing in Notebook in Park
Let the pen (or keyboard) flow!

When you’ve sat in the same home, using the same desk (or sofa, or futon, or bed, or kitchen table) to complete your work, it’s easy to get mentally stuck. And we all know that innovation comes out of change. Which is really difficult to create when nothing changes.

The first day of working here (in a spinning round couch with a view to the water), I finished an entire Learning Library article. That’s unheard-of speed for me. And that’s between when the kids left for and returned from school.

Then there’s this tale, which I only began about an hour ago. It’s no core conversion, but I’ll take the progress!

Lessons from the Beach House

Sunrise Over Water
That’s a sunrise. A very-early annular eclipse sunrise, to be precise!

You’ve dealt with a lot. I don’t know your specifics, but it’s only now returning to some sense of, hopefully, better normal. To me, the trip was a delightful wake-up call (or was that the kids?). Maybe there’s some realizations you can glean from my experience:

  • Acknowledge your compromise
    • In some way, you’ve been off the 100% best version of yourself. It’s ok. Now’s when we can help get it back.
  • Get up
    • Yes, right now. Stand up. Do some stretches and breathing exercises. Walk around. It’s not just your watch telling you the value of movement. It really does help “get your juices flowing.”
  • Change your environment
    • If you can sit in front of a body of water, do that. If not, find something different to make your brain go, “oh, that’s neat; haven’t seen it in a while…or ever.”
  • Disconnect
    • Just for a bit, get away from your phone (you can keep your watch on for critical notifications), and let your mind wander. Free dissociation isn’t being “spaced out”, but rather, “connected to the world.” Take that as you will.

In a recovery run, you aim to reclaim what was lost. During your slow journey to “normal”, live in a state of open recovery. And be kind to yourself and others.

Let Your New Ideas Flow

Crayon Box with Child Drawing
Give a kid crayons, paper, cardboard, scissors, tape, etc. And then just watch.

For me, interacting outside my “pandemic bubble” was a welcome shock. Part of what makes a recovery run so interesting is that you often don’t realize what you’ve lost until you get it back. This is about running and also not about running.

Connecting with others helped me connect with myself. And getting up to change my view made all the difference.

How will you unleash your great new ideas?

Featured image credit: My nephew, after he took his mom’s iPhone.

Coronavirus: How Your Credit Union Can Make A Difference [Video]

Update 4/3/20: More videos focused on CUs “Living Your Why” of the mission. Edits at end.

I have a lightsaber. Which automatically makes it awesome.

COVID-19! Coronavirus! Pandemic! Bear (and now back to bull) market!

Breathe. In a well-ventilated and cleaned area. Away from everyone else. Now wash your hands.

Whew. You’re exhausted from it all. I get it. We all get it. And yet, staying informed is essential.

For the safety of your staff, their families, and those of your members. What a burden to carry!

No wonder so many companies are implementing work-from-home policies. As someone who’s always lived that way, can I just say, “welcome to the club?”

Ok, there’s nothing I can share which you won’t find literally everywhere else, from your LinkedIn feed to every alert on your phone. Plus, I’m not a doctor. I’m not an expert in any aspect of public health. I just listen to those who are.

Get Latest Info Here

If you want up-to-date info on coronavirus, Ars Technica (my favorite news site) has a daily updated article you can reference at any time. They’re trustworthy and committed to details that matter.

So why am I even writing this post? And, even better question, why are you still reading? Thanks, by the way!

Serving When It’s Most Needed

Because I do know credit unions. At least, strategies to help them run at their best, which includes serving your members and community.

By now, your team has discussed the direct and immediate effects from the pandemic. You’re doing your best to keep the virus out of offices and branches. That’s an important first step. Perhaps you’re even thinking of ways to offer short-term personal loans to members.

It’s about “Living Your Why” of the CU Mission.

