by: Eric Gagliano, SVP Client Management, MarketMatch
I’m a career marketer. Growing up as an ad agency account executive, maturing as a credit union marketing VP and now honing my skills as a marketing consultant for financial institutions. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from all of my experiences … no matter what industry you are in, no matter what segment you target, no mater what product or service you are peddling … the customer experience is king!
That’s why, when sizing up our credit union and community bank clients, we often start by “shopping” their branches and those of their competition. This has allowed me to experience, first hand, how more than a hundred branches hit a home run with members – or completely screw it up.
Here’s what you can learn from a hundred credit union and bank shops.
First, you can do this exercise with your competitors yourself. We simply enter the branches as if we are unhappy with our current bank (because no one would WANT to leave a credit union, right?) and are shopping for a new checking account.
Now here’s the tricky part. After asking for checking information we simply shut up! From there, let the shopped employee shine or fail.
What should you measure?
Make sure that you measure the exact same criteria across all shops. This will keep a subjective exercise as scientifically objective as possible. We measure on a 1-10 scale across three main areas:
- What is the image of the branch? Is it clean? Professional? Comfortable or staunchy?
- Are you greeted promptly? Do they even bother to look up or smile?
- Do they make eye contact during your conversation and are they courteous?
- Do they ask qualifying questions to determine your needs and wants?
- How is the product presentation? Do they simply read the brochure or do they have a unique way to present their offerings?
- Do they offer a useful cross sell?
- Do they attempt to close the deal and help you leave as a new customer or member?
- Given the total experience, would you open an account with this institution?
This simple process, when compared with an honest evaluation of your own credit union’s branches will show you where you are better, where you are weak and most importantly where you can leverage differentiation against the competition.
WHAT WE’VE EXPERIENCED
After more than a hundred branch experiences, I can sum up what we typically find in one of three categories: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Which would your branches fall into?
- The Ugly: “The brochure handoff.” These are the quickest shops as the staff simply handoff a checking brochure without even a conversation. In one instance, I was handed the bank’s “product Bible” – a 50 page book – where I was expected to leaf through and find the page on checking myself. This happens more often than any of us would like to believe.
- The Bad: “The crutch.” This is the most common type of shop, where the staff literally reads the product brochure to the potential member. I’ve even had tellers tell me all about their 50+ Senior Checking. As a 40 year-old man with the heart of a 20-something, I take particular offense to these institutions! The lesson here is to think about the “tools” that you are giving your frontline staff and how they may actually be used in real life in your credit union.
- The Good: These are the best shops, where staff asks relevant questions, recommends products based on the conversation and shares personal experiences of how they use the products. The best-of-the-best treat you as if you are a guest in their home – offering you refreshments and walking you to the door when you leave.
Each market has it’s own flare and each credit union can learn something different from this exercise, but here are a few tips that we can all take away.
1. Get ‘em talking – Ask basic questions designed to generate meaningful conversation.
- About their family
- About their work
- Where they bank now
- Why they want to change
- How they plan to use the account
2. Listen before you talk – It’s not a test! When a prospective member asks about your checking account, they don’t want you to prove that you know all of the products that your credit union offers. They only want to hear about what’s relevant to them.
3. They came in for a reason – They got off their couch and drove past several other banks to get to your credit union. They walked into your branch for a reason. Ask to open the account now!
4. Don’t give up – I’m sorry marketers, but your brochures are not THAT dazzling! You can’t simply let a prospective member walk out the door with a brochure and expect them to ever come back. Put a follow-up process in place.
5. Don’t be afraid to get personal – Too often credit unions forget that we are the gatekeepers to our member’s money. What could possibly be more personal than that? If something is important to a member, we can somehow affect it. Here are some ways to get more personal with your members:
- Personal product use – “I love our online banking … it’s soooo easy!” This is a much more powerful phrase than, “Would you like online banking?”
- Personal experience – “Congratulations on your new baby! When my first child was born, I found these products really helpful.” You can’t use this with every interaction, but when you can, it’s gold.
- Case history – “I had a member who went through that once … here’s how we helped…” Every day, we affect people’s lives. It will comfort a member to know that you have helped out others in their situation and will build valuable trust.
Above all, Marketing is the art of communication, not simply in 30-second or one-page snippets, but in all interactions. Just as Marketing is responsible for driving traffic into the credit union branches, it should be equally responsible for managing the communication processes that fulfill the advertising promises. By learning from other institution’s successes and missteps, we can all provide a better member-experience.
Eric Gagliano is a leading credit union marketer with more than 17 years of marketing experience. Coming from the advertising agency world, as an account executive focused on strategic planning, branding, market research, and product promotion, Eric joined the credit union world in 2002 as the VP of Marketing at River Valley CU in Dayton, Ohio. As SVP of MarketMatch, Eric lives and breathes the credit union movement. He has enjoyed great success in increasing brand awareness, member growth, and services per member for clients across the country. Eric is a frequently requested speaker for groups such as the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council, MAC, and numerous state associations. www.WeKnowCreditUnions.com