Ask a credit union’s leadership or staff what truly sets them apart from a bank and they’ll almost always drop the S word: Service. Go a step further by asking them how their service delivery makes them different and you’ll probably hear lines like, “People are more than just a number here,” or “We truly care about seeing our members succeed.”
But you know what? I would wager that bank employees would say similar things.
While it’s true that banks answer to their stockholders, they also know that being profitable requires having customers to serve, and you don’t maintain a customer base by being heinous. Just like with credit unions, their employees care about the financial well-being of their customers and, because they’ve entered the service industry, are likely motivated by helping others. Sure, banks may charge more fees and higher interest rates than credit unions, but the intent to deliver a positive service experience is still there. This means having employees who are nice and helpful is no longer a novelty, or perhaps it never was.
You may have heard of, or worked with, an executive coach, health coach, or life coach. Financial coaches exist, too! They work with clients one-on-one to educate them on the basics of finance and develop a plan that reflects their values and aspirations. The coaching relationship includes elements of support, behavioral change, and accountability. While sending your entire frontline staff through a certification program might not be an option, there are elements of coaching that can easily be incorporated into member interactions, and doing so is a great way to create a culture that stands out from both the financial industry and others. Here are 3 easy ways you can blend coaching strategies with member service:
1.) Believe in the member you’re serving. Members can tell when someone is in their corner, and are more likely to open up to employees who convey this. Encourage your staff to set aside judgments during service interactions and begin the member relationship by truly believing the person in front of them has the capability to succeed financially. When someone is approved for a product or service, that’s a victory worth celebrating; when they’re not, frame the answer as “not yet” instead of “no way.”
2.) Get curious. It’s difficult to act in the best interest of the member without knowing much about them. Go beyond the standard application questions of “what’s your annual income?” and “how long have you lived at your current address?” to get a fuller picture of your membership’s financial goals. This will help both the employee and the member get clearer about what products and services might be a good match, and because the member has done a little bit of introspection in the process, they’ll be more receptive to those recommendations. Some questions to work in might include:
- What does financial success look like for you?
- What challenges are you currently facing with your money?
- What financial goals are you trying to achieve?
3.) Take notes and follow up. While building a relationship of accountability can’t happen at the credit union level like it can at the individual coaching level, employees can take notes on the questions they ask members and follow up at a later date. Doing so communicates the credit union values the members’ financial goals just as much as they do. For example, if a member tells a Member Service Representative that financial success looks like home ownership within the next year, the MSR could send an email 6 months later to ask how that goal is progressing and if the member is interested in learning more about mortgages at the credit union to help make it happen.
In the red ocean that is the financial services industry, it’s more important than ever that credit unions find a way to differentiate and deliver an experience like no other. Supporting members with a marriage of exceptional service and coaching techniques will help them feel empowered and confident with their money, and encourage them to bring their friends, family, and neighbors, too.