Going beyond the “minimum required” in member communications

Credit unions face regulatory compliance standards that have been developed to improve both the security of member accounts as well as to ensure the clarity and transparency of financial transactions. These mandates can include things like an explanation of interest rates, contract liabilities for the credit union and the member, and if your organization collects customer information online, what you do with that data. Much of this is known as the “fine print” on your application forms, statements, electronic correspondence and even marketing materials. And the specific content may be different from one legal jurisdiction to another, or can change with new governmental rulings. While compliance sets the bar for the minimum required within a customer communication, many organizations take that as a maximum.  A forward-thinking credit union will raise the bar.

While compliance is designed to protect credit unions and your members, it’s often presented on a customer communication as convoluted “legalese” that can confuse recipients or even arouse suspicions about what you might be up to. Worse, as the number of regulatory requirements increases, compliance takes up more space in customer communications without helping to build the personal relationship that consumers expect from their credit union, a main reason they chose a credit union over a bank in the first place. We must keep in mind that member communications serves this higher purpose.

Building a communications vehicle

Take a step back and look at your customer communications from a strategic perspective. Instead of designing your forms and documents first to accommodate the compliance material, look at that language as a secondary—though necessary—element of your communications pieces. Think of your communication vehicles as a structure, with the mandatory language as a foundation that you can build upon with specific, personalized information about a member’s account, answers to their questions and requested product information.

Customer Communications Management (CCM) software is available today that allows you to develop a centralized communications portfolio that includes the various compliance pieces you need, but also provides the flexibility to personalize your outreach to members.

For example, a customer service representative (CSR) in your call center might get a call from a member for information about an auto loan.  The CSR may respond to the member by utilizing an automated system that supplies the necessary regulatory language relevant to that specific member’s account, but also has the ability to customize the response by creating an electronic or printed document that mentions the model of the member’s car or by referencing something that was said in the personal interaction: “Congratulations! Your team made the playoffs.”

Accuracy, relevance

Similarly, monthly statements can be constructed that include all necessary compliance language—even last minute changes. For instance, if a new regulation is implemented in Michigan or Utah, the credit union need enter the new language only once in a centralized database and all the outgoing communications to members in those states will be updated automatically. As with transactional correspondence, statements can be designed to allow for personalized messages that reflect members’ tastes and interests.

Critical documents like applications for loans, credit cards or mortgages are important entry points into a CCM system. Ideally, this data should be entered only once, archived in a central location and then be accessible for all later communications. This avoids wasting the time it takes for every department to rekey data and eliminates potential errors. And in a credit union environment, every chance to save money without comprising the member relationship counts.

With the proliferation of communications devices, the media channel you use to deliver your message can be as important to members as the message itself. Many will request traditional printed-and-mailed documents, while others prefer mobile options delivered via email, text, Facebook or Twitter. Again, the preferences ideally will be noted in your CCM system and deployed automatically for individual members.

Inside or outside the house

A CCM system that automatically includes accurate, relevant compliance language reduces the risk that your organization isn’t complying with required regulations and relieves your staff the burden of remembering to collect all that must be included in a letter or note they send to a particular member. It can also speed response times to further improve service.

Credit unions that employ outside vendors, such as printer service providers (PSP), rather than investing in an in-house document production facility, can still maintain control over the content, creation and archiving of their customer communications while the PSP handles production and delivery via print or mobile channels.

Finally, it should be said that few of your members likely will care about the compliance information as much as the other content you send—their statements, correspondence, promotional materials, etc. While we all must comply with the laws, the real job of customer communication is providing service to satisfy members’ needs and to build long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships.

Steve Francis

Steve Francis

Steve Francis is president and general manager of North America for GMC Software Technology, the leader in Customer Communications Management (CCM) solutions. A former executive at IBM and Ricoh, Mr. ... Web: www.gmc.net/en/home Details