3 P’s to reclaiming member service superiority

By now many of you have probably read the alarming results of consumer satisfaction in financial services in today’s environment. For the rest of you, you may want to sit down before reading further.

The highly respected annual survey published by the University of Michigan, the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (www.theacsi.org),  compares satisfaction scores across all industries, including financial services. Within the “Financial Services” category, it further breaks down results into banks, community banks, and credit unions.

The 2019 report showed that, for the first time EVER, credit unions ranked below banks in consumer satisfaction. Bank score = 80; credit union score = 79. While one point isn’t that big of a deal, this point is a huge deal: the credit union score has been steadily declining the previous five years in relation to banks. After a +9 point margin in 2014, the credit union advantage has dwindled to +5, +2, +1, and +0 since.

Further, a deeper dig into the results shows that credit union scores dropped further in almost every service category compared to banks, including loyalty-building categories like “ease of opening accounts” and “problem resolution”.

While these eye-popping findings shouldn’t lead to panic, and it certainly isn’t the case at every credit union, they should get every CEO laser-focused on taking immediate action in 2020 to move the needle back in the positive direction. Here are three general and critical areas to center your attention:

People

In previous articles, we’ve presented numerous ideas about improving the culture for your employees and optimizing their engagement. In addition, we’ve shared ideas for enhancing the member experience and making that experience a positive differentiator. Whatever excuse you’ve had in the past for not acting on those ideas needs to go away … stop delaying and start changing.

Everything should pivot off of people – employees and members! Strategic plans, tactical initiatives, budget allocation decisions, and goal setting all need to be people-focused. Challenge yourself with the question, “What else do we need to do to completely maximize our employee and member experiences?

Regarding staff, do the following:

  • Stop making excuses for underperforming employees, including long-tenured ones. If they’re in the wrong roles, get them into the right ones
  • Establish clearly defined expectations for performance and hold everyone accountable to adhering to them – stop over-paying for under-performance
  • Provide as much investment in development as possible – making sure it’s development that will make employees better contributors to your culture

For members, do the following:

  • Mine your data and find out as much about your members as possible, especially how they like to do business with you – there’s gold in that data if you dig for it
  • Keep your finger on the pulse of member performance and behavior, especially the most valuable ones. Gather their feedback and suggestions at every touchpoint and act on the results
  • Reach out to members on a consistent basis with a genuine, sincere “thanks!” How often do you hear thanks from a retail business? It sure makes a big difference when you do

Place

As a consumer it’s impossible to not notice how retail environments have changed over the past 10-20 years. Look at your local Macy’s store today and contrast its layout from 2000. Compare a Tesla showroom today to a Ford dealership in the past. Think about a Nike store compared to a sporting goods store 20 years ago. Most restaurants and hotels have changed dramatically during this time, especially those in the popular mid-price range.

In each example, the physical store changed but so did the people, feel, and image. It’s not just about colors or furniture or wallpaper; it’s about the experiences created by the physical environment. The way retail establishments have changed recently is the same way credit unions need to change today. Modify the physical environment however necessary to create the type of new, fresh experience today’s consumers expect.

Specifically, look at:

  • Branches – does your environment look like 2020 or 1920? There are a lot of efficiencies that can be gained from a refresh in addition to creating a more memorable experience
  • Call center – most people think calling a business is a negative experience – long wait times, employees who are hard to communicate with, being transferred, never ending recordings – stand out for the right reasons by making your contact center a pleasant experience for all callers
  • Website – it doesn’t have to be flashy, but it shouldn’t be text-on-screen, either. In many cases, your website is the first impression a consumer has of your company; what message is it sending about your brand and what expectation is it setting for their experience with you?
  • Online & Mobile – while relatively new tools in our industry, it’s amazing how many of them look so old. If you’re going to drive members to e- and mobile-channels, make sure they feel modern and deliver a positive experience or they will actually turn consumers away

Process

This component is all about being fast, easy, and efficient. In some cases, technology will make up much of the solution; but, in most cases, simple re-engineering will suffice. Look at every process in your credit union and put it through a detox program. Immediately supplant the “we’ve always done it this way” mentality with a high spirited “let’s find the best way!” attitude.

In the past we’ve been able to expect the member (and potential member) to do business with us on our terms. For the most part, they remained loyal – sure, they complained a bit, but they generally stuck it out with us, in spite of some hiccups. However, those days are over … tomorrow’s consumer will not be complacent. They’ll simply say, “Goodbye.” How many current and prospective members can you afford to say goodbye?

Here are some ways to get them to say, “Hello”:

  • Number of steps – don’t overcomplicate what should be a simple transaction (i.e., opening a new account, getting a simple loan); if it currently takes 20 steps to do a transaction, try to do it in 10 or 5 – and free up time to do more with each member interaction
  • Consistency – provide an equally positive experience across all delivery channels – don’t let a member have one experience at branch A and a different one at branch B; today’s consumer expects a consistently positive experience regardless of how and where they interact with you
  • Language – we live in an industry full of acronyms and jargon, but the consumer doesn’t care. They want to clearly understand what we’re telling them and expect of them; so simplify your language and shorten your documents to minimize concerns they may have

There’s a lot more depth to the 3 P’s but these suggestions can get your team started on the path to reclaiming that top spot in member satisfaction. Remember, if you don’t take care of your members and create the best experience possible, someone else will (and, apparently, the banks have been!).

Let us know what you think about the ACSI results and how your credit union is responding – we’d love to hear what’s working and not working to best serve your members and claiming the top satisfaction spot in your market. We can be reached at https://fi-strategies.com/contact-us/.

Paul Robert

Paul Robert

Paul Robert has been helping financial institutions drive their retail growth strategies for over 20 years. Paul is the Chief Executive Officer for FI Strategies, LLC, a private consulting company ... Web: fi-strategies.com Details

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