Shine and serve: Seven ways to surprise and delight on this tough racecourse

One of the things that I learned when I was running marathons was that, no matter how much you prepare, anything can happen when you run 26.2 miles. There are so many variables that remain outside your control including the weather, the racecourse, crowd turnout and engagement, the race director, and even the response of your body on race day. No matter how much you train, with that many miles ahead of you, many challenges can arise. 

The last few months have felt a lot like a tough marathon day. The kind of marathon that takes place on a hot, humid morning, on a hilly course, with minimal crowd support, a race director that forgot several water and aid stations, and with legs that woke up feeling slow and grumpy. Just like that kind of race, this time has been exhausting. While I wish we were at mile 26, we may only be at mile two. 

Even on a tough race day, there are always moments of bliss. You see a family member that cheers you on. You take in nutrients and your legs start to feel more energized. You hear other runners’ feet and you remember just why you run. 

During our current collective tough race, I recently had a moment of pure joy. A dear friend sent me two books. They are first edition copies, signed by the authors. We are both readers and enjoy talking about books. When the package came and I opened it to find something other than detergent or more cleaning supplies from Amazon, I nearly burst into tears. 

Prior to the package arriving, it had been a particularly challenging week and to have someone that cares about me do something so thoughtful for no other reason than to show that she was thinking of me, lifted a bit of the weight from the heaviness of the time. It may not have changed anything about our shared circumstances, but it raised my spirits. That infusion of joy also helped me to share a bit of glee with my family, so the impact spread. 

Those books arriving show the power of surprise and delight, a concept that many service-driven organizations talk about. It can be so powerful. It also takes tremendous effort and planning to do well. In this challenging time for humans, there has never been a better time for credit unions to focus on building the process and infrastructure to get surprise and delight right.

If your credit union can create moments of happiness and distraction from this dark time, you will continue to deepen relationships and grow loyalty for years to come. Here are seven steps to start generating even more joy for your members:

  1. Start with listening. Surprise and delight opportunities should be customized to your members and your organization. What might work well for one credit union and their members might not work well for another. 

For example, when you reach 100 rides with Peloton, you receive a fun t-shirt. This reward fits very well for Peloton and their riders. It is a small item, but the joy of receiving a gift for sticking to your commitment to exercise not only rewards the rider but also is a fun brand play for Peloton. When a rider wears their 100-ride t-shirt, it creates curiosity and invites non-riders to ask what the shirt is all about. This generates conversation and engagement. 

If you already have listening posts, including member surveys, you could begin by reviewing recent survey submissions. You might also set up a specific listening post in order to better understand the following:

    • What are the biggest challenges your members face? 
    • What matters most deeply to your members?
    • What kinds of things might truly bring your members joy? 
  1. Consider segmentation. As you think about creative options for surprise and delight, explore the possibility of different solutions for unique segments of your membership. Across a diverse membership, you may find that what works for one group of members or even at one branch location, may not work as well for another. Building in varied selections for different tastes, experiences, and interests may help create an even stronger response. As you explore segmentation, consider using your data to identify:
    • Engagement: Look at members that are using you fully and have been with you for a long time. Also, consider a potential option for newer members who may not be using the credit union as fully yet.
    • Geography: Explore options that might be distinctively suited for different locations and the hyper-local opportunities that might exist that could change depending on the region.
    • Product usage: As you look at member segments that are using the credit union for their unique needs, you may find surprise and delight ideas that are specific to how they are using you. For example, maybe you have a surprise and delight moment when you close an auto loan that is different from what you share with members that close a mortgage with you.
  1. Size what you can sustain. Surprise and delight really should be a surprise, but in order to delight, you will want to create something you can sustain for the long-term. That may mean that what you do evolves over time, but you do not want to start something that you need to stop doing quickly. 

