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LOL, Emoji, Checking Promotion: Texting As Credit Union Member Engagement?

Originally published on CUInsight.com

How do you connect with members? Phone? E-mail? In-person? Carrier pigeon? Owl?

White Owl
This is not Hedwig.

Each have their drawbacks, especially the pigeons, since they’re extinct. Who answers their phone anymore, and we all get so much e-mail, standing out is challenging. Not every member visits your branches, and without a letter from Hogwarts, they wouldn’t even know about the owls!

Through my work with credit unions, the medium most favored tends to be e-mail. It’s cheap, relatively easy, and can reach a wide swath of the membership. There are pretty large downsides, though. Many people receive hundreds of messages a day, then there’s the spam. Getting noticed, read, and clicked is a major victory. Despite these challenges, e-mail still makes sense. Just not as the only thing. Here’s where we listen to your marketing team and diversify engagement.

Let Me Just Check This Alert

iMessage Logo
Image source: Wikimedia

What communication medium does nearly everyone read promptly, then act upon? Ding ding. You can go check that message…I’ll wait. Yes, text messages. Be they iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or good-old SMS (that’s the green bubble for iPhone readers), they get read. How can your credit union take advantage for member communication without “spamming”?

As you may know, there are some regulations governing phone number usage (TCPA). You can send a single service notification, but future messages require additional opt-in. There’s more to it, yet with that as a starting point, it sure doesn’t sound like a useful engagement strategy. Or is it? I know where I’m going…to get some opt-ins!

Why Text Members?

Let me back up for just a moment. Why bother texting members? Case studies found recipients of SMS reminders or calls to action acted at a much higher rate than those sent paper notices, phone calls, and e-mails. So if you want to spur members to action, there’s no more effective way than through text. But it has to be relevant. Otherwise, you’re the spam. How do we set the member expectation of hearing from their credit union?

  • Display your SMS number prominently in branches and online.
  • Encourage members in all interactions that if they, “Want more from their CU to add xxx-xxx-xxxx to their contacts!”
    • Are you more likely to read a message from a random phone number or one which has a contact name linked?
  • Place a widget on your website for members to opt-in their mobile number.
  • Upon mobile banking sign-in, ask if members have their phone number in their profile.
  • Provide a vCard download on website (mobile and desktop) so members can add the CU contact information in one click or tap.

If members:

  1. Recognize it’s their credit union
  2. Opt-in to receive specific messaging (which has a pre-defined maximum number of texts sent per week/month)
  3. Find value in the messaging,

then it can become a valuable outreach strategy.

Of course, this is only for non-secure marketing and service messages. If only there were some way to continue the conversation on that phone…

Two-Way Texting & More

Turns out, that marketing text isn’t the only thing you can do. A company called Shastic developed Elle, a two-way texting platform for credit unions. What does this enable? Well, for one, your member can answer that text. And your team can respond. It’s like a chat. In a text. Ok, it is a chat. This means your marketing out is now using the same channel as support in. With the ability to easily share documents and other information with your members. And you’re now a 24/7 operation beyond online banking.

Not all your members use that channel (though a huge portion do). And it’s about being ubiquitously available. So, keep your Twitter account active for answering public and DM (direct message) requests. Then, there’s the newest player on the block (for iOS users): Business Chat for iMessage. A few small companies are starting with it now…you know, like Wells Fargo. This platform already supports the exchange of money (ie. buying stuff) using your Apple Pay(or Apple Pay Cash) account (which, if you’re promoting, can absolutely be your cards!).

So with all these options, let’s get texting!

LinkedIn & the Real World

It all began with an update.

While checking on my LinkedIn presence, I noticed an important oversight. Though I’ve officially been President of cuZOOM, business cards and all, for a few years, I hadn’t included it in my profile. “No big deal,” I thought. “I’ll just get that added.” Title: President. Description: Blah, blah, blah. (I promise you we’re more interesting than that, but this isn’t a place for marketing.) How long? About 2 years.

“Congratulations!” “Congrats!” “congrats” These notifications greet me throughout the day on all my devices. What in the world? I don’t mind the recognition, but what have I done to deserve it? Besides being my general strapping self…yes, I know. Looking back, I saw the reason. Ignoring the time spent at company field, LinkedIn decided to notify all of my connections that I had a new position. Not only that, they encouraged each user to congratulate me. (Takes a bow. Thank you, thank you! No really, it’s too much. Thank you!)

