I’ve been a member since …

How many times have you heard that? How does it make you feel? When I was working the front line at a credit union many moons ago it used to make me cringe a bit. “Here it comes….” And it was usually in response to a policy we were trying to impose on them, a check hold, a loan turndown, simply put “bad news.”

After working for credit unions for 20 years I finally became a member of one. Now I know what you’re thinking, I had my account at a bank? Nope. I was an employee of a credit union with my account where I worked. That’s not being a member. I never had to stand in line, sit on hold, wonder if my loan was going to be approved or wait a day or two for it to be processed. I didn’t have to pay for my checks (remember those?)

So now I’ve been a member of a credit union for over 10 years. A credit union I never worked at so I am truly an “anonymous” person. At least that’s how I feel. This past year, unfortunately, my CU debit card was compromised twice in six months. To their credit the fraud detection department was on it and shut it down without any losses. But the time it took to get the new card, change all of my automatic deductions and payment options (think amazon.com and my wine club) was a hassle. AND it took almost 2 weeks to get my new debit card.

The second time my card was compromised the two weeks went by and I still hadn’t received my new plastic. So I called them. I have not called my CU many times but each time I do I get the same recording:

“We are experiencing unusually high call volume, we apologize for the delay …”

Really? Well there’s a way to fix that. Anyway, I’m on hold for 7 minutes, finally get a person, explain that I haven’t received my card and she transfers me to card services. Turns out the US Postal service had an expired forward address and returned the card to sender – my CU. So they had the card in the department. I should note here that I live in New Mexico but my credit union is located in Portland, Oregon thanks to the miracle of shared branching.

And as luck would have it I would BE in Portland that Friday. So I asked the gal if she could send the card to a branch and I would just pick it up. There was a weird pause and you could hear it in her voice, the sound of bad news….”Um, if I send it to the branch we have to charge you a $25.00 convenience fee.” What? Okay, I’ll play that game. I told her I would be happy to come downtown to their Administration building to pick it up to avoid the fee. Another, even more awkward pause …”Well…..even if you come down here we still have to charge you the $25.00 convenience fee. BUT, we can drop it in the mail for free!” I explained that the mail delivery is why we were having this conversation in the first place.

So this is where I said it …”I’ve been a member since …” I caught myself being that member and like the Grinch who grew a heart suddenly a light shined on the reason member’s say that. I saw with great clarity and now compassion for those members that their loyalty should matter.

This fee is the definition of “bad profit.” According to Fred Reichheld, co-creator of the Net Promoter Score, bad profits choke a company’s growth. They blacken its reputation and make it vulnerable to competitors. The pursuit of bad profits alienates customers and – wait for it – demoralizes employees. Bad profits are not easy to spot on an income statement. But outside the world of accounting, they’re easy to recognize: They are profits earned at the expense of customer relationships.

I asked very politely to speak to her manager. I was put on hold. Forever. The manager did not come on the line, the employee still had to deliver the message. And this is perhaps the most important moment of truth in this story. Here’s what she said. “I spoke with my manager and she agreed that we could waive this fee, this ONE time.” I was scolded. Like a child. And once again I flashed back to my career and how many times I saw this happen. We think we’re doing them a favor by waiving a fee so we make sure they know it. Shameful.

I closed my account the following month. Once I made sure everything had been moved successfully I called the call center, got the same recording (unusually high call volume) sat on hold forever, finally got a human, asked to close my account and mail me the remaining funds. I got transferred to the department that can close the account and was never asked why, no attempt to keep me as a member, no thanking me for my business. It was just another chore for this employee.

Last week-end I woke up to a text page from American Express. Fraud alert on my card. I also had an email. I called the number, got a person right away, confirmed it was fraud. Having been down this road before I’m already starting to think about what is tied to that card number. She verifies my address and cell phone number, informs me that I will have a new card in four days unless I need it sooner and that anything that was automatically being paid with the old card number will be updated by American Express. What? That’s a miracle. How can they do that? Magic elves I guess.

And the moral of this story. I’ve been a member of American Express since 2001. It says so on the front of my card. My loyalty matters to them.

Denise Wymore

Denise Wymore

Denise started her credit union career over 30 years ago as a Teller for Pacific NW Federal Credit Union in Portland, Oregon. She moved up and around the org. chart ... Web: www.nacuso.org Details

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