Programs to Help Members

Short-term loans are great. I recall during the most recent government shutdown, many credit unions offered 0% loans matching paychecks. Do it again. Or as close to 0% as able. What else? Well, let’s think. Every industry and field will be impacted.

As always, the poor and financially vulnerable will suffer the most. How can you extend a hand to help them today and prevent future challenges (the long-tail effects of the pandemic will be massive)?

Remember, most people live paycheck-to-paycheck. For many, that cycle will get interrupted. Which is bad for them and your loan repayments. This is a great time to bring out that skip-a-payment option. Also, if able, extend grace periods for delinquencies.

What about normal spending practices? Encourage top-of-wallet use by suspending debit card fees during the crisis period (or offer fee forgiveness). Just because you can’t work doesn’t mean your necessities get cheaper. Most people aren’t stockpiling toilet paper.

You may be canceling your in-person events, but that doesn’t mean members can’t still get the same great deals. Look to your car buying service in lieu of car sales. Make some videos to show how members can do most or all of their banking in your awesome app!

Most important, dive into your data. In the same way you identify “most likelies” for buying a car, opening a credit card, or applying for a mortgage, do the same for risk factors. See if you can find members at the highest risk from the economic effects. Then proactively offer your support with specific programs.

Ensure Business Continuity

I should mention, these policies may also extend to your own staff. Most likely, they’ll also miss work at some point. Are you equipped to let them work from home (when they feel well)? Stress test your main systems today to see what the minimum “skeleton crew” is for your institution.

It’s time to skip the events. The league gatherings can wait. Industry conferences are fun, but not when everyone’s terrified of coming within 6 feet of the poor chap allergic to pollen. Besides, you’re all on the email list, anyway.

Innovate in a Crisis

The companies which emerge from this outbreak the strongest will fall into one of a few categories:

  1. “Too big to get hurt” – What they do and offer is so widespread nothing can hurt them for long.
  2. “Government helped us out” – You just know some industries are going to get bailed out by taxpayers; think airlines and cruise ship operators. In the case of credit unions, it might be beneficial, as it could enable you to directly assist more people.
  3. “Necessity is the mother of invention” – When things got tough, you put on the old thinking cap and went to town. I’m sure the results of that brainstorming would be more impressive than anything I could write here.

Your lobbyists will be hard at work on #2. The section we care most about right now is #3. I know it sounds crazy, but my suggestion is to ask your members. Seriously, use your social media, website, and other channels to find out what’s worrying them the most.

I see it as a credit union-wide effort, with a single campaign unifying video posts from staff, members, and a landing page to bring it all together. On that page, share links to trusted sources, feature members and staff, update it daily, and present how you think you can help.

Then, ask them to share their thoughts and fears. From these responses, you’ll have a better picture on how to make a difference than any of us could solely through our Slack channels.

As an aside, I’m not the only one to come up with these exact ideas. PwC advised financial institutions on their coronavirus response. Basically, it’s a prettier version of this post.

We’ll Get Through This. Together.

Ok, not literally together. More like, “together in spirit and mission”. Your goals haven’t changed. And this is actually when credit unions can shine. You exist to provide a better choice for people in their financial lives. Here’s the time to step up.

This is when the leagues, national organizations, individual credit unions, and you, yes, you, must come together. I’m not the smartest person in the room. But I guarantee that you, in some specific way, are. So let your idea be heard!

You can bet the fintechs, Big Tech, and Big Banks are thinking of ways to profit from this outbreak. Maybe their motivations are good. Maybe they’re not. We can’t know. However, what gets attention and succeeds will have effects for years from now.

So grab your hand sanitizer, bales of toilet paper (really?), and start your quest to help your members…and change the world!

Update History

Update 3/31/20: That other video update was fine. This one is better. And in this post! It congratulates credit unions and their staff, as well as poses some challenges to create new opportunities in the future.

Update 3/27/20: I shared a video discussing how a return to normal simply won’t happen, but that you can implement “digital transformation” today to meet the new normal.

