The new member service benchmark: 4 ways to be more like Amazon

Pregnant women become a magnet for unsolicited advice. When I was pregnant with my son, I received lots of tips, but one of the best was to join AmazonMom and set up a monthly subscription for diapers.  AmazonMom was essentially free Amazon Prime for 6 months, rebranded with a mommy twist. Customers received free 2-day shipping on any Prime item and 20% off of diapers with Amazon’s Subscribe and Save program.

What happened? Amazon met my life-stage need, made life easier for this busy working mom, demonstrated excellent customer service over many interactions, and captured a loyal customer.  My subscriptions expanded from diapers and wipes to household products, I began shopping Amazon over other stores, and my overall spending with the company skyrocketed. Looking back at my annual transactions, I now spend eight times more annually with Amazon than prior to becoming hooked on Prime and Subscriptions.

Customer service breeds loyalty – a concept that Amazon gets. In fact, the American Customer Service Index and many other studies, like ForeSee and Zogby Analytics, consistently rank Amazon at the top of its industry – and above others  – including credit unions.  Credit unions can be a little more like this customer-service All Star by emulating a few successful tactics.

  • Make Member Service Your Mission

First, to provide great member service, a company must make customers the priority.  Part of Amazon’s mission statement is to be the “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” CEO Jeff Bezos has called this his guiding force for leadership. He is known for bringing an empty chair to meetings and telling participants that it’s occupied by the most important person in the room: the customer.

Most credit unions strive for (and are known for) good member service. It may even be rooted in your mission. But, what customers consider superior service today – across multiple delivery channels – is evolving. The bar is being set by experiences consumers have with Amazon and other disrupters. To excel at achieving your member-service mission, your credit union needs to be laser focused on the member experience and to use it as the filter for all strategic decisions.

  • Eliminate Pain Points and Obstacles

Second, a good service experience anticipates customer needs and removes pain points and obstacles for the customer. Bezos has frequently said, “We start with what the customer needs and work backward.”  

Consider the online retail business. Shipping fees, long delivery wait times, and return hassles are all traditional deterrents. Through experimentation and success Amazon has eliminated them.

Prime, offers free 2-day shipping on lots of eligible items, free video streaming, and a host of other goodies for $99 a year.  On paper, the immediate ROI doesn’t pan out. But Amazon was willing to experiment because it was best for the customer. What they found out was that it was best for the company in the long run too. Remember, I said my own spending has increase eight fold since becoming a Prime Member. I might be extreme because I became a parent at the same time (good thinking Amazon); however, Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimates that the Prime members spent about $1,200 on average last year, compared to about $500 for non-members. When the shipping fees are removed and delivery times slashed, it can be easier and cheaper to shop at Amazon than to drive across down for a needed item.

What pain points or obstacles exist in your credit union?  Try shadowing the call center, interviewing members or mapping out a member experience journey to find out.  Then, invent solutions and be willing to test them out.

  • Know your Member

Third, to provide superior member service, get to know your members, and act like you know them – across channels.

Truly listen. Amazon does this with analytics as we know, but they also require all managers to spend two days shadowing in the call center and to regularly immerse themselves in customer feedback. The customer’s voice is king.

Amazon remembers me and my interests. Does this sound familiar: “Based on your recent activity, we thought you might be interested in this…” Sure, there is a delicate balance between feeling stalked and feeling personally known, but credit unions have an opportunity to leverage past interactions more like Amazon. Have you ever had an experience with your credit union, health care provider or a retail store, where you engaged online, over the phone and in person and had to explain your need each time you began the new interaction? It can be frustrating for you, and the company can miss opportunities to serve your needs.

Consider these data-triggered personalization ideas:

  1. Yesterday, Joe visited your website to look at auto loan rates. Today he’s in the branch making a deposit. The teller can see he was interested in auto rates and offers to provide extra information or help him get started with a loan.
  2. Every Tuesday afternoon Mary visits the branch to deposit a check. When she logs into her mobile app this Tuesday morning, it prompts her to save time and deposit her weekly check remotely.
  3. Bill called the credit union this morning and became angry about the service. Unsatisfied, he visits his local branch in the afternoon to seek resolution. When he walks inside, mobile beacons alert the manager about who he is and voice analysis indicates that he was upset with the credit union earlier in the day. The manager quickly reviews the details and approaches Bill ready to amend his experience.  
  4. Sara uses mobile bill pay to pay her credit card with a big-name bank. When adding the payee or scheduling a new payment, the app lets her know that 70% of members like her also have the credit union’s card and rate it 5 stars. In fact, she’s pre-approved and can apply on the app if desired.

To be more like Amazon, leverage data to personalize experiences across channels and interactions. Listen and act on feedback, and make sure management is in touch with the front-line experience.

  • Empower Your Staff

Finally, to provide great member service. Empower staff to solve problems.

Once, I submitted feedback about an inexpensive baby gate because the locking mechanism snapped in two. I hadn’t anticipated getting another one due to the shoddy design, but Amazon staff proactively replaced the item with one-day shipping. Here’s a snippet from the email I received: “I’m sorry to hear the problem you had with the item. I apologize for it. To make things right for you. I’ve created a replacement for you at no additional charge. Here are the details…” It’s still not a great gate, but I was impressed that they listened and acted.

Another time, I was shopping last minute for a birthday gift. It was minutes before midnight eastern time when I selected the gift, and by the time I check out, the Friday delivery date had changed to Saturday. I was so disappointed with my last-minute blunder, that I called Amazon Customer Service. The representative checked on my order, and like a birthday angel, he changed the delivery date back to Friday. 

I’ve had a handful of interactions with Amazon’s call center, and the representatives are consistently able to solve issues without escalation. Ask yourself… Are member service representatives at my credit union empowered to solve problems and delight members? What would need to change to make that happen?

Put it into Action
Amazon is an industry benchmark for customer service.  To join the member service of hall fame, always make members the priority, eliminate member experience obstacles (test, test, test), act like you remember your members at every interaction, and empower staff to solve problems.  

At CU Engage, we are dedicated to helping our credit union clients strategically plan for the future with an emphasis on their members and ensuring they have the tools and vendors to execute on those plans. Contact us for help with your strategic planning or vendor negotiations for Channels and Payments at or

Jen Shefner

Jen Shefner

Jen is passionate about motivating innovation and helping bring credit unions to the next level. Prior to joining CU Engage, she held the position of Vice President Digital Banking and ... Web: Details