Determine what budget you can commit to over six to 12 months. As you launch, plan to stick to your surprise and delight plan for a period of time. This will allow you to measure reaction, understand results, and adjust based on feedback. It will also give enough time for response to be shared. Ideally, you want those that experience surprise and delight to spread their enthusiastic response to their friends and family. 

Keep in mind that these do not have to be big ticket items. One of my favorite take-out restaurants gives away a free falafel while you are waiting in line to have your sandwich made. That is a very inexpensive but fun surprise and delight approach.   

  1. Crowdsource ideas and invite collaboration. Beyond hearing from your members, invite your team members to help shape the surprise and delight approach. Since your frontline team members will likely be the individuals delivering on these efforts, and because they know your members so well, you may be surprised by just how many ideas they have to share. In addition, by including your team members in the ideation process, they will be much more likely to be enthused about the new surprise and delight effort. That enthusiasm will add to the success of launching the program.

As you shape the session to gather input, consider:

    • Inviting a subset of your most enthusiastic and member-centric frontline team members to spend an hour or so ideating on what the surprise and delight effort might be. This can be done virtually to include involvement even across a geographically diverse population. 
    • Sharing what you know from the listening posts from your members.
    • Breaking a larger group into subgroups to hear a volume of ideas.
    • Inviting even the wildest ideas during brainstorming. Insist on limitless bounds (including budget). You can always scale back once you gather the concepts.
    • Holding off on choosing concepts as the brainstorming session occurs. Take all the ideas back and look at them together. You might find that one idea builds on another and that combined they could be even more powerful.
    • Creating a final list of five to seven ideas that are given back to your frontline team to vote on. This will build even more engagement and enthusiasm.
  1. Test it. Once you have your ideas ready to go, test the surprise and delight approach. Depending on your size and resources, you could test the idea at several branches, with one branch, or even with one employee. Ideas to keep in mind for your test:
    • Define success. What will success look like? How will you know if you are successful? How long will you need to test to see those results?
    • Share that you are testing. Let your team know you are running the test. Share the parameters of the test and then share the results once you are done.
    • Be ready to learn. Invite the team members that are testing to share input and feedback with you. Create a mechanism to gather that feedback. Be ready to listen and make changes once the test is complete. 
    • Don’t overreact during testing. This new idea might not be a hit with everyone. Gather and listen to all feedback and allow the new idea time to season. 
    • Consider a bigger test as a second step. Depending on how the first testing goes, plan to do a broader test as you adjust based on feedback. You may learn even more the second time and then be ready to launch more broadly. 
  1. Keep it surprising. One of the quickest ways for surprise and delight to go awry is for people to start to count on it. As you plan your surprise and delight approach, consider the frequency that makes sense so that it remains unexpected, fun, and astounding. When you vet the ideas to be executed, consider implementing those that have the best possibility for a frequency of delivery that will keep people guessing and not leave them expecting something. 
  1. Capture and share the joy. Once you are launched, find fun ways to capture the reaction to the surprise and delight. This will be yet another way for you to share the story of bringing happiness to your members’ lives. You might explore:
    • Recording smart phone videos in the branch when a member experiences surprise and delight.
    • Asking members to share a testimonial including the surprise and delight element. 
    • Taking pictures or asking members to take selfies in the moment.
    • Inviting those that helped come up with the surprise and delight ideas to also share ideas about how to capture these moments to be shared.

We may be in the early stages of this tough marathon. Our muscles may be sore, the drinking water may not be adequate, and there may be only a few fans cheering us on. With a strong surprise and delight approach, your credit union can be that one fan cheering on the racer who is struggling the most. If we provide surprise and delight for our members, we will help ensure they finish the race. They will never forget that we were a bright spot on this challenging course. People do not forget those that stood with them. That’s who we are as credit unions. Let’s shine and serve, one surprise at a time.

Tansley Stearns

Tansley Stearns

Tansley is a dynamic force of nature, fiercely crusading on behalf of all credit unions while tirelessly driving forward the brand image and family spirit of Canvas. She joined us ... Web: Details

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