How Would You Rate This Experience? (Part 2)

This is a continuation of 3 Ways To Ensure Your Customer Service Doesn’t Suck.

Every interaction with your members results in one of three ratings:

  1. Exceed expectations. (Impress)
  2. Meet expectations. (Satisfy)
  3. Miss expectations. (Disappoint)

Like you, I’m all about exceeding expectations. But it’s tough to do all the time. Let’s take a look at some recent customer service experiences and see what can be gleaned to increase your proportion of #1s. Click the company name to see the experience.

Florida Blue

There was a billing issue with my health insurance, so I reached out for a solution. 24 hours later (an eternity for Twitter), they suggested switching to e-mail. I did so, wherein their reply said they would follow up.

A week later with no response, I wrote back. Now they recommended a phone call, which, despite a long conversation and the agent saying it should work, I had no such luck.

Their conclusion: The problem is a problem. Work around it.

Rating: 3

Intuit

I submitted e-mail feedback for their Mint app on a basic improvement. Their reply came in 3 hours and appeared to be a real person. However, their response had nothing to do with my request, so either it was a bad “machine learning” auto-reply or someone who didn’t read.

Two more frustrating exchanges until they seemed to grasp my request, passing it along to their app development team.

Rating: 3

Comcast

They feel like a different company whether contacted by phone, in-person, or over Twitter. Also, every person gives a different story, sometimes blatantly lying about system issues or policies. Their Twitter team is the only one which tries to follow through to resolution. For my billing issue, they helped get it resolved…to an extent.

Rating: 2 (anytime they don’t burn down your house is a good support experience)

JetBlue

I had two separate issues for them to address. One was a delayed flight, and how it was handled. We eventually got to our destination, but with more frustration than needed. I e-mailed the tale, and they replied with an apology, explanation, and a travel voucher for future flights, no questions asked.

Another experience came during a flight, where their in-seat entertainment failed (for me and the row behind). A crew member had us all enter our information in a tablet to send out a voucher. It never arrived. I asked over Twitter a week later and was told it was on its way. Another week later, no luck. I wrote back, and they issued it manually within 10 minutes.

Their systems faltered, but the people were empowered to step up.

Rating: 1

BrightStar Credit Union

I’ve written about my credit union in the past. They’ve had challenges, and still have a ways to go. However, they are on an upward path. The app security issue? Fixed. Twitter replies arrive a bit sooner. Even phone hold times are 10 minutes or less (yes, that’s a dramatic improvement).

But it was with my recent vehicle loan refinance where they shined (Get it? Bright…star? “Yes, I’m a natural blue.” – Dory). The evening of my vehicle purchase, I completed their online forms. Two days later, I had a personal reply from my now-dedicated MSR. I shared all necessary paperwork, information, and signatures.

All questions and interactions were answered within a day. If not for waiting on the original lender, she would have had my refinance done in a few days.

Rating: 1

What can we learn from these experiences?

  • Florida Blue‘s problem was a lack of follow-up coupled with a technical glitch that no one knew existed (or how to fix).
  • Intuit either used a bad keyword checker to auto-generate replies or their support team has an inability to read the most basic requests.
  • Comcast…who knows. They have so many conflicting systems, departments, and people. It feels built to under-deliver. Don’t let your credit union get that complicated.
  • JetBlue has built their reputation on great service, and even when things go wrong, they are on top of it. I should also mention, that last interaction with them was on a Sunday evening.
  • BrightStar has come a long way. They’re still not my PFI for a few reasons, but I’m happy to have my auto loan with them. It was everything a member experience should be: Timely, personal, and clear. Oh, and they helped me get a great rate.

I read somewhere that all customer satisfaction surveys are meaningless if they don’t ask this one question: Would you recommend this product/service to your friends or family?

Well, what would your members say?

Image credit: http://media.idownloadblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/customer-satisfaction.jpg

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