Human connection: The missing link in member experience

How do you increase member engagement?

That’s a popular question these days.  Credit unions typically answer with some combination of marketing, technology, products and customer service.  Yes, all of these are extremely important.  However, amid today’s thirst for technology and tools, I’m urging you to also employ the power of one-on-one, human connection.

Harnessing human connection is important, potentially even game changing.  Call me old-fashioned (I prefer “old school”), but it’s a fact that humans are born wired for connection.  It’s in our DNA.

GreenPath Financial Wellness learned this lesson a few years ago as we embraced human-centered design, empathetic communication and behavioral science.  We set forth to truly understand our customers and their needs, and committed to putting people at the center of everything we did.  We studied why our customers make (and don’t make) specific financial decisions.  We started asking them new types of questions to understand how they feel and what motivates them.  When people in debt reach out to us for assistance, we became intentional about letting them know it’s not their fault, they’re not alone and it’s going to be OK.

This people-centered focus led to eliminating the need for appointments — our one-on-one coaching and counseling is now available on demand.  We now spend less time gathering data and more time talking to people about their goals and financial options. We made it easier to interact with our experts online.  We built digital communities where our customers engage with each other and GreenPath staff.  We even hired a full-time behavioral scientist and an empathy coach.

This human-centered approach has made a powerful impact on our business.  We’re serving record numbers of people, and our customer retention is at an all-time high.

I’m not suggesting that you hire behavior and empathy experts.  However, I am urging you to consider strengthening the human connection with your members.  Explore how your credit union can make a bigger impact on the lives of your members.

Here are four ideas to consider:

  1. Incorporate empathy into your member communication. Show members that you’re truly listening to them and understanding them (their values, emotions, needs, etc.).  Science tells us that demonstrating empathy connects with the right side of the brain to build trust.  This enables you to learn what matters most to your members, what keeps them up at night and what drives their decisions.  And it lets them know you truly value them.
  2. Learn why members predictably behave irrationally — and how you can influence their decision making.  Duke University’s Center for Advanced Hindsight is a great place to start.  Visit the Resources page on their website ( to access free behavioral science resources like an app, online courses, flashcards and other tools.
  3. Look into human-centered design and what it can do for your credit union.  Check out Luma Institute ( to access helpful tools and learn how human-centered design can help your credit union better innovate to meet the needs of your members.  GreenPath also offers human-centered design consulting and design sprints.
  4. Find ways to bridge technology with people.  A new industry, fin-tech, has emerged by combining technology and human-centered design to better meet the needs of people.  Technology is useful, but it can’t replace member-focused communication.  You must understand your members’ dreams, challenges and preferences to ensure that your products and services meet their needs, inspire loyalty and create an engaging member experience.


I challenge you to find new ways of connecting with your members.  Reimagine your member experience.  Through the power of human connection, make “people helping people” come alive to drive your credit union’s success!

Since 1961, GreenPath Financial Wellness has worked to improve the financial wellness of credit union members.  Non-profit GreenPath partners with more than 500 credit unions, and is recognized as a financial health leader by the Center for Financial Services Innovation.

Rick Bialobrzeski

Rick Bialobrzeski

Rick is Executive Vice President at GreenPath Financial Wellness, where he has worked since 1996. More than 500 credit unions are partners in GreenPath’s effort to “remix the American ... Web: Details

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