A generational guide to communicating with members

The words you choose when communicating to others can make your job easier or more difficult – especially if you’re an MSR in the complex, multi-faceted credit union industry. Talking to strangers about personal matters like saving and financial planning requires some ability to empathize, relate and voice concern. Understanding the mindset of each member and knowing how to elicit a positive response helps lower the risk of objections or confrontations while making financial service and sales more efficient, effective and enjoyable.

One of an MSR’s responsibilities is to communicate not only with a wide range of personality types but also with a wide range of ages. And different generations often have different needs, expectations and motivations. Do you know what they are and how to meet them?

Keep in mind that we’re discussing general trends, not the specific traits of every person falling into these generational categories.


Those born between 1922 and 1943 are often considered members of this generation. However, the biggest mistake you can make is painting everyone in this group with the same broad brush! Some members from this generation may be quite technically savvy, while others may seem stymied by hi-tech jargon. Typically, Veterans are practical and value dedication, sacrifice, patience and rules. Take a respectful, helpful approach. Be receptive and responsive to their views, ideas and suggestions.

Most Veterans are cautious about how they spend their money; many are on fixed incomes. Appreciate it if they seem skeptical. They may need reassurance even when purchasing low-risk products. Help allay their concerns by taking a personal interest in their situations. While there are always exceptions, most Veterans are probably looking to make smart, but safe, moves that will benefit not only themselves but their heirs.

Baby Boomers

Generally between 51 and 69, these members tend to have a vision of how things should be done, so they might seem controlling or demanding when you speak to them; they are the “show me” generation. Speak to them in an open, direct style, but do not dictate to them. Answer questions thoroughly and expect to be pressed for details. This group typically values personal financial growth and, unlike most Veterans, they are usually willing to take some risks.

Boomers can be confident and exuberant. Let them vent, then explain the facts in an even tone that conveys your empathy but also underlines your own self-confidence; they should respect that. Make suggestions and act as a resource; give them options. They resist command and control. Boomers are often more interested in the cold, bottom-line facts than your personal advice.

Generation Xers

Generally between 34 and 50, many feel they still have some time to plan their future and are typically interested in doing so; but, they’re also old enough to have developed a strong sense of skepticism and distrust of formal planning and institutions. They may be a tough sell! When conversing with them, state your points clearly and succinctly. Avoid vague generalizations that don’t address their specific situations. Speak in an upbeat manner, and use an informal communication style.

Give these independent, creative members some direction, and then give them the space to draw their own conclusions. Often, the more assertive you are with a Generation Xer, the more they’ll dislike working with you. Provide the data, then ask for their feedback, and listen between the lines to their responses.

Gen Y and Z

Still quite young, they might feel no real need to invest their money. Share your information with them if they’re already a member and need answers about financial products. Because they likely have few facts on which to base decisions, they may be more receptive than Xers, Boomers or Veterans to your general advice and ideas. Remember, many are still discovering their own needs and preferences; present yourself as an authority figure, but don’t talk down to them. Encourage them to take some risks.

Successful MSRs learn how to read people. With some experience and a little insight into your own personality you’ll be able to communicate with almost anyone. If you want to do this more quickly, consider taking a behavioral assessment, as they help you gain a clearer understanding of why you relate (or don’t) to members and coworkers. These business tools are readily available and may be exactly what you need to deal more effectively with a wide range of people.

As an MSR you provide information, solve problems, cross-sell products, offer advice, correct inaccuracies and smooth-over ruffled feathers – all before lunch! Your words have a direct impact on members. Learn to size up personalities, adapt your own communication style and make each member feel they are the only one who matters to you! Doing so will boost your own confidence and make you more successful. It will also set you apart from ordinary MSRs and brand you as an extraordinary one!

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group.  She offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, weaknesses ... Web: www.omniagroup.com Details

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