Sometimes, excellent market research is, literally, on the other side of the building. Just a few months ago, a West Coast credit union management team gathered to develop a more detailed set of business plans and actions to implement its larger, strategic plan. Interestingly, on the other side of the meeting complex, a large, regional bank was holding a meeting of around 100 branch managers. As the credit union’s managers worked on some operating tactics with their table mates, this facilitator decided to take a walk and eavesdrop on the bank’s branch managers. How often does this opportunity present itself?
“We are salespeople. We are self-motivated. We earn high commissions. We build relationships.” So said the regional head of the bank’s branch managers. But, wait; there’s more. “Don’t tell me you’re a banker if you don’t know how many HELOCs you sold last month.” Every point he made had some level of career value; it just seemed the priorities were way out of order. It sounded more bank-centric than customer-centric. The focus seemed to be on finding ways that the customer might make the bank and branch manager more successful. Now, back to the group to relay the findings.
Fresh with intel from on-the-spot investigation, the credit union’s managers began to define effective retail priorities to create a strategic difference from one of its major competitors. The bank’s focus was, clearly, revenue with relationships as a byproduct or side effect. While the credit union’s managers understood that profits were necessary to sustain operations, invest in members, and remain well-capitalized; they also understood that short-term, one-time earnings were not sustainable for long-term success.
Often, a path to differentiation is doing the opposite of your competition. Serving the same set of consumers as the bank, the credit union built a set of retail priorities that presented a different message to consumers (and soon-to-be members).
- We value relationships.
- We want members to win.
- We create solutions that make a financial difference for members.
- Our credit union grows only when our members grow.
- We define our success through member success.
From this message, re-worded as “Promises to Members,” the credit union built a new approach to true member centricity. Tactics included: enhanced communications skills for member-facing professionals; micro investments in community activities (think walking groups, Friends of the Library, and car washes); optimization of payments technology; and, continuous, targeted marketing and financial education. Measures included: member feedback on experiences with staff members; initiatives, hours, and financial support in the community; debit and credit usage; member testimonials; and, cumulative value of earnings and savings realized by members.
Member-centricity, at its core, has the member at the center of all. As we create positive experiences and genuine relationships with members, communications with members are welcome. As communications are accepted, we can discuss, develop, and congratulate members’ successes. As we focus on the success of members; continued, increased, and referred business develops. And, as our credit unions’ business grows, so grows our professional rewards. But, only when the member wins first.
Relationships drive results. Success – operating, financial, and strategic – is a byproduct of member centricity.