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How a crying baby can help you serve your members

Originally published on CUInsight.com

A few weeks ago, old friends were kind enough to host me for a short vacation. The deal was that I help entertain their kids (1 and 3). In the words of my friend, “every kid should have an Uncle Joe”. (While I was explaining the physics of rocketry to a 3 year old). As you would expect, the younger one had a few upset moments. What was the problem? Sometimes, it’s obvious: he bumped his head or wants something just out of reach. For a few days, he also felt a little under the weather. I’d be cranky too. Other times, the issue was a complete mystery. “What is it?” Since his vocabulary is roughly on par with the use of “bigly” as an actual word, clarification is a challenge.

In a way, he is just like your members. Though they probably have a better vocabulary. When your members have a problem, their frustration is not always expressed as a direct reaction to the issue. Maybe they are angry about a new fee on their account. Or that it always seems to take a while to get a support response. “This credit union is simply the worst.”

The member who was angry about a fee may actually be upset that your communication of how to avoid fees was insufficient. Or maybe they just learned about an account available with far more benefits at the same price they end up paying after fees. Yet no one told them.

Instead of giving negative reviews about long hold times, perhaps that member found it annoying they couldn’t get their questions answered or tasks achieved through the mobile app.

What people complain about is rarely the real issue. 

Sure, we could delay my nephew’s whimpering with a different book, toy, or snack, but it was only temporary. If we didn’t solve the primary issue, he would struggle against us again. And it progressively gets more intense. Just like your members. Imagine being caught up in a cycle of unfulfilled customer service. As the little problems pile up, you get more frustrated, until you’re throwing toy trucks around the house because NOTHING IS GOING RIGHT!

Let’s work together to keep them from throwing their stuffed animals in your face.  You know, your nephews…obviously.

Image credit: My friend (Nephew while watching a SpaceX Falcon 9 landing. Yeah, he’s a rocket scientist in training.)

Millenials, Kids, and Those “Old” People (Part 3)

To get the full experience, please read the first two parts of this series on credit union technology offerings. We began with Are You A Dumb Pipe? and migrated to Want Tomorrow’s Tech? Team Up! Each serves as a standalone story, but together, you’ll learn much more.

Technology. For me, it’s a realm of excitement, progress, and new settings (I get far too excited fiddling with options…uncontrollably so if there are physical switches). Others may cringe upon hearing the word. “Oh no, something else to learn. Just as I was getting used to the current system.”

How you feel trends with your age. Younger people are more encouraged by “new”, while older generations prefer “consistent, stable, predictable.” Of course there are the exceptions, the little old lady (from Pasadena) using every piece of technology with seamless understanding, the 20-something who avoids smartphones like the plague. However, in general, younger means “high tech.” A survey from 2014 found Millenials/Gen Y were the largest segment of smartphone users, while Baby Boomer and older individuals (as a group) shied away. Adoption is growing in all age ranges, but that may be a result of device availability (find me a quality non-smartphone) and late-adopters (“I guess it’s worth a try”) rather than desire.

Young people use new stuff. Old people prefer old stuff. Might you be thinking, “Where’s the credit union connection? And who are you calling old?”

There’s more. Millenials are fine and dandy, but guess what? A new generation is upon you. Fresh out of, well, middle school, the eldest of Generation Z, the Digital Generation, or even iGeneration (they’re so new to planning we haven’t even settled on a ridiculous name for them yet), are planting their flag in the world. Kids born in the late 90s and early 2000s are now old enough to drive, vote, and make their own financial decisions. I’m sure they’re just like the Millenials. Only they aren’t.

While Millenials/Gen Yers (like myself) grew up with amazing technology, we knew a world without it. I twirled the springy phone cord while talking to middle school friends, had a computer which never went online, and made my own mix tapes. Members of Gen Z never knew a world without the Web, with the younger side seeing iPhones, wifi, and Amazon as eternal constants. Think Millenials are quick to adopt new technologies? This crowd jumps to the latest thing before you even knew it existed! Example: SnapChat. 69% of US teens use it, with 61% opening the app every day (for an average of 40 minutes…that’s longer than Instagram!).

I enjoy learning about our youngest generation through, where else? YouTube. One applicable video series is called Kids React (besides making anyone feel old, it’s also a lot of fun). The producers place staples of the “past” in the hands of kids aged 5-14. Then they film what happens. Take this one about a rotary phone. Notice what is intuitive to them…and it isn’t dialing, nor is it picking up the handset first. How we do things, minor and major alike, have changed greatly in a short span of time. Yet some of those kids enjoy the old-school experience. Given the opportunity, they’re happy transitioning from old to new, and to the next thing, with nary a blink. Imagine yourself going from rotary to an iPhone; would it be as painless as their understanding?

With immediate comfort in a new system, they’re eager to grab the newest and best available. Let me offer a translation: Not sticking with your credit union if the tech cannot keep up.

How can your credit union plan for a future of engaging these types of people without scaring off your lifetime loyalists? By doing what you’re best at: Serving your members no matter how they want to engage!

The previous part of this series discussed a number of services built as add-ons to your core capabilities. They never replaced the traditional approach. In fact, you can support Apple Pay, offer the Ctrl card security app, provide PopMoney…and a member can choose to use none. Maybe they’re uncomfortable with the new technologies, or just want a human touch. They can walk into a branch every week, talk to a helpful member service representative, and manage their deposits or  withdrawals on paper. Good thing 54% of Millenials also like having in-person conversations when they need banking help. And those Gen Zers? This line struck me from a study on their preferences: “Millennials and Gen X look at social media as a way to connect with friends. iGen sees social media as a way to receive information.” So maybe you won’t see them, but you’ll see their posts and tweets. Since you’re already embracing social media as a member-engagement platform, this should be easy to handle…right?

At the end of the day, people are people, no matter their age. They crave community. So the medium and strategy changed…and? You’re a credit union: Where else can someone gain honest interaction with others and inclusion in a cause they are proud to share?

Technology will evolve. Preferences will change. Will you become A Dumb Pipe, going it solo instead of Teaming Up for Tomorrow’s Tech, and lose out on the future generations? Or, will your credit union build upon the best of what’s available, while preserving the spirit of what spurred your formation so many years ago?

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress/8433147083/sizes/o/in/photostream/

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