These people are my connections, my dear connections. Didn’t they know I’ve been with cuZOOM for a while? Or is it such habit to follow the guidance of your social network? “Wish this friend a happy birthday”, “Congratulate your connection on their new job”, “Celebrate your buddy’s work anniversary with this $14.99 digital paperweight: Click here to buy”.

After a nice laugh, I clarified the situation on the post. Yet congratulations continued to arrive! It’s as if LinkedIn, in their infinite wisdom, exclaimed, “Keep the posts coming! You never know when you’ll hear from them again!”

It would be a simple update for LinkedIn to only show that notification when the date you started is within a certain threshold, say, 3 months. If I updated such that the post read, “Congratulate Joe Winn on his new position: Chief Ice Cream Taster, Ben & Jerry’s”, you know the response: “Congrats!” And I hardly ever eat ice cream! (though theirs is amazing)

So how well do we really know our connections? Can we even consider most acquaintances? People like people who are like them. People do business with people they like. How many of your LinkedIn connections (or any social media network) do you like?

Doing business online can become a faceless affair, far separated from the human element, even when we’re looking at a photo of them, right on the screen. Keep that in mind as you communicate with your staff, partners, or members. Details matter, big and small. In today’s fast-paced world of Twitter posts and status updates, those details can mean a loan, a loyal member, or even a friend.

Otherwise, you could be just another comment on this thread: “Congratulate your connection on their new position: CEO of Awesome at You’re Not Even Reading This!”

The Future, Less the Rocket Packs

Actually, it’s not the future until we all have hoverboards. It’s 2014, and I want my hoverboard! Tech industry: You have one more year.

Turns out, revolutionizing our methods of travel didn’t quite pan out, yet. We don’t fly in glass bubble ships a-la Jetsons, nor do we have the flying cars depicted in Fifth Element (Is he really the taxi driver you want? Only if you want to save the universe.)

What we do have is an incredible level of interconnectedness. Devices can communicate across the globe, each end remaining completely wireless. Voices and music can spring into our ears from a phone 30 feet away, and all we need is a small headset which lets the world know you are oblivious by its consistent blue flash. It seems like everything can talk to everything else, and my data is accessible where ever I need it.

This is only the beginning of what is called The Internet of Things.

Imagine waking up one day to a slight vibration from your wrist-mounted activity monitor (which, of course, analyzed your sleep patterns to wake you at the best possible time). Upon noting you are up and moving, the monitor notifies your home lighting to illuminate a path to the bathroom. While there, you weigh yourself (lost a pound, yeah!), which is automatically uploaded into your daily nutrition log. By the time you get to the kitchen, your toaster has already pre-heated for the waffle it’s anticipating you will have (since your nutrition profile today has accounted for your improved weight/BMI). Fast-forward to leaving for work, and as you drive out of the garage, you realize you forgot to switch off the lights, adjust the A/C, and even set the alarm. Is the fan still on? No worries, your phone detects it has left the house, and as the garage doors close, the lighting shuts off, A/C switches to an energy-efficient schedule, alarm arms itself, and fans shut down. Not knowing this, you quickly say, “Hey, Siri, is my home secured?” “Your home is set for away mode. All accessories have been switched to your pre-set schedule. Don’t worry!” “Thanks, Siri, now play my favorite music playlist.”

Sounds like a wild future, right? Except you can do all of that right now, with products available on store shelves (or at least online).

Companies are aiming to become the master of your domain, literally. At Google’s recent developer conference, they announced a home automation platform upon which products and software can be developed so that everything talks to each other. Same ideas in mind, last month, Apple announced HomeKit, a platform designed, in their words, to be, “a new framework for communicating with and controlling connected devices in a user’s home.”

This is the type of future your members will expect. Where everything communicates with everything else, and not just swaps data, but can provide valuable information from this interaction. Your member has just changed their mailing address and, one month later, their last name. The CU system “of the future” then automatically notifies you that they are likely just married (or divorced). Can you see how having that information brought to light might help your efforts? And for your members, a banking platform that can detect they have been visiting car dealerships lately, and sends a notice asking if they would like to get pre-approved for a loan.

The Internet of Things is in its infancy, and these situations are likely only the tip of an iceberg capable of changing our lives as much as introducing the personal computer or the Internet.

How is your credit union planning for a connected future?

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