People Make the Difference – How to distinguish your credit union with outstanding service
by Tom Kazar, Transamerica
Known for providing first-rate service and a decidedly personal touch, community and regional banks and credit unions traditionally do well in troubled times. And when the economy starts to improve, financial institutions that have focused on delivering extra-special service often find themselves ahead of the game in terms of growth. In fact, an old industry adage says, “If you take care of the consumers, the numbers will take care of themselves.”
By sticking to conservative lending practices and focusing on the members, many smaller financial institutions actually have grown during this long recession and slow recovery even while once-mighty megabanks have closed their doors. Delivering outstanding member support is more than greeting people by name, however. Service should be an integral part of your organization’s culture—both within the branches and out in the community. Here are some ways to carry on the community FI legacy of top-notch member service.
- Invest time in training. Lenders who are experts about products and services and can effectively handle queries and complaints in person or via a call center are a tremendous asset. Don’t be daunted by the perceived expense of training. The growing popularity of Web-based training has made it easier and more convenient than ever to get new employees up to speed and help established lenders keep up their skills.
- Focus on needs-based selling. Lenders should consider the specific situation of each borrower and avoid recommending generic solutions. Consumers’ payment protection needs typically are driven by a number of factors, including their age, overall health, family situation, type of employment and more. Make sure your lending professionals are prepared to ask relevant questions to ensure that they are presenting the right products to the right members.
- Refine your new-hire interview technique. Make sure your hiring process identifies people who are naturally outgoing and are predisposed to helping consumers. Some employees are more naturally suited to back-office functions, and such people should be placed accordingly.
- Encourage employees to do community service. Giving back to the community via service organizations, recreation programs and hospital boards raises your financial institution’s profile and is a win for everyone involved. If you want to set a powerful example, consider sponsoring your own charitable fundraiser, such as a golf tournament, that will benefit a local cause and involve the entire branch.
- Contract with local businesses whenever possible. Whether a branch needs renovations or you want a new look for your advertising, keep the money in the community and watch your own currency increase. While such practices are only indirectly related to serving your own consumers, hiring neighborhood businesses sends a potent message about your organization’s commitment to supporting the local economy.
- Track customer satisfaction. Solicit—and use—feedback via survey forms in the branches, your Website or social media to improve your operations and show consumers that you are responding to their needs.