Care enough to ensure extraordinary service (part 1)

We all know that credit unions pride themselves on extraordinary service. But what does that mean exactly?  James C. Penney said it very well: ”It is the service we are not obliged to give…” In other words, it is the service our members don’t expect from us.  For example, members expect their transactions to be completed accurately; they expect their transactions to be completed in a timely manner; they expect employees to smile at them and call them by name; etc. – even though they may not get what they expect every time. However, what they don’t expect (exceeding their expectations and “wowing” them) is what turns good service into extraordinary service. 

Many of us have had the pleasure to experience the amazing customer service that the Ritz Carlton provides their guests on a daily basis. The employees are empowered exceed the guests expectations particularly when a guest has been inconvenienced or has expressed dissatisfaction in their service experience.  The objective of extraordinary service is to have the member talking about how you resolved their issue or concern – not the issue or concern – when they leave.

Nordstrom is another dynamic organization that provides amazing service to their consumers on a daily basis. You could bring in a used tire with barely a tread and they would apologize profusely taking it off your hands while offering you a latte. Warehouse retailer Costco is no different, as they will take back just about anything – even if it’s a pair of faded, bedazzled bellbottom jeans from 1978 and probably trade you a 20-gallon drum of peanut butter pretzels to boot.

So where do credit unions fit in? We talk a good game, but do we really play a good game in member service? For most part, yes. But there are always a few that fall through the cracks.

Most financial institutions offer the same products and services, so successful credit unions must find a way to differentiate themselves through the “member experience” from the initial point of contact providing extraordinary services.  Examples of extraordinary service that a member may not expect are:

  • Responding to every request with, “Absolutely, let me see what I can do for you.”  This statement sets the tone for a positive experience and gets the employee focused on what they “can do” (not what they can’t do) for the member
  • Avoid using the word “No” or “Can’t” in conversations with members
  • Focus on what you CAN do for the member
  • Sitting next to the member and reviewing their credit report to show them what is impacting their credit score negatively and what they can do to raise their credit score so they can get better rates and offers on future loans
  • Identifying solutions that will increase the member’s credit score; lower their monthly out pay by refinancing loans from other financial institutions; and helping them eliminate high-interest rate credit cards
  • Not just simply responding to the member’s request, but asking the right questions to offer the right solutions for the member

Here are some additional reminders – some small, some significant – to keep your service extraordinary that ensure a positive word-of-mouth experience:

  • Care enough to greet your members
  • Care enough to answer the phone within three rings
  • Care enough to respond to emails within a few minutes/hours (depending on the urgency)
  • Care enough to smile at your coworkers even when you don’t feel good
  • Care enough to look for ways to make things happen instead of looking for reasons to NOT to
  • Care enough to follow through and follow up with every coworker every time
  • Care enough to embrace change
  • Care enough to be a CHAMPION of change … in fact, lead it!
  • Care enough to step up to implement positive changes

Additionally, always ask “engaging” questions to let your coworkers know you are engaged to help and support them.

What are you doing at your credit union to ensure extraordinary service?

And stay tuned for Part 2 of “Extraordinary Service” next month.


Celeste Cook

Celeste Cook

Celeste Cook is founder and President/CEO of cuStrategies, LLC, which provides strategic planning services, consulting services, and training programs to the credit union industry. She is also a keynote ... Web: Details

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