Rules of engagement

Surveys repeatedly show that credit unions have strong member relationships. As a whole, the credit union community received an enviable 85% in last year’s American Customer Satisfaction Index, compared with 76% for banks. With a satisfaction record like that, credit unions should be sitting in the “catbird seat.” Yet, we hear from many that a lot of their members only use one or two services, while some barely use them at all.

The fact is satisfaction isn’t the same as engagement. Your members may be content enough with your customer service. They may have no complaints about your savings rates. But are they connected enough that they would turn to you first for a financial need? Would they take pride in telling others about your credit union?

PeopleMetrics bases customer engagement on four factors: retention (how likely customers are to keep doing business with you); extra effort (the likelihood they will go out of their way to do business with you); advocacy (whether they will refer your institution to friends or family); and passion (their emotional response to the customer experience).

The big deal about engagement

Customer engagement is a hot topic today … and with good reason. Gallup describes it as a customer’s “emotional or psychological attachment to a brand, product, or company – and the definitive predictor of business growth.” In a 2014 poll, Gallup found that consumers are beginning to feel more confident in the economy; yet, their behavior is different since the financial crisis. Before making financial decisions, people research and compare more today; they’re cautious about ensuring they receive value. And they ask for recommendations, mostly from their circle of friends and family.

In its report, “Why Customer Engagement Matters So Much Now (July 2014),“Gallup noted that consumers will give more money to businesses they feel emotionally connected to, but they will ignore, or even oppose, those they feel provide them no value. Further, fully engaged customers account for 23% more profitability than the average customer. And, in the financial industry, fully engaged customers bring in 37% more annual revenue than unengaged customers.

Think of it like this: For most businesses, the number of unengaged or minimally engaged customers is between 20-30%. If you serve 100,000 members, that’s 20,000-30,000 people who don’t feel strongly about your credit union!

The grab for attention

So, how do you move lukewarm members into the engaged column? It’s challenging. Today’s consumers aren’t just busy – they’re distracted. A recent Oracle survey of 2,000 adults discovered you have less than 30 seconds to attract their attention. And Microsoft’s own study found it’s more like 8 seconds, linking the falling attention span to smartphones and our increasingly digital lifestyle, which forces people to switch their attention quickly between different channels.

Consumers may be preoccupied, but they’re also choosy – and hungry for meaningful information. Oracle found that the influx of digital information and access to multiple devices has made consumers more selective about paying attention to messages from brands. They aren’t interested in mass marketing; instead, consumers want quick, easy-to-read content that is relevant to their wants and needs. This requires engaging with them and keeping them interested while they jump from one channel to another.

The surprising, best way to reach members

Text. Email. Online. Mobile. In-branch. Call center. ATMs. Website. Social. People have many ways to plug in today. Yet, the No. 1 channel where consumers stay focused the longest is email. Oracle’s research showed that 50% of consumers spend an average of 5-30 seconds on incoming marketing emails, citing its unobtrusive, opt-in nature for making it the top attention getter. But just 32% of consumers spend that much time on promotional texts, followed by only 27% reading social marketing messages.

While it’s important to be in all the channels your members are, be aware that for marketing messages to make a lasting impression, email continues to reign. Here are a few other tips for breaking through the attention barrier:

  • Make member engagement a priority. Treat your inactive or minimal-use members like they just joined. Using onboarding techniques, you may pique their interest in products or services they didn’t know you offer. Provide information on what’s available and invite them to tell you their financial goals, what life events they may be facing, and how they’d like to communicate.
  • Use data to stay in touch. Some say a downside of today’s communication technology is it limits opportunities for personal touches. But technology also can help you understand members’ needs in ways that weren’t possible just a few years ago, increasing your member connections. For example, you can learn from the data in your core system, loan-origination platform, social sites and elsewhere. Many DigitalMailer clients gather their organized data for input into our adEngine to be analyzed and used to automatically drive one-to-one communication with personalized messages based on members individual financial service needs.
  • Offer consistency across all communication channels. While research shows most consumers prefer to receive promotions via email, your members want options. Be prepared to meet them in any channel they want. Monitor the service quality of your communication channels, making sure the branding, look and feel are uniform so members receive a consistent experience.

Can you catch your members’ attention in a mere 5-30 seconds? Yes, if you engage them with content they care about. The better you know what members what, the better prepared you are to respond to their felt needs. And this makes your credit union a valuable financial partner … for life.

Ron Daly

Ron Daly

Ron Daly is the president and CEO of Virtual StrongBox, a secure, end-to-end member engagement platform that can be integrated into various workflow processes to provide high-risk Enterprise IT firms ... Web: Details