From the teller line to the boardroom, credit unions talk about forming relationships with their members. Not only long lasting ones, but meaningful ones that will stand the test of time, through highs and lows of life, financial and otherwise. And in return, credit unions hope that those members will reciprocate and stand by them through the thick and thin. In other words, they’re looking for a marriage.
The book “Married to the Brand” by William J McEwen explains why consumers bond for life with some brands and how we can look at the relationships we build as marriages. From first dates to being happily ever after, there are many stages credit unions can relate to.
Credit unions may be able to attract new members with low loan rates and checking rewards, but from there a stronger connection needs to be formed. And like a first date, first impressions can mean everything. More than likely, if a member doesn’t get the experience they are hoping for, they aren’t going to be interested in a second date.
As with all relationships, things are constantly changing and every interaction with a member provides an opportunity to strengthen, weaken or even create new relationships. For example, a survey detailed in a Filene Research Institute paper written by Laura Brooks, PhD and Michelle Bloedorn titled “Exploring Ongoing Member Loyalty: Net Promoter in Credit Unions”, found that “members who are more likely to refer the credit union to colleagues and friends are also more likely to hold more accounts, stay with the credit union longer, and be more profitable.” By forming long term lasting relationships with their members, the credit union stands to be more profitable in the end. Not solely from that member, but from the members that person refers.
While there is no silver bullet to building member loyalty, it’s clear who defines a brand experience: the people. To paraphrase McEwen, ‘few possess the ability to forge lasting relationships with customers and those who are able should be assigned to the most critical customer-facing roles. Frequently, jobs like cashier, teller or doorman are viewed as “warm-body” roles, but to many consumers, entry level employees are the company.’
As for the credit union industry, we need to ensure that our front line staff remains engaged, knowledgeable and aware that they are relationship builders. While many credit unions are already doing a good job of this, it’s important to ask yourself: what are we doing to make our members want to marry our credit union?
Rhea Hogden is a teller at Co-op Credit Union, Black River Falls, WI. Contact info: 715-284-5333 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cooperative Trust is a grassroots group of young people working in credit unions and cooperatives. Founded in 2010, they connect and enable those fighting for the future of socially-responsible finance. For more info, or to join, visit them at trust.coop