Well, here we are another year older and (hopefully!) another year wiser. Everyone is preparing to tackle 2020 with growth goals, projections and new ideas, but I want to take a quick minute and challenge you with a back-to-the-basics question.
Is it easy for members to do business with you?
I ask this question incessantly to our clients. And if you’ve ever heard me speak at a conference, it’s often a discussion topic. I’m not questioning if you offer products and services that members want. I’m asking…is it EASY for members to do business with you?
In this age of emerging technology that allows members to directly access and manage their accounts, are we losing sight of basic member service?
I often evaluate my own company. We strive to make it easy for credit unions to do business with us. We don’t have a contract. We don’t require a retainer. Credit unions work with us in a way that is (hopefully) easy for them. I never wanted a client to be contractually obligated to do business with me. In 18+ years, I’ve never had a contract with any credit union. Because it’s easy for them. We don’t require a retainer. Credit unions use us as they need us. They could have several projects this month, and we won’t hear from them for three months. That’s fine, because it’s easy for them. We’re flexible with meetings and presentations. I’ve worked with credit unions after regular business hours, on Saturdays, on federal holidays, and I’ve facilitated a Sunday afternoon planning session. Because it was easy for them.
So, here are a few questions to determine if it’s easy for members to do business with your credit union.
- Do you call people back in a timely manner?
We moved our office last summer, and we got a new phone/internet provider. After a few bills, I realized I was paying $3.99 per month for a paper bill. I called to ask about paperless billing. I enrolled and was told I would get a monthly email with my invoice. First month, no email and no invoice, but I did get a late charge. I paid the bill, called them, and they were kind enough to waive the late charge. I explained that I never got the email, and he said he would look into it and have someone call me back in the next day or two. No one called. The next month, I proactively logged in to my account and paid my bill. Still didn’t get the email. So I called a second time, explained the situation, and I was promised that they would look into it and call me back. No one called. The third month……you guessed it. No email. I called a third time. And again, I was told they would research it and get back to me. Again, no call. In the fourth month, I realized I didn’t get an email. I called. For the FOURTH time. I shared my story about never getting the email with the monthly invoice. Jeannette was very sympathetic to my situation, apologized profusely, assured me that she personally would look into this and call me back with a resolution. When I asked for her extension, I was told she couldn’t give that to me. But she assured me that she would indeed call me back. Annnnnnnnnnd…….she never called. That’s FOUR people from one company that all said they would resolve my issue and call me back, and not one single person did. To this day (early January 2020) I have never gotten an email with the invoice, and I have never gotten a phone call from anyone.
I wonder how many members are waiting for a call back from someone at their credit union.
- Is your staff cross-trained?
I belong to a health club, and once a year they allow you to freeze your membership if you won’t be using the facility. Before the holidays, as I have in the past, I stopped in to freeze my membership. I had to complete the proverbial “Membership Freeze Form” in person. I knew from past experience that you could not do this by phone or email – you had to physically visit the facility to sign the magical “Membership Freeze Form.” So, I stopped in. And the one, single, particular, individual, solitary person in the WHOLE ENTIRE organization that could present this form to me for signature……was……at lunch. Using my best powers of persuasion, I tried to get the front desk staff to help me. I was unsuccessful. I asked if a manager was available? Nope – she, too, was at lunch. The result? I had to leave and return later. This form is literally a sheet of paper where they write the dates, and I sign it. But apparently, of the 12 or so people I actually saw on my first visit, not one of them was able (or empowered) to hand me that piece of paper and write in the dates.
I wonder how many members are waiting for a simple solution from someone at their credit union.
- Are you available when it’s convenient for members?
Years ago, I lived in southern California for a year. What always amazed me was that the salons were open on Sundays. And they were packed. Full of customers who would rather get a cut and color and mani/pedi on a Sunday afternoon. I remember talking to the owner one day and she said Sunday was their busiest day of the week, even with shorter hours. We work with a few credit unions that could benefit from some unconventional hours. We actually have a client that isn’t open on Saturday. Their one location is on the main street through town but closed on Saturday. Every year, I try to get the CEO to consider Saturday hours. Haven’t been successful, but I persist.
I wonder how much loan activity would take place on a Saturday if they were open.
- Do your products and services meet your member needs?
We worked with a credit union in need of deposits. But their minimum deposit for a Share Certificate was $1,000. We suggested reducing that to $250. Then we tiered their Certificate rates based on terms and balances. They saw an immediate increase in deposits, because the products were now more manageable for the member. It wasn’t millions of dollars, but we definitely saw an uptick in Certificate activity.
I wonder how many members started saving regularly because the minimum deposit for a Share Certificate was more affordable to them.
- Does your location deter member usage?
My best friend belongs to several credit unions. When I was writing this article, I asked if she had any thoughts. She mentioned that her credit union had a walk-up ATM, but for a long time, the parking lot lights were out, and it was very dark. So dark, in fact, that she refused to use the ATM after dusk for safety reasons. On two separate occasions, she told the Tellers about the “after hours” lighting issue outside, and they acknowledged it, but apparently, it took several months to resolve. It may not seem like a big deal, but is your physical location hindering member usage? Is your facility inviting to members? Is the sidewalk shoveled and salted? Is it in a safe part of town? Is it convenient? Do you have ample parking? Consider these issues and think if they might be a deterrent to your members?
I wonder how many members avoided that ATM until the lighting issue was resolved.
The end game is the member experience. It’s not about greeting the member by name or asking how their vacation was. It’s about how easy we make it to be their financial institution of choice.